7 Clever Small Living Room Ideas from Top Interior Designers

7 Clever Small Living Room Ideas from Top Interior Designers


The living room is meant to be an area of comfort.  A place to relax and recharge with family and friends.  But nothing about a too small living room feels relaxing.  In fact, it can feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable if it is crammed with too much furniture and provides too little personal space.  The only way to truly enlarge your living room is by removing a wall.  This method, while a sure-fire way to add square footage to your living room, is not feasible for everyone.  So if you are dying for some added space in your living room but aren’t looking to break out the sledgehammer you can try one or all of these clever small living room decorating tips from top interior designers to make your living room look and feel larger.

Let in the Light

Don’t make your already small living room look and feel like a dungeon by skimping on light.  Natural light will always make a room look brighter, and in turn, bigger.  Take down heavy, thick, or dark colored curtains around yoru windows.  These will only block light and weigh down your wall space.  You can play up the area around your windows by adding a pop of color to the window moldings.  This will naturally draw the eye toward the windows and the source of light.  If you need to cover your windows for privacy, opt for light-weight light-filtering adjustable blinds.  You can also use sheer light-weight curtains.  Just be sure to pull them back during the day to let in as much light as possible.  

If your living room has limited or small windows then you will need to create your own version of natural light.  You can accomplish this by layering several different types of lighting.  First and foremost you want to ensure that your additional lighting does not take up any unneeded floor space.  If your living room has relatively high ceilings then the simple addition of a ceiling light will suffice for a main central light.  However, if your ceilings are low you don’t want to add fixtures that will hang and diminish overall height appearance in the room.  An additional option to consider if you are interested in ceiling lights is recessed lighting.  These lights sit flush with your ceiling, eliminating any additional overhead fixtures. If you choose to go with recessed lighting you will want to ensure that your lights are staggered and spaced far enough apart so that they do not create the appearance of a single row of lights.  It is also a good idea to opt for dimmable recessed lights so that you can change the amount of light used depending upon the time of day and your lighting needs.  

A common error that homeowners make is relying on one single source of light in the middle of the room.  This does little to brighten up a small area and generally casts one large pool of light that does not extend to the corners of the room, further shrinking the appearance of the living room.  In order to prevent this from happening, you will want to rely on multiple sources of light.  This is where layered lighting comes in.  There are several ways to layer lighting in a small room, but a few of the most useful sources of light are wall sconces, pendant lamps, and backlighting.   Wall sconces and swing arm lamps are always good lighting choices since they do not take up any additional floor space and can be placed behind seating areas for an additional beam of light.  Swing arm lamps can be rotated to adjust flow of light.  Since these lights can be positioned in any direction homeowners can use them to light focal points or even better to face upward so that the stream of light makes ceilings appear even higher. Tall pendant lamps or multi-directional lamps are also beneficial to light the corners of a small room.  Lamps can be placed behind chairs and next to reading areas.  

A final lighting option is backlighting, which is simply lighting objects from behind.  While it is simple to do, backlighting adds sophoistication to your living room when LED strip lights, tube lights, or focus lights are placed behind the TV, sofa, or wall art.  Backlighting can produce a feeling of depth when placed on shelves or bookcases as it creates the illusion of increased space by lighting far away corners.  Where you choose to add additional light sources is up to you however, warmly lit areas will draw in the eye so make it an area that you are eager to accentuate.   

Make Furniture Movable and Multi-Functional

Furnishing a small living room can be challenging.  Large sofas will take over the room but too many small pieces will make the room look cluttered.  However, there is a solution that will allow you to create a cozy seating area without cramming your room with furniture.  First, stay away from large overstuffed pieces.  These will weigh down the room and take up too much space.  Instead, look for tapered and thin framed sofas and chairs.  While you want to stay away from overstuffed sofas and chairs, you don’t need to keep your furniture plain and bland.  Furniture with details such as buttons, fluting, and curves are a great way to add character.  

While you are searching for the perfect living room pieces keep in mind that your small space is going to force your furniture to be multifunctional.  This means that accent pieces should not only be visually appealing, they should also serve a purpose.  Items such as ottomans that double as a storage area, stackable coffee tables, and storage footrests will give a place to store clutter while providing necessary seating.  Furniture that doubles as storage works best when it is also movable so there is always space to accommodate all of your guests.  

