All small spaces present design challenges, but as the living room is where you probably spend the most time (and certainly the one guests experience the most of), designing a small one can be especially tricky. How do you strike a balance between making the room feel as spacious as possible while also squeezing in extra seating? What furniture should you choose, and where do you put it? Here are 15 design tips for making the most of your space, plus 10 specific furniture layout ideas for small living rooms. Let’s get started.
- Use mirrors and wallpaper
A small living room, especially if it’s short on windows, can feel a bit boxed in. Create a focal point, boost light and add depth all at once by adding wallpaper and hanging a mirror on top. If you can position the mirror across from a window, all the better – the mirror will reflect the view outside, giving the impression of an extra window.
The layout: Centre the love seat on the papered wall, flanked by a pair of matching side tables and lamps. A large woven ottoman can work as a coffee table or an extra seat. If there’s room, you could work in an extra (small-scale) chair or two across from the love seat in this arrangement. Seats: two to four.
- Add hidden storage
Pick furniture with built-in storage to limit clutter. A trunk or storage ottoman as a coffee table works well. Along the perimeter of the room, try a small chest of drawers or a small credenza instead of a console table to boost storage options.
- Choose small-scale furniture
There is more to living room furniture than full-size sofas and bulky armchairs. Antiques shops are a great place to look for small-scale furniture, because the average room size was typically quite small until the last half century or so. Look for small settees, love seats and chairs that can work for your space.
The layout: The love seat is centred in front of the bay window, with petite tables on either side. A pair of Louis XVI armchairs sits opposite the sofa, with a trunk as a coffee table in between. An antique recamier is positioned on the wall diagonally across from the sofa, with a slim console table opposite it. Seats: six.
- Use multi-functional furniture
In a small living room, each piece of furniture should earn its keep. Think of using ottomans that work as a coffee table or extra seating, nesting side tables that can be moved around as needed or versatile little stools that can be seats or tables.
The layout: A sleek, armless sofa floats slightly away from the wall; two large, low ottomans double as coffee tables and seats. Seats: two to four.
- Shake up the sofa-and-armchair routine
This stylish, petite living room has a wood-frame daybed (which doubles as a guest bed), a little upholstered settee and a window seat, offering an array of seating options without a single traditional sofa or armchair in sight.
Accent a built-in window seat with throw pillows, and set a small side table and ottoman nearby to turn it into a proper seating area.
The layout: The daybed faces a settee, with a slender acrylic coffee table and a fur pouffe between them; there’s a built-in window seat beneath a bank of windows on the opposite side of the room. Seats: seven.
- Try an ‘invisible’ piece
Acrylic, Lucite and glass are wonderful materials to use in a small living room, because they take up zero visual space. Try a coffee table or nesting side tables with a waterfall edge in one of these clear materials.
- Put low seats in front of the fireplace Put a pair of small, backless seats – stools, X-benches, ottomans – in front of the fireplace in a small living room to sneak in some extra seating without blocking the room’s focal point. In fact, far from blocking the fireplace, a pair of cute, low seats can actually make the fireplace area look more inviting… and if they come with concealed storage, so much the better.
The layout: Put a pair of armchairs in front of a bay window and a long chesterfield sofa against the wall opposite the fireplace; add a slim, clear coffee table. Set a pair of small upholstered storage ottomans in front of the fireplace. Seats: seven.