Can a small living room ever really look luxurious? The answer is a simple yes. Size isn't everything after all, you only need to look at the price of some tiny New York apartments to know that you can have a discerning budget and still live in a small spaces.
So yes, while It's possible to make your small living room luxurious and feel high-end; all you need are the right ideas. Sure, a small living room offers limited square footage to decorate and display the best of what you have but you can use the lack of space as an opportunity to design a curated, carefully considered interior. Let's not call it small, let's call it 'bijou'.
With the right lighting pieces, furnishings, colors, materials to even shapes, there are several ways to up the glam quotient of a small room. To help you with this, we sought the help of designers from around the world to see how exactly they approach this challenge.
1. Consider scaled up lighting pieces
Want a grand living room but the space is limited? Go oversized with your living room lighting, and scale up to create an eye-catching look. The trick is to distract attention away from the small square footage of the room and draw attention to the larger-than-life elements in the room. You might think it makes a small space feel even smaller, but it also has confidence that exudes luxury, where a small piece might feel apologetic.
'Go for proportionately bigger lights that make a statement with their dazzling effect on the surroundings,' say Sachin Gupta and Neha Gupta, founders of Beyond Designs. 'You don’t have to restrict the size or the grandeur just because the space is small. Scaling up elements dramatically alters the look of a space. They give the room its focal point. Just make sure you are not going too overboard.'
In this living room, Roisin Lafferty, founder of Kingston Lafferty Design, used a display of floor lamps to bring an artful quality to the space. 'Playful styling with the oversized floor lamps gives this space a punch of personality,' she explains.
2. Introduce a unique coffee table
A statement coffee table can do a lot to your living room. This piece of furniture anchors the room's seating. Placed right in the center, or the heart of the room, it stands out immediately and is easily noticeable from any corner of the room.
Consider a high-end material for this very important piece in the room. 'An interior designer's wisdom dictates that limited space is not an obstacle when creating an elegant living room,' says Karan Desai, founder o Karan Desai Architecture + Design. 'The trick is to pick high-quality materials and furnishings that project a sense of luxury and taste while maximizing the area of the room.'
'A material that instantly communicates luxury in a coffee table?' says Karan. 'It has to be monolith materials. Certain materials spell elegance like none other. Think of Mathieu Lehanneur and his marble products that guarantee to transform any space with the rich patterns and stunning textures that make even the most mundane living room instantly elevated. Visually striking coffee tables exemplify how marble can go beyond the traditional rustic charm and transport any room into a modern and effortlessly luxurious living space.'
3. Choose a curving sofa that spells laid-back luxury
When it comes to designing a cozy living room, curving sofas play a big role. Not only do these offer plenty of seating and lounging space for several people at once, their form, inherently smart and modern, gives the room a high-end touch. Plus, when upholstered in plush velvets and suede, and in deep tones, the piece can truly become the focal point of the room, giving it a one-of-a-kind feel.
In this small living room, a curved sofa plays the part of a traditional sectional, but ups the ante when it comes to luxury by including a sinuous form - something that just feels more luxurious and expensive. 'Our inspiration for this home came from the soaring views of the San Francisco Bay; a juxtaposition of the sinuous contours of the natural landscape, and the linear, angular forms of the man-made bridges and skyscrapers,' says Noz Nozawa, founder of Noz Design. 'To give this room a luxe vibe, we were inspired to use a curving sofa in the living room, set against the non-rectangular corner of windows.'
'To further elevate the room, we added in a wall texture, which is a play on crocodile wallpaper: the client, a husband, and wife, had differing levels of love for crocodiles so we designed a clever 'hidden' croc where sections of the wall, which we partitioned off with gold paint, received a Venetian plaster crocodile finish by Caroline Lizarraga,' Noz explains. 'The white-on-white finish is subtle enough that you don't see the crocodile pattern until the light hits just right.'
4. Curate smaller pieces of furniture
While an oversized sofa or a voluminous built-in can feel luxurious, if you're working with a smaller space, curating smaller pieces of living room furniture can help you create the luxurious look while feeling there's plenty of interest to look at.
Think about mixing texture and forms. Choose pieces that defy straight lines and sleek forms, and go for contouring pieces, that add depth and interest to the space. 'To create a sense of warmth and luxury, I recommend incorporating a mix of furniture pieces in luxe textures.' says Karan. 'A tan leather couch immediately exudes opulence while simultaneously being approachable and inviting, making it an ideal choice for any living room. Boucle fabric, on another hand, brings a soft touch, creating a sense of comfort and warmth that make furniture feel more like home. Velvet on the lounge chair elevates the space's overall opulence, making it appear more expensive and chic. The fur on the coffee chair adds sophistication to the room, bringing a sense of glamour and luxury.
'Decorate the room the way you would decorate a large room with layers of details using a unique mix of materials, textures, colors, and patterns,' say Sachin and Neha. 'You wouldn’t want to cram the space, but you don’t have to go completely sparse. Blending disparate styles and genres in a balanced manner is sure to enrich a space.'
