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A small living room doesn’t have to look cramped. Nor does it have to lack style. If your living space is on the small side, there are a range of clever design tricks you can use to make the most of your precious square footage.
Yes, small living rooms can be cute and cozy. But they can also be creative too. As Lick’s Head of Color, Natasha Bradley says, ‘Known as the heart of the home, the living room is the space in our homes where many of us tend to spend most of our time. It’s one of the main rooms where the design and style can affect your property’s value. If you’re working with a small living room, all is not lost. There are plenty of ways to open up the room and add the illusion of space through your interior decor choices’.
From considerate furniture placement to genius storage ideas that will keep your space looking bigger than it actually is. Here’s how to make a small living room look bigger.
How to make a small living room look bigger
1. Paint the fifth wall the same color
A lick of paint does wonders. Along with giving any tired space a much-welcomed refresh, painting your walls, skirting, and ceiling the same color can elongate your room.
As Bradley tells us, ‘Paint your walls, ceiling and skirting all in the same color, as your eye does not get drawn to the corners of the room creating the feeling of space.’
When it comes to your choice of living room color ideas, of course this will come down to your own personal preference. But you’ll also need to think about the aspect of your room, to ensure you make your small living room space look bigger – not smaller.
2. Make use of mirrors
It might be the oldest trick in the book when it comes to making small living rooms look bigger, but the clever placement of mirrors can help any space look larger than it actually is.
That’s because mirrors can create the illusion of more square footage by doubling your interior space and reflecting light. Bradley adds, ‘The larger the mirror, the better!’.
3. Go neutral
Opt for light colors in your small living room design. Why? Light hues tend to open up small spaces, especially in rooms that have limited natural light sources. But white might not be practical for every home. If that’s the case, stick to neutral living room hues or pale tones, such as creams, grays or pastel shades.
‘When it comes to colors, a lovely soft alternative to a neutral are pinks,’ Bradley says. ‘Pink 01 and 04 are great for small spaces as they make the room feel warm and welcoming but also help to reflect the light.’
4. Use lightweight blinds or curtains
Small living rooms don’t have to be impractical. But they do have to be clever – and by that we mean it’s important to work with the space you have got without over cluttering. One word of caution? Don’t drown your windows in fabric. Instead, why not choose some lightweight roller blinds or curtains?
‘You want to make sure the room gets as much light as possible,’ Bradley says. ‘So avoid heavy curtains either side of the window and go for roller blinds.’
5. Paint the floor the same color
Fan of white? Then listen up. Along with painting your walls, skirting board and ceiling one color, go one step further and paint the flooring in a similar shade.
Patrick O’ Donnell, Farrow & Ball Brand Ambassador tells us: ‘If blessed with lots of natural light, play to the benefits of your room aspect and look to whites but avoid brilliant white in favor of something with a gentle undertone like Pointing or School House White. Use the one color in the appropriate finish on everything, walls, ceiling, woodwork, even your floor if possible – this technique will create a clean, bright space without distraction.’
6. Frame your walls
It’s time to make your space work for you. You can do so by framing your walls. This design trick is ideal for those who have ornaments, pictures, or books to house.
As O’ Donnell explains, ‘Using a dark woodwork color will help ‘frame’ your walls. Essentially this technique highlights the largest surface area (the walls) to create the illusion of more space.’
7. Go for darker to make a small living room feel bigger
Yes, we know we mentioned about keeping things neutral in small spaces to reflect light and make the living room feel bigger. But bear with us. There is actually so much value in exploring dark living room ideas painting your walls a deep and rich color to help blur the edges of the room.
As O’ Donnell explains, ‘It may sound counter-intuitive but dark walls will recede and give a sense of depth to a space and is often a solution for poorly lit rooms such as north-facing spaces.’
8. Choose the style, shade and shape of your sofa wisely
Large living room furniture can dominate your small and compact space. Which is why you need to be clever with the choice of furniture you choose to put in your small living room.
Dani Burroughs, Head of Product at Snug, says, ‘Using specific color or fabric choices and considering the shape of your sofa can create illusions of more space and make a smaller living room feel bigger. Although deep tones are rich and luxurious looking, when it comes to large corner sofas it can be good to buy light colors that reflect the light, making the room feel bigger. Sofas with slim bases and higher legs let the light disperse from underneath. Also, keeping within the same color palette, the space will feel larger and more cohesive, which will allow it to feel less disjointed.’
9. Think multifunctional with your furniture buys
The top small living room ideas are fun and functional, along with being in keeping with your interior style. While the best way to make your small living room look bigger incorporate pieces of furniture that can double up for other uses. For example, a sofa that becomes a sofa bed, a footstool that has storage or a table that folds up once you’re finished with it.
As Burroughs tells us, ‘You can get more out of your space by making your living room multi-functional. It’s key to keep smaller spaces free of clutter which in turn can make your living room feel bigger. Try investing in things like shelving units and furniture that double up as storage. A sofa with hidden storage is great for hiding additional throws, cushions or unwanted mess without taking up any additional floor space.’
10. Play with scale
However, before you start swapping out your large homewares for small living room furniture, it is possible to live large in small spaces, you just have to know how.
As Jen and Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox say, ‘Create a backdrop with a striking wall mural, a simple design ensures the pattern fills the room without dominating the overall scheme.'
