Living Room Design Step-by-Step

Get a peek into my personal design process. I had the privilege of designing a penthouse living room in the heart of Manhattan – my favorite city! Working in conjunction with Lowe’s Home Improvement and ATG Stores made shopping a cinch, but before we get to the pretty after shots, I want to share the steps when putting a room together. Before I began designing rooms for others, I would just buy pieces for our own home that felt right. However, this would take much longer and sometimes cost more than if I conquered it all at once. Now I consistently follow this general structure in any room I work on, and it really helps to visualize everything up front before actually putting physical pieces into the space.

Step One: The Walk Through

A walk through was a little tricky with this project, because we didn’t have access to the space until install day. So for the first part of the design, it was more like an e-design. Anyway with measurements of the space and this photo I pulled from the web, I had an idea of what I was working with.

ramscale penthouse

Step Two: The Inspiration Board

This can be clippings from magazines, pins from Pinterest, or in my case a lot of phone screenshots of rooms I love. If working with a client, they often have a lot of these saved up, which makes it super easy. Here are a few of my inspiration images before putting together this living room:

living room pins

Step Three: Layout Board

Once I know the feel of the space and the way I want the room to feel when I’m done, I move onto the layout. I create mine in InDesign, but Photoshop works great as well. Before choosing pieces to fill the space, I begin with a more basic geometric layout. This helps me determine what size furniture will best work in the space while still highlighting the room’s best features. The whole penthouse has a really open and airy feel, which I love and wanted to keep while also making a living space that felt a bit cozier and more layered.

living layout

Super basic, but pretty instrumental when hitting up home stores. Now I have a rough idea of sofa and chair size along with where and what will help to fill out the rest of the floor plan.

Step Four: Design Board

This is where the room begins to take shape! I pull together the pieces I’m eyeing while shopping to make sure they don’t clash with each other once together. This is not the final design board, but you get the idea.

living room design board

Step Five: Install Day

All of the planning pays off when I get to see and sit in a completed space in real life.


Can we talk about that view?!

LOWES0103living room design

These stools from Lowe’s double as extra storage and would look so darling in a nursery.


end table lowe's

So many great pieces. I love this side table from Lowe’s too!


Thanks to the Lowe’s team for such a lovely opportunity to create.


Photos of room reveal by Constance Higley

Sarah is founder of Emma magazine. Featured by HGTV Magazine and Design Sponge for her interior styling, she makes regular appearances on a variety of morning shows sharing culinary and design tips. Born and raised in Arizona, she received her degree in broadcast journalism from Arizona State University and loves any adventure with her husband and three kiddos.

1 Comment

  • Reply April 12, 2016

    Maribel Mazariegos

    hello, i love this look, can you let me know about the Patterned Throw Pillow: Lowe’s – In store (Item #: 761120), I looked them up in Lowes but was not able to find it. thank you

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