5. Mix metallics in the scheme
Metallic elements are synonymous with luxury, but they can sometimes read a little gaudy, especially when used excessively in a small space. To get the look of quiet luxury, mix and match subtle metallics; the more toned-down versions with antique gold, subdued silver, along with a peppering of nickel and bronze. A hammered metal finish inside a living room cabinet will create a luxury living room. Have a small bar in the space? Add metallic tiles to the backsplash. Use perforated metal above the fireplace to make it the center of attention. Or even an antique gold mirror paired with a silver-y chair can do the trick.
'Metallics can give an elevated accent to the room,' says Jennifer Morris, founder of JMorris Design. 'I think a well-crafted cabinet or lamp in gold or bronze can do the trick. Since it is a small space, it’s okay to think small. You only need a little to get a lot.'
6. Choose rugs in irregular shapes for a bespoke look
Area rugs help build the room's design scheme from the ground up, and give the onlookers a reason to observe the space from down to the top, taking in all the elements of a room. Rugs serve several purposes and are key in adding soft layering to the room. While these important pieces ensure that a walk around in the room is always a pleasant experience, they also inject a big dose of design, especially if you go in for living room rugs in organic shapes.
These break the straight lines and linear forms of the room, and immediately give it an uplifted quality. Plus, irregular-shaped rugs give the room a bespoke, considered feel. In an open-plan space, a rug in an organic form will set the seating area apart, giving it its personality and importance.
'In terms of materials, wool, silk, jute, and such natural materials make a rug look luscious and spell instant luxury,' say Sachin and Neha. 'However, many synthetic materials look equally rich and enticing and are more economical. So, depending on your budget, you could make an informed choice. As for colors, opulent shades of blues, reds, browns, and oranges are great. The selection again depends on how you coordinate it with other elements in the interior.'
7. Sheer curtains add a touch of sophistication
Sheers are truly timeless living room curtain ideas and can work with modern or traditional spaces, and even anything in between. Due to their lightweight visuals, these work extremely well as wall-to-wall window treatment too without making the room feel closed in - ideal for small spaces. Plus, by creating a continuous backdrop that anchors a room without completely hiding architectural features, it helps lift the vibe of the space.
'Sheer curtains serve a dual purpose,' says Karan. 'First, they add lightness to space, allowing natural light in while simultaneously bringing a touch of glamor. They offer a view of the outdoors while adding the right amount of privacy.'
Sheers have a whimsical quality to them, and look their best when they’re long and casually elegant. They can even work beautifully spilling beyond the bottom of a window, giving the room a dreamy quality while also making the space feel taller. If you’re unsure of length, always go long instead of short, even allowing the fabric to pool on the ground slightly.
8. Bring in mirrors and reflective surfaces
Mirrors are a decorator’s best friend because a well-placed mirror will not only double the room's natural light, enhance views, and open a small space but also add oomph to the decor. As long as it's placed in the right location, a living room mirror can maximize its decor-uplifting potential. Plus, mirrors and other reflective surfaces have an inherent luxe feel to them.
One great way to maximize the potential of mirrors is by cladding one wall completely with it and placing a furniture piece in front of it. This will boost the dimensions of the piece, and make it seem bigger and wider than it is. Plus, if you choose an interesting pattern on the furniture piece, its beauty will double in the room, thanks to the mirror.
9. Choose pastels for a airy but luxurious look
If there's truly a smile-inducing palette that feels instantly luxe, fresh and current, it's pastels. Decorating with pastels brings a lightness to it that makes it ideal for smaller spaces, while it also creates a glamorous vibe when mixed with whites and metallic touches.
If you're in the middle of deciding your living room colors, and are wondering how to add pastels without making the room feel too sweet and saccharine, think of soft pinks, blues, mint green, and buttercup, but tempered down with a healthy dose of white. White furniture, white walls (except for the odd accent wall), and even white floors help the pastels pop and enhance natural light.
10. Layer in couch pillows
'One thing often overlooked is the power of cushions to breathe life into a room,' says Karan. 'To create a look of luxury, I recommend using gold or shimmer cushions in the space to add a touch of retro chic. Retro stripes, meanwhile, can imbue a youthful vibe into the room, adding a touch of playfulness and charisma. The goal is to create an inviting space with an elevated style.'
A big modern living room trend, throw pillows truly add a touch of plushness and luxury, plus layer in warmth and comfort. Consider different textures and patterns to create the kind of interest and depth you'd find in a painting.
When decorating with throw pillows, consider a 2-2-1 ratio, which means, adorn your sofa with two square pillows of one size and pattern on the ends, two smaller pillows in a different pattern next to them, and finally one jazzy rectangular pillow for the center. This is a great styling trick to spiff up your sofa quickly and easily.
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Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
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