An NYC Interior Designer Reveals How to Make Your Home Look Elegant

living room with glass chandelier and white leather sofa

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

While the kitchen and bathroom often take priority when it's time to renovate, the living room is the first place decorators look when a home needs a revamp. As the first room guests see, your living room says a lot about your personal taste and style, so if you're wondering how to make your home look elegant, we recommend starting there. But what if your vintage Champagne style is at odds with your canned-beer budget? Luckily for you, we got the inside scoop on how to make your home look more expensive, and we're more than willing to share her tricks of the trade.

Meet the Expert

Melanie Morris is a New York designer who has outfitted some of the country's most beautiful interiors, from Brooklyn to Del Ray.

To get you started, we compiled 25 of Melanie's best design tips to help you create that perfectly fancy living room that looks luxurious and timeless (and only seems expensive). Explore some of the most gorgeous living spaces and then try out a few of Melanie's tricks for yourself.

01 of 25

Employ Large-Scale Art

living room with large scale art

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

Create a focal point and give your space a "wow" factor by hanging an oversized piece of art on one of your living room walls. The look is chic and high-impact, with little hassle, too. Melanie adds, "Large-scale art in a room always makes a huge impact. You don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money either."

Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled at flea markets and thrift stores for large pieces at reasonable prices, or get creative and make your own if you're decorating on a budget.

02 of 25

Simplify Your Styling

living room with colorful credenza

Designer: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

A cluttered, over-accessorized living room can look messy and disorganized, rather than stylish and sophisticated. Pare down your collection and only retain pieces that have sentimental value. "The accessories must reflect your style, in addition, to tie into the look of the room," Melanie mentions. A simplified space will enable the remaining elements to really shine, and it will keep you on your budget.

03 of 25

Camouflage the Television

white living room

Design: Devon Grace Interiors

Nothing brings down the feeling of luxury quite like a huge black television placed front and center. If fancy mirrors that conceal the TV aren't in your budget, try to visually minimize the presence of your screen by creating a gallery wall or salon-style art arrangement around it. If you're in need of affordable art, Melanie recommends Tappan Collective, PurePhoto, and Lumas, to name a few.

Although it won't entirely disappear, the frame of the television will blend in with the other artwork and distract the eye. Plus, with a few thrifty finds, this idea works on any budget.

04 of 25

Incorporate Interesting Textiles

Statement rug, hanging chair, and interesting art piece in living room

 Photo: Jenna Peffley

Give your living room a custom look by using vintage or antique textiles to make throw pillows or to cover small pieces, like seat cushions or upholstered stools. An antique Turkish rug is another simple way to instantly create visual intrigue.

The unusual fabric will both inject your room with a unique element and personalize your space. Alternatively, add a textural throw over a sofa or chair to ramp up the cozy factor.

05 of 25

Choose Accessories Wisely

living room with pink chairs

Design: Melanie Morris

"Accessories help to create a more luxurious look. Wherever you have flat surfaces like coffee tables, side tables, and bookcases, place great coffee table books, small sculptures, candles, bowls, etc.," Melanie advises. Not to mention, accessories are a great way to add your personal style and make the space feel like it's truly yours.

06 of 25

Add a Sculptural Item

Living room features sculptural décor

Design: Tali Roth, Photo Genevieve Garruppo

Prevent your room from becoming a sea of straight lines and circular forms by introducing an element with an interesting shape or unique silhouette. A tree-root coffee table or unusual side chair will feel like a piece of art in your living room, adding an unexpected and wholly artistic component to your design (even on a budget).

07 of 25

Include a Piece With History

Living room features striped rug and gold, feather-shaped chandelier

Design: Jason Arnold Interiors, Photo: Alyssa Rosenheck

Give your space a sense of wisdom by incorporating a piece with patina and age. Anything from a mirror to a small side table or accessory will do the trick. The older the better!

08 of 25

Mix Textures

Living room with a mix of textures

Design: Melanie Morris

A layered, thoughtful mix of materials and textures will give your space a custom-designed, luxurious look. Mix metals, glass, wood, textiles, and leather items to create a dynamic and inviting space.

09 of 25

Embrace Scale

White living room

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Robert Granoff

If your living room has soaring ceilings, try to avoid heavy, dark window treatments that will offer the illusion of a smaller space. Go for something more light and airy, like linen. Melanie admits, "I prefer simple Romans or ripple fold drapery, depending on the window." On the other hand, if your living room has low ceilings and smaller windows, perhaps you should avoid window treatments altogether to take advantage of the limited natural light.

10 of 25

Rethink the Lighting

Living room features slim floor lamp

Design: Sarah Sherman Samuel 

Simply updating light fixtures can instantly change the feel of your living room, without overhauling the space. Try different lampshades, or swapping out your chandelier, or even just rearranging your light sources to see where you can call attention to high-use areas.

