How to design a timeless living room that never dates – 5 tips on creating a classic style

Our interior designers give you their top tips for an elegant room that stands the test of time

Dark green living room
(Image credit: Thomas Richter/White Arrow)

Our living rooms are the center of our homes, used daily for rest and relaxation. It’s the space where we entertain friends, put our feet up after a hard day, and spend time with our family. With the hours we spend in them, it’s important to create a cozy living room that we’ll want to spend time in but it's also key to design a room that transcends trends and always feels classic yet current.

When it comes to designing a living room, choosing a timeless scheme is a great way to keep the room looking attractive no matter what interior design trends may come and go. It also allows you to save money as you won’t constantly be replacing expensive pieces of furniture that have gone out of fashion.

How to design a timeless living room that never dates

From the living room colors you choose to the décor you add, there are a multitude of ways to create a timeless feel to one of the most important rooms in the house. 

1. Trust your instincts

Dark living room with patterned ceiling

(Image credit: Naomi Astley Clarke/Paul Massey)

Although none of us like exactly the same things (and wouldn’t life be dull if we did?), following our instincts should lead to good choices when it comes to picking furniture and décor to create a timeless space. However much or little interior design knowledge you have, you will be able to spot pieces that are gimmicky as opposed to elegant. 

As designer Kathy Kuo, CEO of Kathy Kuo Home points out, ‘Listen to your instincts about what you love most. Everyone's personal style is different, so 'timeless' is going to take on many interpretations - but if aim for quality materials and design over bargain buys, and aim for soulful over trendy, you'll very likely end up with living room pieces that you'll love the look and feel of for years to come!’

Cherie Lee, director of Cherie Lee Interiors agrees, ‘Be true to yourself. Designing a space that reflects your personal interior design style and preferences will ensure the room feels authentic and comfortable allowing you to enjoy the space for years to come.’

2. Use quality materials and design

Open plan living room with brown couch and purple accents

(Image credit: Jessica Brydson Photography/Goldenbird Design)

‘You can't go wrong with investing in living room furniture made from high-quality materials,’ says Kathy. That isn’t to say that you should spend your life savings decorating your living room, but you should invest in the best quality you can afford. Cheaper furniture won’t last as long and will make a living room look cheap as it starts to fall apart. Buying antique furniture online is a great way to add character to a living room as well as ensure it's timeless. 

‘Purchase classy products that are manufactured of high-quality raw materials which last forever and never become outdated,’ recommends interior designer Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight

But what are the best materials to choose? Cherie Lee recommends that you, ‘Opt for high-quality natural materials that have already proven themselves to stand the test of time. Marbles, timbers, brasses, and chromes tend to be fail-safe choices for timeless designs.’

3. Use calming colors and neutrals

kathy kuo painted exposed brick living room design

(Image credit: Kathy Kuo)

‘Focus on neutral color palettes and opt for furniture with clean lines and versatile styles. It's about creating a space that evolves with your tastes,’ says Dara Huang. Nick Cryer, founder of Berkeley Place agrees, ‘Opt for a neutral color palette for the walls and larger furniture pieces, allowing for versatility and timeless appeal.’

However, while neutral palettes offer a great start, there’s no harm in adding in pops of color, as Pippa Jameson, explains, ‘A neutral color scheme makes a great foundation, allowing flexibility for accent colors through accessories. Steer clear of anything too trendy that will date quickly - it's all about lasting style.’ 

Amy Youngblood, founder of Amy Youngblood Interiors agrees, ‘While trends are always changing, I find that the most timeless living room is one that is grounded in a neutral color scheme. Use neutral fabrics and wood tones/paints and embellish with color if desired such as with pillows and accessories; basically items that are not as expensive to change out when you want to integrate inexpensive changes.’

4. Mix different eras

Living room with bright red shelves

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

New furniture can be great, but antique and second-hand furniture adds a unique touch. As designer Matthew Williamson says, ‘To create a timeless space I always like to source furniture and accessories from different sources and more importantly different eras. It’s this playful mix that not only adds character but also makes a space feel more layered and curated which can result in a high-end look. This approach as well as keeping the palette tight will also make the space endure and feel timeless.’

Not sure where to start with this transitional style? Amy Youngblood suggests that, ‘You can’t go wrong with some Mid-Century modern pieces, many of which are museum level classics and timeless.’

5. Add in personal touches

Transitional living room with mix of modern and traditional decor

(Image credit: Sara Ligorria-Tramp/Emily Henderson/Caitlin Higgins)

Once you’ve established a background of calming neutrals and pops of color, it’s important to add in personal touches. As Cherie Lee points out, ‘Decorating with artwork, photographs, and mementos that mean something to you will make your room more interesting and personal and will be far more meaningful to live with over the years.’

Using personal elements also helps to draw a room together, as Juliette Byrne, founder of interior design studio Juliette Byrne explains, ‘A timeless living room is one that has classical elements and a symmetry that never dates. We will often work with clients’ artwork and sculptures, which are the basis for the schemes. Adding in a wonderful living room rug to anchor the room and potentially a classical or contemporary fireplace to give a focal point also works very well.’


Will neutral colors work in any living room?

White and neutral colors are an excellent choice in any living room. They can make a small living room look bigger and give a feeling of light and space, whatever size the room is. Remember that you should also think about lighting, particularly if your living room doesn’t have a lot of natural light coming into it. You want to create a space that is bright and airy, but also welcoming and cozy once darkness falls. Plan your living room lighting to help complement your color scheme. 

What sort of accessories should I add to a neutral living room?

We’ve spoken about personal touches, such as photos and artwork, but you can also use accessories to enhance a timeless living space. We would recommend buying cheaper cushions and rugs that you can change out as styles evolve – this means you’re not tied to one look. Alternatively, if you think you’ll be happy with the same pieces for a while, opt for pops of your favorite colors and tactile fabrics, such as brushed velvet for cushions.

Jo Plumridge

Jo Plumridge is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of magazines, websites and books. She writes, perhaps unsurprisingly, about photography, but also on all things interior design and sleep-related, alongside reviews of home and tech products. Jo loves exploring the latest design trends, although she’s yet to find a carpet that doesn’t show up the cat hair from the cats she and her husband foster.