'Size up your lighting solutions, an oversized pendant or table lamp gives the space a more luxurious feel while providing ample amount of light. Finally, many people think they need to shop small when looking for a furniture, take the sofa as an example, a bigger size sofa can actually make the space feel cozier and bigger.’
11. Say ‘yes’ to shelving
Floorspace is scarce when you have minimal square footage to play around with. Which is why if you do have a small living room, you can make it look bigger by thinking vertically with living room shelving ideas that add both style and storage.
As Jen and Mar explain, ‘Add shelves to open areas to make the most of empty spaces. Floating shelves or a tall bookshelf that extends to the ceiling will provide ample amounts of storage and a place to showcase decorative items.’
12. Extend the height of walls through panelling
When it comes to small living room ideas, the key is to trick the eye into thinking your space is bigger than it actually is. One design trick that works every time? Paneling.
Jen and Mar, tell us, ‘Paneling is an easy way to add texture, depth, and interest to the walls. Great for all types of properties, especially new builds as it really helps to add character and interest when architectural features are minimal. This technique is ideal for small rooms when used vertically, as it makes the walls appear taller.’
13. Maximize storage potential
If space in your living room is limited, then getting creative with storage is a great way to create more space without overwhelming the room.
Rockett St George’s Co-founder Jane Rockett says, ‘Embracing blank space already in the room is the perfect place to start, from alcove shelving to the empty space under desks or console tables. Baskets are perfect under desks as they can be filled with anything you want to keep out of sight and kept in the corner to ensure you still have plenty of space to sit at the desk.
‘High shelving or walls of shelves are also great for storage and double up as a beautiful design feature for displaying your favorite things. While tall shelves draw the eye upwards to create the illusion of higher ceilings, wall shelves can be kept shallow to use as little space as possible.’
14. Show off your floors
For small living rooms, an easy interior design trick is to keep the floor on show.
Rockett says, ‘The more floor you can see, the larger the room will feel so if you are limited on space then consider opting for furniture with a good set of legs; from mid-century style coffee tables to Scandi-inspired sofas, raised cabinets, and floating shelves.’
15. Placement of furniture
Careful consideration of furniture and their placement has the ability to transform your small living space into something amazing.
‘Be clever about where you place furniture,’ Lyndsey Goodger, Founder of Rose & Grey tells us. ‘Tuck armchairs in the corner of rooms and use less intrusive, lower furniture such as a sideboard against a long wall to open up the space.’
What colors make a small living room look bigger?
According to Lick’s Head of Color, Natasha Bradley, there are four colors that make a small living room look even bigger.
She says, ‘Yellow affects our emotions so is a great choice for living rooms, particularly if there is a lack of natural light. It’s bright, cheerful and brings positivity to the heart of the home. Green helps to bring the outdoor in, and encourages you to find time to relax and enjoy the natural world around you. White is a classic for a reason. It generates feelings of calm, and is perfect for designing a clean, elegant living room space. Marry this with pops of color or lots of plants to add textures into the space so it doesn’t feel sterile and cold. For living rooms with less natural light, opt for a warm, rich gray with a strong undertone like Lick’s Grey 03 or Grey 04. Combine this with lots of green plants to really bring out the depth of the color.’
While Nune’s Sheena Murphy recommends using a restrained palette. Murphy explains, ‘Keeping the color palette restrained will help create visual spaciousness and prevent the room from feeling too crowded. Keep the ceilings light in tone to make them feel higher, or if you have a picture rail, paint a lighter tone above it than below it.’
How to make a small living room look bigger and brighter?
We can’t all be blessed with large windows and an abundance of natural light. But thanks to a few clever tips and tricks, our small living rooms don’t have to be. So how can we make our small living rooms look brighter, as well as bigger?
Lyndsey Goodger, Founder of Rose & Grey believes you can achieve this by using the same color for walls and all woodwork.
‘It’s an effective way of creating a cohesive backdrop,’ Goodger says. ‘Then think about the placement of lighting, a main ceiling light is rarely used in living rooms so mix floor and table lamps throughout the space to bring light into the room at different levels.’
While Charu Gandhi, Founder & Director of Elicyon, says you should be innovative with the color you put on the ceiling.
Gandhi says, ‘In smaller spaces I like painting the walls a slightly darker shade than the ceiling, in the same tone. I find it lifts the space and helps the space to appear larger.’
And Rockett St George’s Co-founder Jane Rockett believes a large mirror is an answer to all our problems.
She says, ‘Mirrors are the ultimate trick for making small living spaces appear bigger. Reflecting light back into the room, mirrors are wonderful for creating the illusion of extra light and space. Ideal for smaller spaces and north-facing living rooms where natural light is more limited, introducing a mirror can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With so many incredible options out there, from foxed mirror to mirror tiles, antique designs and more modern choices, every sitting room will benefit from a beautiful mirror on the wall.’
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Becks is a freelance lifestyle writer who works across a number of Future's titles. This includes Real Homes, Top Ten Reviews, Tom's Guide, TechRadar and more. She started her career in print journalism at a local newspaper more than 8 years ago and has since then worked across digital and social media for food, fashion and fitness titles, along with home interior magazines. Her own interior style? She's big on creating mindful spaces in every corner of her home. If it doesn't spark joy or happiness, it has no place here. When she’s not writing, she’s reading and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.
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