While some find respite in neutral tone, minimalist interiors, others regain their energy in spaces with pizzazz. Enlivened with saturated color, patterned textiles, and eccentric art, some rooms call for bold personalities. And where better to have a little design fun than in one of the home’s main gathering places: the living room. For inspiration, look to the AD PRO Directory, where experts show how punchy palettes and harmonious design can coexist. Below, see nine exuberant living room ideas by AD PRO Directory designers that will make you want to linger.
A developer was poised to strip a historic town house in Washington, DC of its soulful personality, but “thankfully, our clients swooped in to save it and enlisted us to help build that character back through architecture and furnishings,” says Zoe Feldman, founder of her eponymous studio. In the living room, the sofa—part of the Kara Mann collection for Baker Furniture—is the star. Covered in an ochre performance velvet by Élitis, “It gives the room energy and is unexpected yet anchors the space,” says Feldman. One bold moment led to another, including the vintage daybed wrapped in Pindler ticking stripe fabric from 1stDibs that she says “felt Old World but also relevant,” and the Louis XVI–style chairs placed in the bay window (another 1stDibs find) upholstered in durable vegan leather.
An archival Schumacher fabric designed by Paul Poiret in 1930 establishes the narrative for the sitting room in Studio Eckstrom’s down-to-the-studs rehab of a 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival in Omaha. “We loved that it was ‘age appropriate’ for the house and gave a bright blue jolt that repeats the cobalt of the kitchen’s Lacanche range,” says partner Mark Eckstrom. “The antelopes seemingly dance across the room, and their spots are repeated on a larger scale with the cowhide rug that grounds the seating area.” This space, as well as its adjoined kitchen, is a new addition to the home’s historical footprint. And the studio was keen to illuminate “modern conveniences, such as heated bluestone flooring, with style references to original elements, like wrought-iron details on oak cabinetry,” adds partner Mikal Eckstrom. Found treasures—including a Jean Royère table snapped up at Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia and vintage Karl Springer and Michael Taylor lamps—round out the space.
Throughout the renovation of a landmark Coral Gables, Florida, home built in 1926, local designer Elizabeth Ghia enlisted various shades of blue and green—her clients’ favorite colors—but in the formal living room, she invigorated the palette with soft pink on the ceiling, on curtains buoyed by Samuel & Sons brush fringe, and on the custom shades crowning Christopher Spitzmiller lamps. Lee Jofa’s Althea chintz, used on the pillows and French chairs, mixes with the bespoke sofas as well as a trove of vintage items and antiques (including a rug and coffee table sourced from West Palm dealers). Ghia’s favorite element is Quadrille’s undulating Bali Hai wallpaper, because of its classic appeal. “Matisse even used this pattern in one of his interior scape paintings,” she says. “It is a lovely way of treating the walls and comes together so beautifully with the fabrics and trim.”
When a client presented Dee Murphy their 1940s Santa Monica abode, the founder of Los Angeles studio Murphy Deesign noted the lack of architectural interest. So she infused the interiors with an elevated boho aesthetic, as she describes it, “which meant, ‘bring-on the color, pattern, and playfulness.’ When a project asks for life—and a history that isn’t there to begin with—then my aim is to use a multitude of materials to establish texture, warmth, and a vibrant storyline.” For the living room alone, Murphy married the likes of stone, glass, ceramics, metal, and textiles, juxtaposing such standouts as a vintage orange rug from Coco Carpets with a leather Lawson-Fenning sofa and walls enveloped in Portola’s nautical blue Wellfleet shade. “Up close and personal,” says Murphy of the limewash, “the treatment has a life of its own.”
For the living room in the Mediterranean Revival villa that designer Alexandra Naranjo revamped on “one of Palm Beach’s most charming streets,” she constructed a color story that “echoed the palette of the views from each and every window, to literally make the line between indoors and outdoors disappear.” Focusing on crisp blues, seafoam greens, and “neutrals that complemented the preponderance of coquina stone—a Palm Beach staple,” Naranjo brought together a custom-made Patterson Flynn rug and antique sunburst mirror with Pierre Frey and Cowtan & Tout fabrics and lighting from Visual Comfort & Co. and Currey & Company. Symmetry was also key to Naranjo’s vision, so she established a frame around the decorative mantel with the furniture placement. “Everything that I did on one side of the room,” she points out, “needed to be carefully balanced on the other.”
Sara Bengur’s apartment “exemplifies my style, my ability to match patterns and epochs, and most of all, my love of color,” muses the New York designer. For her, richly pigmented palettes are at once energizing and serene. Her living room is a place where she’s just as likely to meditate in the morning as she is to unwind in the evening after work. Here, Turkish tiles and pillows crafted from vintage Central Asian Suzani textiles coincide with custom lampshades and a Bordeaux throw of her firm’s own design. “I’m an eclectic shopper; I like to source from everywhere,” says Bengur. “Some of the items are travel mementos, others are highly researched. There isn’t one part of the room that is the highlight, and I think that’s what is special—when all the layers of the space come together harmoniously.”
In Austin’s Clarksville historic district, local designer Avery Cox overhauled a 1930s bungalow without sacrificing any of its original style. Wanting to keep the existing wood paneling on the ceiling and walls intact, she kept the intimate scale of the room as is and created workarounds. “By choosing pieces that command space and visual weight, like the vintage sofa and antique bar, you can create a sense that the room is larger than it is,” she explains. The living room—one segment of a vast great room that spans a dining space and kitchen—blends a Waves coffee table from Minotti and a side table from the Lacquer Company with a rug by Kyle Bunting rug, lighting from Soane and EJR Barnes, and brass lampshades by Matilda Goad & Co. As for the artwork, Cox says that “the size of the piece and the scale of the composition make a bold statement and anchor the room.”
When designer Jennifer Cohler Mason was assigned the living room of an Upper East Side town house as part of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, she set out to evoke glamour just shy of over-the-top territory. Luxe textiles, including a saffron-tinted Todd Merrill Studio sofa, sunny blue Karl Springer poufs, and subtly metallic Holly Hunt shades, set the tone in the lounge-like space, complete with a built-in wet bar. Flanking the fireplace is a pair of 1950s French club chairs from Guy Regal, while “an understated bronze Studio Van Den Akker drink table is sculptural form meets functional perfection,” says Cohler Mason. An iridescent plaster paint treatment creates an alluring glow on the walls, while on the ceiling, “a custom sky-blue Holland & Sherry wallpaper was cut into squares and applied in varying directions, giving another dimension to the room.”
An art book published by Taschen served as designer Merrilee McGehee’s launch point for the living room in her remodel of a ranch-style home in Austin. Her team took note of the pages that spoke to the clients, then enhanced those features throughout. Rounded green wallpaper from Shagreen Art matched with two hot pink Chivasso velvet chairs calls to mind Pop art, but “we also think every room needs something antique to keep the space timeless,” she says. In this case, it was a Murano chandelier from 1stDibs that “softened the palette, so we could pop in the flashy gold polished brass coffee table by Statements by J,” she continues. “The curves all work together but become more enhanced when they have an opposing but complementary counterpart, like the Designers Guild’s Cubist settee fabric with its sharp, perpendicular design.”
Looking for a design professional to help you create a serene bedroom of your own? Browse hundreds of AD-approved designers on the AD PRO Directory