At first glance, a small living room can present a true design challenge. If yours feels cramped and crowded, you’re less likely to kick back and relax in it, let alone use it to entertain your friends and family. The good news is, there are elegant design strategies to suit living rooms of any size. You’ll need to plan ahead, employ some clever styling, and be prepared to think outside the traditional oversized American box, but keep at it: the results will speak for themselves!
The following 12 tips are our recommendations on how to decorate a small living room without skimping on style!
1.) Skip the Sofa
While the image that springs to mind when we think of a living room usually features a sofa as a main feature, anything bulkier than a love seat or cuddler chair may be overwhelming in a small living room.
Instead, consider a set of antique (or reproduction) sitting room chairs. In days gone by, particularly on the East Coast and in Europe, living spaces were smaller. By shopping styles that were designed for modest sitting rooms, you’ll likely find elegant pieces that suit your home perfectly.
2.) Keep Furniture Delicate
Irrespective of the size of the furniture you do ultimately choose, look for pieces that have delicate legs. The idea is to be able to see as much floor space as possible from every angle. Avoid styles that have solid sides that extend to the floor, because they’ll visually eat up the floor, creating a closed-in feel in a small space.
Lucite, acrylic, and glass furniture takes this idea to the limit, and we love them—especially when paired with metallic accents or a pop of color, and an otherwise minimalist approach.
3.) A Note on Rugs
Unlike your furniture, your rug should be as big as possible. Larger rugs are an investment, but a small rug will only exaggerate the feeling of being in a small space by dividing the floor space. A large rug will create a luxurious anchor for your room and fool the eye into thinking the space is larger than it really is.
4.) Save Space with Built-In Storage
Built-in storage is ideal for a smaller living room. If you have a fireplace, for example, consider built-in shelving on either side. Cube shelving and bookcase shelving are equally suited to the purpose, but often one will suit the style you’re aiming for far better. Cabinets can be an excellent choice, too, especially if you have children and want the option of tucking away the clutter when you have guests.
Do you have a bay window? A window seat with storage beneath can expand both your seating and storage options without taking up much valuable floor space. Built-in features of any kind can boost your home’s value, too, so make sure you hire a skilled carpenter for the job.
5.) Storage Stools and Ottomans
If you must have ottomans, look for pieces that can be tucked under side tables or into built-in storage when not in use. Stools and ottomans that feature storage space can be a boon, too; blankets, remotes, and magazines can all be tucked away instantly, making it a breeze to prepare for visitors.
6.) Draw Eyes Upward
If you have the luxury of vertical space, don’t let it go to waste. Create a gallery wall, incorporate a tall indoor tree, or install a sleek chandelier—making the height of the room more noticeable than the bite-size floor beneath.
7.) Anchor With Details
Clutter is to be avoided, but intentional pops of color and texture will take your space from pedestrian to chic and unique. Artwork, pillows, and a beautiful throw rug are all opportunities to express your style.
8.) Let the Light In
When you don’t have space to spare, you don’t want any of it lost to shadows. Daylight streaming in will make the most of every square foot. Consider skipping heavy drapes or long curtains, because they are going to steal your light and visually overpower the rest of your living room. Wooden or fabric blinds can be just as effective at blocking light when needed while being easier to ignore otherwise.
9.) Mirror, Mirror
Using a mirror to create an illusion of more space is one of the most common design choices, and with good reason. Mirrors can be used to reflect light into dim spaces, double the impact of a scenic window view, or complete a gallery wall. However, a mirror with a bold, thick, or heavily detailed frame may defeat your purpose here. Either skip the frame completely or make sure the frame is delicate and matches the hues present in the rest of the room.
10.) Float Your Entertainment System
Skip the bulky free-standing media cabinet. If you opt for built-ins, your television and accompanying cords and cables can be stashed behind cabinets within. The next-best option is floating shelves and a wall-mounted television. If you like, add a series of floating shelves above, below, or on either side and create a full, custom storage wall.
11.) Opt for Wall-Mounted Lighting
Floor lamps can take up a full square foot each, and lamps will consume your side tables. Instead, install wall-mounted sconces, pendants, and chandeliers, all of which can add layers of light that can be dimmed or maximized as needed.
12.) Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme
You shouldn’t feel as though a small living room means you must avoid color; in fact, rich colors can make a space feel larger! What does matter is the harmony of the colors you choose. Whether you focus on a warm or cool palette, pair a few monochromatic patterns, or jazz up neutrals with pops of jewel tones, make sure the overall vibe is cohesive. Otherwise, you risk creating a chaotic effect that breaks up the flow of the room.
We hope this guide encourages you to make your small living room a beautiful design feature!