11 of 25

Edit Your Color Palette

living room with a limited color palette

Design: Melanie Morris

Fine-tune your living room aesthetic by honing in on an obvious color palette. For example, identify several of your favorite hues and edit from there. Narrowing your color scheme will make your living room pop.

12 of 25

Update Those Throw Pillows

Gray living room

Photo: Julia Robbs

Swapping out throw pillows to match season or mood is a quick way to infuse new energy into your living room, on a budget. Play with color, texture, and pattern, as well as placement: Beyond the couch, consider the armchair, chaise lounge, or the bench.

13 of 25

Play With Patterns

pink accented living room

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

"A beautiful patterned rug can add impact to an otherwise more neutral space," Melanie says. So if your living room is mostly grays, whites, creams, and browns or light on patterns, go ahead and treat yourself with a bold, unexpected rug.

14 of 25

Tell Stories With Vignettes

Marble accessories

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

If you think a singular piece of décor may look out of place on its own, try arranging a collection of similar pieces to create a unique vignette. They could tell a story on your coffee or console table; family heirlooms or travel mementos, for example.

15 of 25

Consider the French Door

French doors separate living room from dining room


French doors can visually open up a space, serve as windows, or a divider between rooms. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including sliding doors for a space-saving touch. They may even play double-duty as the focal area of your living room.

16 of 25

Give Your Walls a Treat

colorful living room with wallpaper

Design: Katherine Carter

Another way to add texture to your living room is with patterned wall panels or wallpaper. Melanie says, "There are so many amazing options, but if you are not a fan of patterns, you can do a beautifully textured wallpaper just to add depth to a room."

From the delicate florals of Farrow & Ball's sustainably sourced wallpaper to the peel-and-stick-ease of Tempaper wall panels, there are limitless ways to air your creativity in this way.

17 of 25

Switch Up Your Furniture

Living room with blue L-shaped couch, two chairs, and white, airy curtains

Design: Aryln Hernandez, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

For a living room update that costs only your time and energy, a new furniture arrangement may be just what your space needs to feel fresh. Arrange according to feng shui design principles, or for small spaces, find ways to make small space feel expansive.

18 of 25

Choose a New Focal Area

pink living room

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia 

Survey your space to determine which part of your living room you could play up more. If much of the focus has been on the large-scale artwork above the mantel, would it do well above the couch, for example? Or, what might rearranging your plants do to shift where eyes are naturally drawn?

19 of 25

Brighten It Up

white living room

Design: JK Interior Living

Add bounce to a lackluster living room with a fresh coat of paint. If white isn't your thing, opt for a warm neutral color, so it's still versatile enough to play well with décor.

One exceptional vintage piece of furniture is another way to help add luxe to a living room. No matter what your style is, a vintage piece of furniture adds history and a sense of importance to the room.

20 of 25

Buy an Investment Piece

Florida living room

Design: Melanie Morris

Melanie says, "Lighting is my all-time favorite way to add major eye candy to the room." With that in mind, choose a chandelier, lamp, or pendant that really speaks to you and can move with you from home-to-home. If you have to choose only one piece to invest in, Melanie recommends it be lighting. "There are so many innovative lighting designers to choose from, including some of my favorites: Trueing, Lindsey Adelman, Gabriel Scott, and Atelier de Troupe."

21 of 25

Go Custom

living room with a blue sofa

Design: Katie Martinez Design 

A surefire way to make sure a living room's pieces fit together like a jig-saw puzzle is to go custom. For example, take a chance on a custom couch or daybed that fits perfectly in that odd space.

22 of 25

Swap Window Treatments

gray living room

Design: Devon Grace Interiors, Photo: Dustin Halleck

Practically speaking, a great set of window treatments can better augment the amount of light or shade in your living room. On the other hand, they can also tie an entire room together, whether you're after drama or whimsy. Melanie adds, "Window treatments help give a room real impact." So don't leave your windows bare. Dress them up!

23 of 25

Mount Your Television

living room with a mounted television

Design: LeClair Decor

Another way to give your living room a clean, streamlined look is by mounting your television to the wall (goodbye, tangled chords!). But first, determine whether your wall can handle the weight and remember to measure your walls.

24 of 25

Add Vintage Pieces

Wallpapered living room with a dark sofa

Design: Melanie Morris, Photo: Adam Kane Macchia

"One exceptional vintage piece of furniture is another way to help add luxe to a living room. No matter what your style is, a vintage piece of furniture adds history and a sense of importance to the room," Melanie instructs. Whether you want to go big and buy a 60-year-old chair or keep it simple and purchase a petite end table, the piece's intrigue will speak for itself.

25 of 25

Plunge Into Makeover Mode

Living room features fiddle leaf fig tree and exposed-beam ceiling

Design: Katherine Carter

Contrary to some opinions, there are instances in which working with a professional designer may offer cost-savings. Because designers pay trade pricing on materials, their clients enjoy these discounted prices. Their expertise also means they can show you exactly where to invest or to cut corners.