Satisfying small living room ideas are often hard to come by. For many occupants of studio apartments and small homes, the question is not just how to make the living room furniture layout work, but how to make it all work in a way that serves multiple purposes while still leaving room to breathe. A living room is often the hub of a house, so, when it’s cramped and narrow, arranging furniture can feel like an impossible math problem. The good news is that it’s possible to have a small living room that can do it all while still feeling (relatively) spacious.
One key to maximizing the potential of a small living room is carefully selecting furnishings that fit the space and can serve multiple purposes. Another important part of the process is getting creative with your layout and finding ways to arrange your furniture to make use of every square foot, even those awkward corners. From there, you’ll want to choose decor, such as art and mirrors, that adds personality without taking up space. Whether you’re starting from scratch in a new space or are feeling cramped in your current living room, there’s a solution to your woes. We’ve gathered the best small living room ideas to help you make the most of your space. Read on to get style tips from the pros and find inspiration for your small space.
How to style a small living room that has lots of furniture?
The trick to styling a small living room that’s filled with furniture mostly comes down to breaking the space up into clear chunks. We use our living spaces for all types of activities—hosting a group, relaxing with a book, crafting, gaming, and, let’s be honest, dining—and defining these areas, even if subtly, can help create a sense of overall cohesion and comfort in the space. Also, it helps to know which furniture pieces you can manage to take up extra square footage for and which you’d be better off replacing with something smaller.
Try Café-Style Seating
If you’ve ever tried eating dinner at a coffee table, you know it really isn’t possible unless you don't mind being hunched over so far your nose touches your knees. But a single person—or even a pair of people—doesn’t need a massive dining room table to suit their needs on a daily basis. If your living room needs to also serve as the dining room, consider a café table with two chairs. It can easily be pulled out from the wall to fit four in the event of a dinner party just by adding two folding chairs for extra seating.
When you don’t have room for floor lamps or a proper surface for table lamps, sconces can be a lifesaver. Plus, they can help your living room feel oh-so-sophisticated—is it just us or does flicking on a sconce always make you feel like you’re in a chic hotel? And don’t worry if you’re a renter, or just don’t feel like dealing with hardwiring a light fixture, there are plenty of chic plug-in sconces available on the market.
Float a Selection of Furniture
In any room that’s tight on space, it’s tempting to push all big furniture up against the walls to create a kind of pool of open flooring in the middle. But, though useful for doing cartwheels—and there is some real liberation in being able to do just that—the space would be put to better use serving a function. In the living room of social media savant Amy Stone, the design team at One Kings Lane opted to float the couch across from two wicker-and-chrome chairs in the middle of the room, transforming the heart of it into a space for conversation.
Delineate Functions Using Rugs
To visually set apart that floated sitting area in the middle of the room from the room’s other functions, Stone’s design team chose an area rug just larger than the couch and matching chairs. The edge of that rug doesn’t extend all the way to the walls as you’d expect; instead, the café-table dining area and console-desk sit outside of its edges. The line visually cues that you’re moving from one “zone” into another, which keeps the furniture from feeling like a jumble.
How can I make a small living room look nice?
To decorate a room that looks nice, first you have to decide exactly what that means to you. Look at pictures for inspiration and figure out what home decor and design ideas appeal to you personally. As you look for inspiration, be sure to take note of spaces that have generally the same shape as your own living room—these will be particularly useful in making the space feel how you’d like it to. Then, consider the specific constraints of a small living room and try multifunctional furniture or hidden storage solutions that can make sure your room doesn’t end up looking cramped. Additionally, try out acrylic furniture or pieces with a slim profile to create the illusion of spaciousness.
Scale Down Furniture
In a narrow living room, every piece of furniture matters. Choose leaner tables and wall sconces to save much-needed floor space. For seating, tight-back sofas and club chairs are your friends, Murphy says: “They can be a lot less deep than loose-back options while still being just as comfortable.” Consider wall-mounted shelves and a floating desk over bulky bookcases and workstations.
Use Decor to Add Visual Interest
“Having several different lighting sources at different heights will draw your eye to different areas of the room, making it feel bigger and more interesting,” Murphy says. She also recommends adding a larger attention-getter to balance scale, such as a piece of art or built-in bookshelves. Try an eye-catching gallery wall, a chandelier, artwork, or mirrors. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, add a bold accent wall with wallpaper or a dramatic paint color.
Fashion a Desk from a Console
Besides being the picture-perfect place to stash another bit of seating, a console that’s wide enough can also serve as a desk without looking like one. By day, stack it with books and a lamp, and maybe even your keys when you arrive home; by night, settle down at that ottoman you snuck beneath it for a bit of highly glamorous bill-paying.
Add a Sectional
Just because your living room is small doesn’t mean you can’t fit a sectional! They make sectionals in plenty of different sizes, and, in a small space, you may be able to find something that perfectly fits and can practically pass as a built-in. If your goal is to have a seat for as many people as possible, a sectional is usually the easiest way to do just that. Bonus points if you pick a sectional with hidden storage space beneath the cushions.
Stick to a Defined Color Palette
Whether you’re a minimalist who’d prefer light colors or an all-out maximalist who’d rather have every color in the rainbow visible at any given time, a defined color palette can be a blessing. If you’re in the color-obsessed category, try refining down to a handful of tones and see how much more depth the colors hold when they’re not competing with 10 other hues. If you’re in the former, consider a neutral color scheme that you can stick to without setting yourself for disaster anytime something’s spilled.
How do you arrange things in a small living room?
How you arrange your furniture in your living space depends entirely on the shape and size of the room. A living room in the middle of a railroad apartment requires a flow entirely different from a living room that’s on the far end of an open-plan home. For a tiny living room, the best thing you can do is keep an open mind and consider all of your options before you settle on any given arrangement.
Regardless of the layout of your apartment, though, consider your natural light sources and be sure to prioritize them. If you only have one small window, consider orienting your couch toward that light source rather than toward a dark corner.
Get Creative With the Layout
Limited space challenges you to think beyond seating conventions. “I love built-in banquettes since they’re efficient, maximizing space and conversation areas,” Murphy says. If the room is narrow but also long, she recommends placing sofas back-to-back to allow for two seating areas.
Accentuate the Room’s Best Features
New York interior designer Christina Murphy approaches a small living room strategically: “Assessing the room’s assets and making those the focal point as much as possible is the best way to make the room appealing,” she says. If it’s got great light, play that up with lighter colors to create a sense of expansiveness; if it has a stunning fireplace, draw attention to it.
Adding a mirror to make a room feel bigger might be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it’s stuck around for a reason! Not only can mirrors make a small living room feel bigger, but they can bounce natural light around to create a much brighter space too. A mirror can be a simple addition to a gallery wall, or you can choose one with an eye-catching frame that serves as the focal point for the space.
Use Existing Elements
One of the most simple living room ideas is to use details that are already present in your space. If your living area has a ledge, a windowsill, or some other existing element that can be used as a surface, put it to work! You can go ahead and skip a side table if you do so—or even a coffee table, depending on how deep your ledge happens to be. Homeowners Coke Bartrina and Nuria Val used the upper ledge in their sitting room as a spot for a projector, allowing them to skip a TV and all of the space it would have taken up.