10 Small-Space Living Room Decorating Ideas Interior Designers Swear By
These expert tips can transform a tiny living room into a stylish but purposeful space.
Deciding on the right décor for your small living room can be tricky. Along with the fact that you probably have little to no storage space, you're often stuck with the troublesome task of figuring out which furnishings are truly necessary. "In small living rooms everything needs to be both beautiful and functional," says Laura Hur of Lorla Studio. "[It needs to] serve a purpose while contributing to the overall aesthetic."
Often times, this means picking out furniture pieces that not only support your lifestyle and are visually pleasing, but that can pull double duty, too. "Make as many items as possible serve a dual purpose," says designer Crystal Sinclair. An office chair that doubles as extra seating, a desk that quickly transforms to a side table, or a decorative object that moonlights as a stool are just a few of the items she likes to incorporate into tight quarters.
Once you've got multifunctional furniture in the mix, the next step is to pick out décor that offers a little trompe l'oeil. "When selecting accent furnishings for a small living room go for options with materials that are visually light, and help to bounce light around (think: glass, mirrors, reflective surfaces)," Hur explains. "For instance, a glass coffee table can trick the eye into making it look like the table takes up less space than it actually does, while still providing plenty of surface area."
Of course, you don't want to go overboard with decorative accents in a small living room, or else you'll run the risk of further cramping up the space. "The less clutter the better, particularly in a small living room," Hur adds. Ready for more advice on how to turn even the smallest of living rooms into a savvy space? Read ahead for the tricks and tips designer love.
Invest in Sconces
Although ambient lighting is essential to a well-designed living room, large table lamps are often a waste of precious space. "When space is tight, skip table lamps and instead opt for a wall sconce," says Hur. "This is a chic way to free up table space while still ensuring your room is well lit."
If you aren't already hip to foldout furniture, now's the time to smarten up. Whether it's a wall-mounted dropleaf desk or a storage cabinet that opens to reveal a table or bed, foldaway furnishings are great for maximizing a small space, says Sinclair.
Create a Gallery
According to our experts, a little wall paint can go a long way in opening up a cramped living area. "Paint the walls and ceilings of a small living room in a light, bright shade of paint," says Nina Magon of Contour Interior Design. "If you have a crown or base, it should also be painted in the same shade for consistency." By doing so, Magon says you create a canvas to display bold art which creates a focal point, and thus makes the space appear larger than it actually is.
Make Sure to Measure Everything First
What's more unfortunate than a tight living room? A tight living room with furniture that doesn't fit. "Always measure all your furniture pieces first to see and how they work together," says Becky Shea of Becky Shea Design. "It's important that nothing feels too big or too small. When you appoint pieces that are the right scale for the space, you can enhance the perception of how large the room actually is."
If you're dreaming of a dark color palette for your living room but worried it will make the space seem smaller, our experts say to go for it! "Though it is counterintuitive, the easiest and fastest way to make small spaces feel larger is to go dark," says LeeAnn Baker of LeeAnn Baker Interiors. "Not just on the walls, but on the trim, casework, and ceiling, too. We love to use this as a way to expand the planes of a room. Darker colors also evoke a sense of mood and drama that takes your focus off of the size of the room."
Forgo Side Tables
Like it or not, our experts say side tables aren't doing you any favors in a small living room. "Side tables in a small room force you to opt for a shorter sofa than you actually want," says Chris Stout-Hazard of Roger + Chris. "Instead, opt for a wider coffee table or multiple small tables that can be gathered and rearranged to serve the various seating in the room."
Float Your Furniture
Ask any interior designer and they'll tell you the same thing: Your furniture layout can make or break the efficiency of a small living room. "One mistake a lot of people make in small spaces is pushing furniture up against the walls," says Jess Blumberg of Dale Blumberg Interiors. "If you float furniture away from walls, it will actually make the space look larger.
Create a Focal Point
Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed focal point in a small living room. Not only can it help tie the other decorative elements together, it can distract attention from the lack of square footage in a space. "Make sure you have an anchor or focal point in your living room to draw the eye to," says Liz Caan of Liz Caan & Co. "Whether it's a tall plant or a large piece of art, it creates scale in a small room while distracting from the actual size of the space."
Reconsider Your Coffee Table
Sure, oversized coffee tables are great—if you've got an extra-large living room to use it in. "But when you aren't working with a ton of space in a living room, forgo a traditional coffee table in favor of smaller tables or stools," Hur says. "They provide tons of utility, and can be used as extra seating."
Lay a Large Rug Down
When all else fails, our experts says you can always count on a large area rug to open up a small living room. "In a studio or loft use large, continuous rugs to tie as many elements together as possible," says Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48. "This helps maintain consistency and makes the space feel larger."