When you’re decorating a living room, you tend to round up the usual suspects – the TV, the sofa, the coffee table. But when you’re working within a small space, that setup can start to feel a little overwhelming. Here are ten small living room ideas to make sure your design fits your space and not the other way around.
1. Create space using mirrors
It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it really does work. You can instantly create the illusion of space by simply adding more mirrors. All the better still, like above, opt for an over-sized mirror to cover an entire wall. The mirror will create the illusion of space by reflecting backlight and of course the interior decor – doubling up your interior space. Try keeping the colour palette light and aid to aid the overall effect.
2. Make your own media centre
Free up floor space, from storage units, by creating your own media centre that takes up minimal space. A wall-mounted TV is always going to be the better option for small living rooms. Fix an MDF panel to the wall and mount your TV screen and floating shelves on it, one above and one below if needed. The space-saving shelves will allow for storage without taking up too much-needed space.
The area underneath the bottom shelf allows for extra storage for items such as slim drawer units or drum storage stools.
3. Utilise awkward architectural spaces
Does your living room lack space due to awkward rooms proportions? Often with period properties the features which we love the most, such as bay windows, present logistical nightmares for laying out furniture. Use the space to your advantage. If you have a small-scale sofa it should fit neatly into the position, without taking up valuable floor space.
Alternatively use the awkward area to house larger, bulkier furniture pieces such as sideboards and TV units. This prevents the pieces overpowering the rest of the petite room because space would be otherwise unused anyway.
4. Hang baskets to provide extra wall storage
If you are faced with small space living the only way really is up! Make the most of any floor space by keeping it as clutter-free as possible. That includes any small bits and bobs you might otherwise have laying around. We have used attractive willow baskets to solve the storage problem. Ideal because one they look great and two they are sturdy enough to hold all manner of clutter.
Hanging from decorative hooks that can take a lot of weight, these baskets are great for quick end-of-day tidy-ups for toys, books, magazine, iPads and all the other stuff that tends to lay around.
5. Add storage near the ceiling
You might not even have spotted it at first glance, but this owner has mounted some carefully camouflaged white storage units at the top of the living room walls, where any clutter can be stashed away. Off-the-shelf kitchen wall cabinets are ideal for this, if you plan to do the same, be very to careful the maximum load that each unit can take when wall mounted – you don’t want everything crashing down on your head, after all.
She’s also stuck to furniture in simple shapes for a clutter-free look. Go for occasional tables with cut-away sides that reveal more floor space and trick the eye into believing the room is larger than it really is.
6. Distract with statement pieces
Pick one or two statement items, such as an over-sized table lamp, an attention-grabbing piece of art or an armchair upholstered in a fabulous fabric, and keep the rest of the room relatively clutter-free. These will make the room feel up to date and draw attention away from its size.
7. Swap your sofa for a snuggler
A bulky sofa can eat up living room space quickly, so if you have an especially tiny room, ask yourself if you could manage with an equally comfy but far less invasive ‘snuggler’. Otherwise known as a 1.5 seater, it can easily accommodate a parent and child – or a cuddly couple.
This room also employs another neat trick that’s genius for small rooms that back onto gardens – a botanical decorating scheme. ‘Pretty florals are perfect for blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors,’ says our Senior Features Editor Stephanie Durrant. Creating this visual link will draw the eye outside and again make the room feel bigger.
8. Avoid a corridor effect with a corner sofa
This reception room is quite long and thin, and previously the owners had a long dark sofa, which only added to the corridor effect. By swapping it for a pale L-shaped design, they’ve created a cosy corner and opened up space. There’s now also room for more seating by way of large floor cushions.
9. Choose light colours for the walls
Our current favourites are blush pinks (as shown), pale blue/greys and dusky lilacs. Those shades will make any small living room feel fresh and inviting – cosy, and yet not closed in. Steer clear of brilliant whites and instead pick those with a subtle green, grey or taupe tone
10. Use stools as seats
The first thing you should never do if you have a small living room is cram in too much furniture. Instead, choose a sofa that’s proportional to the size of the space, and if you’re still in need of more seating, use stools. They’ll take up far less room than bulky armchairs, and can be easily manoeuvred. Look for stowaway furniture, such as these cube stools that can be tucked under a coffee table when you don’t need them.
If you like your living room cute and cosy, try clustering colour-co-ordinated objects together – from pictures to cushions – to create a coherent look.
Make the most of natural light in the room by keeping window dressings simple. If you are lucky enough to have high ceilings, full-length curtains are a good choice as they’ll draw the eye upwards and create the illusion of space, even if the square footage in your living room is a bit meagre. Subtle stripe designs add to the feeling of extra depth. If you do choose curtains, make sure they can be swept away from the window for light or alternatively go for Roman or roller blinds.
