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  • Writer's pictureErica Lucas

17 Ways to Make a Cozy Living Room Not Feel Cluttered

A living room is generally used for watching television, reading, and visiting with friends. Homes with young families may also have a play area with toys for the children. Making the living room feel cozy - and not cluttered - is a design approach to help us feel welcome, comfortable, and relaxed.

As a general rule, warm lighting options, cleared-off surfaces, and textured accents can make your living room cozy and not cluttered. Spaces feel cluttered when we have too much stuff, or the organization system needs fixing.

Thoughtfully organizing and designing a space in our homes takes time and trial. Obstructive, massive, problem-level clutter used to overwhelm me... until I decluttered thousands of items, created open space in our home, and found free time with simple living! In my humble opinion, simple living is better than feeling overwhelmed in your home.


Let’s dig into 17 ways to make your living room feel cozy and inviting but not cluttered!


organize toys
 

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What to Focus On

You can create a cozy vibe in your living room without cluttering it by focusing on lighting, surfaces, and small touches. Here are 17 ways to make your living room feel cozy but not cluttered:


Keep surfaces clear

The surfaces in a living room include a coffee table, a console table, side tables, a toy shelf, and the floor. Instead of loading up these surfaces with things, choose only a few necessary items like coasters, favorite decorations, lamps, and books. This may mean you have to declutter items from your home or move items to other rooms.

Toss a throw blanket on the couch

Gently lay one soft throw blanket made from organic cotton, plush or luxe fabrics, like velvet or cashmere, onto your couch. One loosely tossed blanket offers coziness without feeling cluttered.

Stack extra throw blankets nearby

Blankets folded nicely into a pile resting on a bench or in a basket add options for cozy snuggling on the couch but keep them organized and tidy. Setting up a seating area with small benches under a window in a living space is a great way to create a cozy home.


Here's how I set up extra seating under the window in our living room:


benches add extra seating
benches add extra seating


Stack cotton rope coasters

Cotton rope coasters add a textured accent while providing function. I like the pops of color these particular coasters add. Cleaning them is simple; I just hand wash the coasters with dish soap and air dry them. We own a set of six of the ones pictured below.




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Collect items on a tray on a coffee table

Coasters, magazines, books, and TV remotes are handy on the coffee table. Organizing them on a tray makes it feel deliberate and not random clutter.


Use warm bulbs

We created a reading nook with short bookcases near a soft chair. This gives a surface for guests to put a drink on and serves as an area to gather books. Changing the color of bulb light in the lamps from "soft white" to "warm yellow" made a huge difference in our living room a few years ago.


Here is an image of our reading corner in the living room:


reading nook ideas
reading corner in our living room


Two lamps work together to light this corner pictured above: a small lamp adds accent lighting on the bookshelf and a tall floor lamp arches from behind the chair for reading light.


Since the cord from the small lamp pushes the bookshelf out when plugged in, we use a battery-operated warm bulb in this lamp instead. The cord hangs behind the bookshelf without being plugged in.


Layer lighting

Layer lighting options with ambient light through windows, accent lighting with small lamps and wall sconces, and task lighting with more oversized lamps next to seating areas for reading and visiting. Two cozy living room ideas are to use stagger lamp heights and use warm bulbs to make your home feel softer and more inviting.


Reverse declutter the room

With reverse decluttering, you decide what to keep from a room, drawer, or bin first, then decide if you can declutter the items not chosen. Deciding what belongs in your living room to make it feel cozy and then evaluating the rest as potential clutter can change the vibe of your space. The unchosen items may simply belong elsewhere in your home for a season or may even be considered for donation. This may feel challenging the first time you try it, but it will make your space look cozier with less stuff.

Choose multi-purpose furniture

Our coffee table is the hardest working piece of furniture in our living room. Three cubes act as storage space in the base. The cubes hold baskets to store Lego kits in zipper bags.


The top lifts into a desk space, enabling me to write blogs and edit videos from the comfort of my couch.


