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After years of Scandi-inspired minimalism, the pendulum swung hard in the other direction—and now, our grandmillennial-meets-hoarder selves are seeking a middle ground from all of the maximalism. So what’s in this year? And what is so, so out? We turned to the pros to uncover the seven rules of decorating a living room in 2022, so you can create a space you love…that doesn’t feel dated, cluttered or chaotic.

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rules decorating room 2022 curtains
Creativa Studio/Getty Images

1. Hang Curtains 2/3 the Distance Between the Window and the Ceiling

Sheer curtains are a must for nailing that breezy, coastal grandmother aesthetic—and simply making a room look more polished—but the difference between cheap and chic all comes down to where you hang the curtain rod. Instead of drilling it just above the window—or halfway between the top edge of the window and ceiling—aim for two-thirds of the way up, so it’s closer to kissing your trim, says designer and Emily Henderson. In terms of length, choose curtains that will touch, or even lightly pool on, the floor. It’ll visually stretch the room, making it seem more open and airier.

living room decorating rules walls
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2. Focus on the Negative (Space)

After a pandemic spent largely at home, we all obsessed over upgrading every corner of our homes. And in the process, things got a little crowded. “This is often overlooked and is so important,” says designer and home stager Leia T. Ward of LTW Design. “The negative space in a room is just as, if not more important than, the areas that are filled with furnishings. It's key to leave enough to make it feel open and airy, but not too much where it feels empty or as if it is missing something. It has to be strategic and purposeful.”

To keep things in check, try The Home Edit’s 80/20 principle: Keep the room no more than 80 percent full, leaving 20 percent negative space.

3. Use a Too-Small Rug to Make a Statement

Ideally, your rug should be large enough for the front legs of your living room furniture to fit under it, with an 18- to 24-inch gap between it and the walls. But! If you fall in love with a rug that’s not large enough—but is oh so perfect for your space—there are two ways to make it work for you: (1) layer it over a larger jute or sisal rug. It’s a Lulu and Georgia trick that creates a neutral border for the rug, framing it almost like a piece of art. (2) Borrow a page from Crate & Barrel collaborator and design renegade Leanne Ford and let your furniture frame it. This works particularly well for sectionals with chaise lounges, because a smaller rug can run vertically alongside the lounge. It guides your eye down the sectional, breaking it into two defined seating areas. (So go ahead, buy that deep-seated marshmallow of a couch you’ve been dreaming of, too!)

rules decorating living room branches
Getty Images

4. Bring the Oversized Branches In

After research showed that being outdoors can reduce stress levels and improve our sleep, we all started looking for ways to enhance our indoor/outdoor living (see: pale green being the “it” color of the year, the biophilic movement, etc.). One tiny way to do so, for all of our plant killers out there? Oversized branches. “Bringing in greenery to a space is a huge plus and a way to make the indoor space feel alive,” Ward says, adding that they often style them with coffee table books and sculptural objects, like vases. The end result feels thoughtful and modern, not, “hey, Timmy, you left your s’mores stick on the table again!”

living room decorating rules shiplap
Robert Daly/Getty Images

5. Strip Out the Shiplap

Unless you live on an actual farm, the modern farmhouse look can make a home feel a bit dated. Trading out the light fixtures and wooden signs can be the fastest way to streamline things, Ward says, though when helping clients stage homes to sell, they’ve also taken to removing shiplap. “If it is in a mudroom, we will leave it or paint it a darker color to make it a bit more modern and less farmhouse style,” she explains.

6. Soften a Square Sofa with a Barrel Chair

Ever notice how boxy living room furniture can be? The easiest way to soften things is by adding a pair of barrel chairs, Henderson writes in her new book, The New Design Rules: How to Decorate and Renovate, from Start to Finish. Its rounded back—like this Ankara cane number from Crate & Barrel—looks great from all sides too, so you can create more of a conversation area. (And avoid that biggest of decorating no-no’s: Pushing every piece of furniture up against a wall.)

If you have a sectional sofa or one with a chaise on the end, a single barrel chair placed diagonally from it can be an easy way to define your space without crowding it.

rules decorating living room paint color
Glidden

7. Swap Out Blasé Gray for a ‘Chameleon Neutral’

Gray has been the it neutral for years, but all too often, it skews putty-like. Instead, extend a kitchen trend into another corner of your home: Paint the walls with a chameleon neutral, or shade that has a pale blue, peach or green undertone and can appear more subdued (or vibrant), depending on the lighting. At different times of day—or with the help of a dimmer—you can adjust the mood of the room, making things a bit more relaxing or energizing.

A few colors to consider: Whirlwind by Glidden, Manchester Tan by Benjamin Moore, Ammonite by Farrow & Ball, Harajuku Morning by Backdrop.

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