11. Invest in multi-functional furniture
When it comes to small living rooms, hard-working, multi-functional pieces of furniture are your friends. Take this coffee table, which doubles as a storage bin, allowing you to clear away any clutter at a moment’s notice. You could also invest in lidded stools or even a sofa with storage under the seat. Add wall mirrors and furniture with reflective surfaces into your design scheme to maximise the amount of natural light in your living room to make it feel bigger and brighter.
12. Draw attention away from the door
Whether it’s a bijou country cottage or a studio flat, it can be tricky to create a relaxing bolt hole when your front door opens straight into your living room. Take the emphasis away from the entrance by creating a focal point with thoughtfully arranged seating. Here, a neat two-seater and comfy armchair have been placed at a 90-degree angle to a slim side table and lamp.
A cool neutral palette works beautifully with the rustic plasterwork and the roller blind makes the most of a recessed window to add extra square inches to the room.
13. Decorate vertically
Think about living room wallpaper designs to complement your lounge. Take that décor up high when floor space is limited. Here, a small section of a brilliant white room has been transformed with a feature wall of blue that pulls the eye upwards to make the most of a high ceiling.
Geometric pattern at the window helps to echo the blue tones and ties in a statement pattern.
14. Pare it back with wood
Think about alternatives to traditional living room furniture, such as the three-piece suite. It’s still possible to have a cosy area for relaxing and reading with less space-greedy furnishings. Swap an upholstered armchair for a wooden rocker with cushions; and bookcases for slimline ladder-style shelving. Wash walls and accessorise with subtle colour.
15. Pop an L-shaped sofa into a tight space
Before decorating or furnishing an awkwardly shaped living room consider how best to optimise the space available. Think about an L-shaped sofa in a tight eaves space teamed with trunks that can function as coffee tables as well as handy storage. Keep a dark room white to make the most of what little light there is.
16. Factor in textural pieces
Decorating with white on walls, ceiling and floor can leave a space feeling clinical and stark. Take the chill off a compact nook with a homely leather armchair, red floor lamp and woollen rug – all circled around a log-filled fireplace. A tactile cushion and soft throw in viridian green add a final designer touch.
17. Use lighting to your advantage
Mark out a living space with an overhanging pendant light and carefully positioned round coffee table. The two pieces work together to create a focal point around which you can sit a couple of chairs and add floor cushions or stools when guests visit. Here, a selection of accessories and books are displayed on industrial-style open shelving to create a relaxed feel without hiding the beautiful texture of a slate feature wall.
18. Display objects of interest
Just because your living room is verging on the small side, it doesn’t mean that you should hide away all your favourite belongings in storage. If you have objects that are worthy of showing off then display them along an open shelf, above the sofa. This idea is great for when floor space is at a premium. Hanging a neon sign also helps to distract the eye.
19. Place your pattern to create a theme
Patterns can work as well in small living rooms as it does in large, but it pays to think carefully about where you put it. Wool fabrics are made for cosy country-style firesides, but keep tartans, checks, paisleys and florals confined to throws and cushions on sofas and armchairs, leaving walls for plain paint finishes. Add a natural flooring rug to bring the two sides of a room together.
20. Distract the eye with characterful furnishings
While banishing clutter might help a smaller living room feel more open if you’re a fan of the cosy, lived-in look such a pared-back scheme will do little for you. But small doesn’t have to mean bare and characterless. Try the classic combination of dark leather furniture and traditional fireplace – there’s nothing like it for creating a warm, cosy environment. Add much-loved items and accessories – in an interesting, character-filled scheme, no one will be thinking about how small the room is.
21. Make the most of the space under the stairs
Make the most of the unused space under the stairs by incorporating everything from storage to quirky accessories. If you have space issues in your small abode and need to make the most of every nook and cranny then turn to that nimble spot under the stairs into a warm and cosy living space. Here, a built-in bookcase and sofa tuck in neatly in that often unloved and underused area.
22. Work with original features
Give architectural features a modern update with a fresh coat of paint and light retouching. Here original features have been painted to give this living room a modern edge. The black fireplace remains the focal point and adds a sense of cosiness along with the chunky sofa and rustic wooden coffee table. A wool rug brings texture to the scheme and enhances the inviting feel of the room.
23. Maximise storage potential
Small living rooms need to be kept fresh and uncluttered with well-chosen storage. A great way to make a small living room feel larger is to keep it meticulously tidy and in order to do that, everything in the room needs to have its proper place. Floating shelves are perfect for small rooms because they can hold a lot of things on a wall or in alcoves, or choose bespoke fitted, floor-to-ceiling shelves and cupboards that make use of every inch of spare space.