Many of us have small living rooms that can feel cramped and claustrophobic, but space shouldn't be an obstacle, and you can work around this limitation through clever design.
You might think of interior design trends as purely decorative, but they can be functional too. And, many of the best ones we're seeing new, and continuing, for 2024 can help make a small living room feel more spacious.
I've spoken to the interior designers to find out the best trends of 2023 that will make your living room feel bigger.
1. Embrace minimalism for a decluttered look
Known for creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere, minimalism in interior design has showing no sign of slowing down. The style is characterized by a muted color scheme - think whites and a spectrum of neutral tones - as well as an uncluttered, tidy aesthetic that favors sparse spaces instead of rooms filled with decor. All elements of minimalist design come together to help make a room feel brighter and airier, and consequentially, bigger.
'Think minimalist in your small space,' urges Montreal-based architect and designer, Sophie P-Lefebvre. 'You should not clutter the room with furniture, decoration or art on the walls. Opt for neutral white walls too and paint the walls, plinths, and frames all the same color - this color will open up the room, making it airy and light.'
'Embrace minimalist design by choosing furniture pieces with clean lines and a sleek, uncluttered appearance,' adds Hosuton-based designer, Nina Magon. 'Minimalist design principles are well-suited for small living rooms because they focus on simplicity and functionality: Minimalist furniture typically features clean, unadorned lines and a straightforward design. This lack of excess detail helps maintain a clutter-free appearance. By selecting furniture that doesn't have unnecessary embellishments or bulk, you create a more open and visually calming space,' she says.
Natural light is at the core of a minimalist aesthetic too. 'For a minimalist look, don't add very heavy curtains. I suggest instead using sheer or light blinds to let natural light circulate, which will create the effect of grandeur,' adds Sophie.
2. Float furniture to create an optical illusion
Rethink the way you use furniture and how that can impact the size, shape and flow of the space. Your instinct in a small living room might be to sit your furniture flush against the wall of the room, giving you more floor space, but we're seeing designers be brave and move the furniture away from the walls. This in turn creates more space for walkways, other vantage points and more wall space.
This can really help to make the room look bigger, a ceiling look higher and the room in general look more elegant as it helps to emphasize the length of the wall. Living rooms that have furniture blocking wall space can make the ceiling look lower.
As well as the standard sofa style floating in the center of the room, we're also seeing the dual-aspect sofa trend taking over which is designed to sit in the center of the room. These designs face both ways, offering two views and two seating options and creating two distinct zones within one large space. 'Dual aspect sofas are all about optimizing your space, enabling you to take advantage of the views from both sides of the room, creating a more open and connected atmosphere and fostering a feeling of togetherness and versatility,' says Laura Colonnese of London and New York design house, Maddux Creative.
3. Try low profile furniture
The '70s aesthetic has really taken off over the past year. With a color palette heavily featuring chocolate browns, oranges and funky patterns, the '70s look certainly wasn't for everyone, but those who weren't such a fan will be glad to see it's an aesthetic that has been ironed out and finessed over recent months.
Now, the '70s look is less obvious, but certainly still present in the designs we're seeing coming to the fore. One pillar of '70s design is the way living rooms are made to feel plush, relaxing, and social. Low-slung furniture and bean bags galore were a feature of this decade of design, and that has really transcended into the way brands are designing sofas today.
Living room sofas are changing and evolving to feel cool and casual with low profiles that feel chic and relaxed. The added benefit of this uber-cool trend is that it creates almost an optical illusion of more wall space, making a room feel bigger and brighter. The typical sofa height is around 36", but low-profile sofas designs sit more around the 25" mark.
'Choose appropriately sized furniture for your space. Oversized furniture can overwhelm a small room, so opt for pieces that fit comfortably without crowding the area. Smaller-scale furniture doesn't sacrifice functionality. In fact, it often makes the room more functional by allowing for better traffic flow and space utilization,' says Nina.
4. Use materials that 'borrow space'
This year, we've seen designers embrace materials in clever ways to help create an illusion of more space. 'Acrylic and glass tables are functional but they also visually disappear in a room,' points out designer Carola Pimentel, the founder of Assure Interiors, an award-winning Miami-based practice specializing in residential projects. This design by Pella Hedeby is a perfect example, using a glass coffee table with its clear quality so as not to take up any extra visual clutter and space, and helping the room feel less cluttered, and therefore, bigger.
Similarly, using a living room mirror to your advantage is one clever design tool to incorporate into your living room, whether that's on a mantelpiece or even used as backing to your bookshelf. 'The use of mirror tricks the eye into thinking your space is much larger,' says Carola. 'We usually hang on a wall opposite or perpendicular from the window for maximum reflection.'
'Mirrors are essential,' adds Artem Kropovinsky of New York-based interior design studio, Arsight. 'Positioned wisely, they can magnify a room's perceived area, bouncing light around and adding layers of depth.'
5. Enlist the help of large area rugs
Finally, 2023 has certainly been a year for ramped up texture in the living room. 'Large area living room rugs that take over a whole room add big impact in a tiny room,' says Carola.
Where you might not feel inclined to draw attention to the smaller footprint of the room, don't be afraid to use every inch of the floor space so that you can create a sense of increased size in the room.
Smaller rugs that overlap can actually create a feeling of choppiness, but maximizing the size of the rug helps bring the room together and create a unified space.
Remember too that the style of your large area rug impacts the sense of space too. A darker or patterned rug will only make your room feel smaller, but something light and subtle will help the room feel light and bright.
3 buys to help your living room feel bigger
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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