How to Layer a Room in 10 Easy Steps

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I’m breaking down how to layer a room in 10 easy steps with details about background furnishings, wall decor, accessories, and more.

how to layer a room with rug in dining room

Finding your decorating style, and applying it to the rooms in your home can be a daunting task. If you are working with a budget, which most people are, it can be downright frustrating. What made the process so much easier for me was to think of it as “layering.” I’ll show you how to layer a room in 10 easy steps…but keep in mind that it all doesn’t have to be done at once. Take it one or two layers at a time…take a break, and live with it for a while.  Then move on to the next layer. By the time you are finished, you will have a room that perfectly reflects your personal style, and is decorated with things you love.

neutral great room with pops of blue

Rug or Floor Covering

It makes sense to start at the bottom, so the place to begin is with the floor. Area rugs can be used over carpet, as well as on hard surfaces. They can also be layered over each other to add extra interest to the mix. Area rugs come in all price points, so choosing rugs that are budget-friendly isn’t hard to do. If you want to invest a little more, it makes sense to choose something neutral, so you don’t tire of it before it wears out! You cannot go wrong by investing in a well-made, neutral area rug that will accommodate your evolving tastes.

bordered roman shades in dining room 2021

Window Treatments

We can’t talk about how to layer a room without discussing window treatments. Window treatments add softness and texture, which are two things every room needs. Personally, I think a room looks unfinished without them. I recommend neutral colors for window treatments because they are an investment…both financially, and time-wise if you make your own. An alternative to soft window treatments, like panels or roman shades, are the very popular plantation shutters. They are beautiful enough to stand alone, but if you prefer a softer look, simply add panels or a top treatment.

sofa with pillows in living room 2021

Main Furniture Pieces

Now that you have your background just like you want it, go ahead and add your big furniture pieces. Play with placement until you get the feel you want. Be patient, because sometimes this is hard. There is always a piece, like the sofa, that needs to go in a certain place due to wall space or doorways. Place that piece first, and then move on to the other main furniture pieces. The size and shape of a room also determines furniture placement. If you get stumped, and run out of ideas, walk away and shop your other rooms. You just may see something you can relocate that will make everything work.

how to layer a room with pillows on sofa 2021

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Cushions and Pillows

This is where it starts getting fun. Even if you don’t sew or don’t have time to sew, adding cushions and pillows to your decor can be affordable. To start, invest in two to four down inserts. Skip over the poly inserts and go straight to the down. I suggest pillow covers that measure 18 x 18 inches or 20 x 20 inches. They are the most flexible sizes, and can be used on a chair or sofa. Craft stores now sell pillow covers in popular colors and patterns. Chair cushions can now be purchased literally everywhere, and in every price range. No matter what your budget, great pillows and cushions are an easy way to add layers and your personal flair to a room.

Tips for Decorating with Neutral Pillows

Affordable down inserts | H & M pillow covers | Amazon pillow covers | Pottery Barn pillow covers | Etsy pillow covers

how to layer a room with lighting furniture pillows 2021


If you’re like me and live in an older home, you might not have overhead lighting. I don’t have any at all in our living room or kitchen. Even if you do, it’s very important to light a room evenly. Try to keep it as balanced as possible. Place lighting on both sides of the room, or even better, add lighting in all four corners.

Smaller Furniture Pieces

Small furniture pieces are optional, but they add interest and comfort. I love garden stools, small tables, and baskets, so I sprinkle them where I can. Baskets and trunks are super efficient because they double as storage containers. The goal is to keep these small pieces as functional as possible, so they aren’t just taking up space.

wall plate rack in hallway

Wall Decor

One of my rules when it comes to wall decor is that if I hang something on our walls, it must have meaning. The wall decor found at retail stores is amazing, but choose something that speaks to you, or comes in your favorite color. Don’t just buy to fill your walls. I am blessed to have walls filled with things I love, and that have special meaning. I can look around and tell you where each piece came from, or who gave it to us. Collecting pieces of art and photography takes time, but your patience will pay off when your walls are filled with lovely items that reflect your style and family.

shelves with ironstone platter and pitchers


Accessories are the perfect layer to play with color, and be brave! They are affordable, and so easy to switch out when you want a different look. Here is where you can throw in different styles too. Don’t be afraid to mix a modern accessory with your cottage decor. Mixing things up is a great way to experiment with different styles. It also lets you actually see those styles in your home which is helpful when you are undecided.

10 Easy Decor Accessory Ideas

Natural Elements

Have you ever seen rooms in magazines that look just too perfect? Many magazines still publish rooms like that, but some have begun sharing rooms that actually look lived in. The one thing that makes a room looked lived in and real are natural elements. No matter what the season or where you live, try to have something real in your rooms. Cuttings from an evergreen, blooms from your garden, flowers from the grocery store floral department. It really doesn’t matter where they come from…but a natural element or two makes a room come alive.

Simple Garden Flower Arrangements

pitcher of annabelle hydrangeas


Now that you’ve learned how to layer a room, it’s time to add personality. Personality is what tells the story of a room, and the people who live there. Family photos, treasured heirlooms, collections, your favorite books. That pitcher you found the first time you went junking. The set of lamps you got for a steal at HomeGoods. The rug you bought after saving for months, so you could get exactly what you wanted. “Personality” is anything that reflects your interests, and those of your family. After assembling all the other layers, this is the final and finishing touch. You now have a room that you can be proud of, but most importantly you have a room where your family can be comfortable and feel at home.

Shop + Source

Living room rug 10 x 14 in beige/ivory | dining room rug 8 x 10 in beige/ivory | fabric on dining room chairs | blue striped table runner (similar) | ivory tufted chairs | lamp on dresser (similar) | round coffee/end tables | sofa no longer available | striped lumbar pillow cover no longer available | navy pillow covers | beige linen pillow cover | lidded baskets | plate rack | Matching blue platter & pitcher no longer available | blue & white pot on shelf  | paint colors | lantern in dining room | lantern hook

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  1. You hit on something that has bothered me forever, the perfect magazine pictures. I thought they were pretty, but never connected with me. I like a comfy lived in look that says come and sit awhile. I enjoy textured linens and soft cottons that are durable. Thank you for sharing wall art ideas and I agree on the importance of rugs.

  2. Ann,

    Your decor is so refreshing. I do not peruse the “over” decorated homes that are featured so frequently on blogs. I long ago rejected over consumerism and clutter of home design. Everyone needs a dose of calm in their lives these days, and your design fits the bill.

  3. This is a great guide, Ann! I’m always tempted by the accessories way too early in the process, because that’s the fun part!

  4. Thank you for sharing your decorating wisdom! This is very helpful. I have a question: My family room has two large French doors that have built in blinds, but no curtains. Would you suggest long rods over each door with curtains that stay open, or just small rods that frame the doors with curtains?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Mollie…are the two sets of doors side by side? If they are close together, I think one rod over each set of doors would look best. If you used 4 short rods, it may look a little chopped up. Let me know what you decide!

  5. Linda🐝 says:

    Do you have an archived blog about your platter wall rack? If not, please tell us about it and include pictures and how to info. Thanks!

  6. Thank you for this post ! We are moving across country and will be buying a new home. I am overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to arrange furniture, lighting and accessories. This post will be my go-to guide and reference !!

  7. Linda Tucker says:

    Your home is my favorite. I love your style and it does show personality. Most homes are filled with trends. BLAH
    PS It also is so very clean. :)

  8. Very helpful post! Thank you.