My Bibles and Bible study materials are stored underneath the lift-top lid. This is an example of the boundary method of decluttering at work. These items must fit into this designated space or I need to declutter. Finding a new home for the items may also solve an overflow problem, but this is where I study my Bible. It has to work or I need to own less.


Lastly, a tray on the coffee table gathers books, magazines, and coasters deliberately to appear cozy but not cluttered.


The blanket "belongs" on the nearby bench seating under the window, but here's an image of our coffee table:





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Seat = Surface

Place furniture to give a usable surface next to each seat to invite guests to sit, enjoy a drink, and offer a place to set their phones or items. One of my favorite ways to test this is to literally sit in every available spot, and ask myself "do I need a small table and lamp here?"

Add an area rug

An area rug sets a boundary for furniture placement and warms up a room. We chose an 8x10 with multiple colors. The rug will match most solid couch and curtain colors, allowing us to change those items later. It also hides stains well.


Here’s an image of our living room on the morning I'm writing this blog. The dog's asleep next to my writing spot on the couch with the coffee table top lifted, and there's a kid asleep on the couch on the left.


best area rug
our living room on a normal morning

A neutral color palette balances the vibrant design of this area rug. The rug has a few dark colors but plenty of light colors to balance it out. Here's a closer look:




It has matched every color scheme we've tried over the years. Currently, our most used colors in the living room are light grey, blue, and white. Using this color scheme, we've hung a gallery wall of white frames, tossed grey throw pillows on the couches, and layered white open shelves behind a reading chair.

Use side lamps

Layering lighting with ambient, accent, and task options can help you determine how many lamps you need for your space. Instead of turning on your overhead lighting, turn on side lamps. Overhead lighting appears harsh and uninviting. Layer floor lamps with table lamps to add levels of light. Position furniture close to a window to take advantage of natural light.

Choose open space

Leaving open space in a living room is an active choice. Less furniture is key if your goal is a cozy but uncluttered space. An interior designer may advise starting with the focal point of your room and building around it.


Build organizational systems

An essential part of keeping a space uncluttered is building organizational systems for each category in the room: toys, blankets, books, remote controls, magazines, and more.


Building an organization system for toys can take trial and error. Here is an image our toy shelf and you may be interested in reading this blog post: How to Organize Toys in a Living Room.




Finding a great place for each category will take time combined with trial and error. If your living room offers a large space, toys could be centralized near an open play space. Designate a home for each category, then a container system to hold items. Lastly, a daily tidy routine will restore the room to cozy and organized.

Hide clutter with baskets

Leveraging baskets to organize your stuff helps hide it. It might be messy inside the basket, but you can’t see it from seated angles!

Create a tidy routine

Thinking of the living room as “easy to tidy” rather than “always tidy” can change how you organize it. For instance, toys tend to wander and take over a space. Area rugs can help "capture" toys and appear less cluttered.


Mix warm, wood tones

You do not need “matchy matchy” furniture to make your space feel cohesive. Use colors to create balance and different wood tones to create a cozy room.


What makes a living room look cluttered?

Too much furniture + too many items = cluttered space.

In this video, I reset our living room for Spring. Join me on YouTube as I rearrange furniture, add warm bulbs, and make a cozy - but not cluttered - living room.



Conclusion

You can make the living room feel cozy but not cluttered with warm lighting, deliberate toy storage, furniture placement, and clear surfaces.


Quick Summary:

  1. Keep surfaces clear

  2. Toss a soft throw blanket on the couch

  3. Stack extra throw blankets on a bench or in a basket

  4. Stack cotton rope coasters

  5. Collect items on a tray on a coffee table

  6. Use warm bulbs

  7. Layer lighting

  8. Reverse declutter the room

  9. Choose multi-purpose furniture

  10. Include a surface next to each seat to invite guests to sit

  11. Add an area rug

  12. Turn on side lamps instead of overhead lighting

  13. Choose open space

  14. Determine an organizational system for each category

  15. Hide clutter with baskets

  16. Create a tidy routine

  17. Leverage mixed, warm wood tones

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