Control Clutter

Nothing shrinks a room faster than an overabundance of knick knacks and clutter.  Whether it is children’s toys, decorations, or unnecessary furniture pieces, clutter items have no place in a small living room.  Take a long look at your living room and determine just how many seating spaces you need.  Remove any furniture that is unnecessary.  You can also remove extra decorations and accents from the room.  Many homeowners collect trinkets, pictures, and heirlooms that they want to display throughout their homes.  However, if you are trying to keep your small living room clutter free, you should move these personal accents to another room.  Try to limit decorations on shelves to just a few of your favorite pieces.  Put furniture storage pieces to good use and tuck away additional items when they aren’t in use.  

Go Vertical

Limited square footage in a living room means you’ll have to search upward for a way to create an airy open feel.  This can be accomplished in a multitude of ways.  The first and easiest way to draw the eye upward is to install curtain rods above the window frame.  Hang your curtain rods several inches above the frame.  This will make the ceiling look taller, opening the living room.  In addition to hanging curtain rods high, you can also hang your wall lights slightly higher than eye level.  Wall sconces that are placed above eye level will naturall draw the eye upward.  The same is true for floor and table lamps, which should direct their light upward rather than straight down.  

A final way to draw the eye up and create vertical space in a small living room is to choose tall furniture pieces.  Steer clear of oversized low storage units that will only take up square footage.  Instead, look for tall accent and storage pieces.  These can be shelving units, bookcases, or even built in shelving.  Placing a tall but shallow bookcase behind your sofa will create an attractive visual area while at the same time providing additional storage.  Of course, keep your shelves clear of clutter and decorate with simple or bold colors to really draw the eye upward.  

Find the Right Sized Rug

Rugs are not meant to be just floor covers.  They are meant to accentuate a room and delineate space.  If you are working to make a room look larger, the last thing you want to do is cut the room in half with a rug that is too small.  Search for a rug that can fit under your sofa, side tables, chairs and coffee table.  This will ensure that the rug isn’t breaking up the space.  The shape of your rug will play a role in where and how large of a rug you choose.  Rectangular rugs are the most common and can really fill up a small space easily.  However, if the room is more rounded or if your furniture arrangement would be best served with an oversized circular rug, there are many options to choose from.  A rug can be considered an accent piece but just remember that the more eyecatching the rug, the more the eye will be drawn downward.  

Keep Your Walls Neutral 

It’s no secret that excessively dark colors will visually shrink a room.  If your living room is small you’ll need to use every trick possible to make it look and feel bigger.  Light neutral colors create an open airy feel in a small area and are best suited for small living rooms.  Soft whites, light grays, and creams are the best colors to use.  Steer clear of bright whites as they may make the room feel sterile and uninviting.  

Neutral walls don’t need to stop with the paint colors you choose.  Keep your walls open and free from clutter to maintain a neutral uncluttered feel.  Instead of cluttering your walls with a variety of wall decor, stick with one scheme.  Better yet, dedicate one wall to a single statement piece.  If you have the wall space you can add an oversize art piece or better yet an oversized mirror.  Mirrors are both visually interesting and an excellent way to create the illusion of more space.  Not only do they make visually appealing wall decorations, they also bounce the light from the windows that can then reflect across the room.  Keep your mirrors large to get the maximum benefit from them.  Avoid mirrors with  overly ornate frames.  These will take up additional space without much benefit.  They can also make your walls look congested rather than open and airy.  Thin frames around your mirror will be the most beneficial in a small room.  You should position your mirror on a wall where it can reflect as much light as possible.  For instance, you can hang a large mirror on the wall directly opposite the largest window in the room.  This will spread around the natural light and brighten the room.  If your living room is lacking in windows, you can also position your mirror between two wall sconces or directly behind a lamp.  

Float Your Furniture

When decorating a small living room it can be tempting to push all of your furniture against the walls.  However, this is a mistake.  Instead, pull your sofa and chairs away from the wall.  Creating space, even just a few inches, between your furniture and the wall will create the illusion of depth.  You can add even more depth between your sofa and wall by adding built-in shelving or a bookcase.  Both of these will provide an accent area and beneficial storage.  

While you are pulling your sofa away from the wall, you may want to consider changing up your TV’s position as well.  If you are still using a large bulky media center to house your entertainment center, you may be taking up desperately needed floor space.  Consider mountign your TV to the wall.  Add a floating shelf underneath or above the TV to hide cords or add a few decorations for a pop of color.    

How you decorate your living room will depend on how you want the room to be used.  Are you planning to dedicate your living room as a place to curl up and watch a late night movie or would rather it be a space where you can entertain friends and family?  Decide what your ultimate goal of the room is and design around that.  The most important thing to remember when decorating a small living room is to embrace your space.  With extra attention to decorating details you can make even the smallest living room feel like a palace.

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