Living room storage ideas – 8 interior designers show you how to store in style

These living room storage ideas from interior designers showcase how to create beautiful built-ins for your space

a living room with arched built in storage
(Image credit: Matthew Williams. Design: The Brooklyn Home Company)

Living room storage ideas are the key to keeping your space feeling organized, but with so many options available, it can be tricky to work out what’s going to be most practical for you. 

Ideally, storage should not only be functional but also look great too – the chances are this living room idea will be a sizable focal point of your space, so choosing a solution that fits with your aesthetic is also part of the challenge. 

We’ve enlisted the expertise of top interior designers to give their tips on how to add storage to your living room that’s both beautiful and useful in equal measure. 

Interior designers on their favorite living room storage ideas 

When it comes to the best use of your living room space, built-in storage is king.  ‘If you are planning on staying put for a while, built-in joinery allows you to create storage solutions that suit both your tastes and functional needs, but it is an investment,’ explains Gemma Tucker, Founder of Balance Interior Design. ‘Make sure it’s money well spent by incorporating it into tricky areas such as alcoves and optimizing every inch of space.’

1. Show it off

blue living room shelving

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

You don’t need to completely hide things away in order to effectively store them. In fact, there’s a strong argument for having living room shelving ideas with items visible to remind and encourage you to use them! Open shelving not only provides practical storage in a living room, but it also offers an opportunity to add some decorative flair to your space with your most cherished books and ceramics. 

‘It’s so important to surround yourself with things you love,’ says Camilla Clarke, creative director at Albion Nord. ‘Whether that’s books, artwork, a beautiful vase or sculpture you’ve found - creating large, open joinery and shelving gives space to display these treasured items. Rather than being hidden away, the pieces can be enjoyed every day.’

2. Give your storage curve appeal

arched shelving in a living room

(Image credit: Matthew Williams. Design: The Brooklyn Home Company)

Soft, elegant curves are a design motif we’re seeing everywhere at the moment - and storage is no exception. If you’re opting for open shelving, why not make it something truly beautiful with this living room trend? ‘The curved shape on these built-ins adds a decorative touch, while also allowing for shelves of varying shapes and sizes,’ explains Holly Waterfield, interior designer with The Brooklyn Home Company. ‘The top shelf provides more height due to the arch and is great for displaying those larger items like sculptures or taller vases.’

Holly also speaks to the benefit of also including some closed storage to give you maximum flexibility. ‘Incorporating concealed cabinets below is a wise practical move, as everything you need stored in a living space is not necessarily meant for display,’ she says. ‘Cabinets in living spaces can be used for a variety of things, such as board games or even additional glassware that might not fit in a kitchen.’

3. Use luxe materials to make it a feature

a stylish living room with built in storage

(Image credit: Helen Cathcart. Design: ND Studios)

Turn your storage into something show stopping by adding opulent detailing for a luxury living room. In this exquisite project, Natascha Dartnall, founder and director of ND Studios, was keen to elevate the bespoke joinery and make it a notable focal point within the room. ‘The outline of the shelving is made from brushed brass,’ says Natascha. ‘We wanted to highlight these spaces and make them a distinct feature, rather than trying to disguise them.’

While it is certainly an investment, built-in storage is more often than not the most effective way of making practical use out of a space. ‘The benefit of having bespoke joinery to create shelving and other storage is that you can ensure that they are made to be the perfect fit,’ explains Natascha. ‘Alcoves that flank fireplaces are almost always a good idea, not least because they make the most out of what can often be an awkward, redundant space.’

4. Build storage around a doorway

built in shelving around a door

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki. Styling: Amy Neason. Balance Interior Design.)

If you’re wanting to make the most of every inch, consider taking the joinery over the top of a door frame to create extra storage. This beautiful double reception room by Balance Interior Design is a masterclass in how to maximize the practical potential of a space, while also upgrading the rooms style credentials with a room divider

‘We wanted to introduce a distinction between these two reception rooms,’ explains founder Gemma Tucker, ‘so we created a partition using bespoke joinery. Storage was designed into the space each side of the door frame, as well as over the top - which not only provides added functionality but also makes for an attractive design feature.’

When it comes to effectively planning the correct storage for your living room, Gemma offers some solid advice. ‘Think about the items that you would like to hide away, as well as those you wish to display and ensure that you cater for both needs,’ she says. ‘Map out where the storage could fit into the room by drawing a scale floor plan, and when you're set on the right type of storage, find items that compliment the overall decorative scheme.’

5. Go for ground level

a large living room with a pitched roof

(Image credit: Thomas Loof. Design: Amy Lau)

If building additional storage up high isn’t an option for your room, perhaps opting for something a little closer to the floor could be the answer. Running deep, generous drawers along one side of the room at ground level is a great way to introduce a huge amount of storage, without detracting from other design features within the space. 

‘The overall idea of this living room was to keep a feeling of airiness and space to complement the triangular double height ceiling,’ explains Amy Lau, founder of Amy Lau Design. ‘The fireplace and the art above is the focal point of the room, so the surrounding built-in storage almost disappears, becoming an area to display treasured pieces, while games and magazines are easily hidden.’

6. Use a mural to conceal hidden cupboards

a mural on doors in a living room

(Image credit: Bergman Design House)

One way to make your living room feel super-ordered and organized is to introduce concealed storage. Not only is hiding a secret cupboard behind a stunning wall mural an incredibly fun design twist within a room, but it is a great storage idea for small spaces, massively increasing the functionality of a small space.

‘I wanted to create some wow factor behind the sofa as the main focal point in the room,’ explains Marie Soliman, founder and creative director of Bergman Design House. ‘However, the living space in this cottage was so small, we didn’t have the luxury of being able to give over an entire wall just to art - so creating functional art was key!’ 

A home bar, a wardrobe and additional storage space is all hidden behind the beautiful hand painted mural. ‘We decided to inlay the interior in a delicious Yves Blue, introducing an additional element of fun and surprise,’ says Marie. ‘My top tip when deciding on storage for a living room is to make it simple and effective, but also magnificent and intriguing. I love adding different textures on the doors, or using precious stones as handles.’

7. Make it multifunctional

shelving and a chair in a living room

(Image credit: JMorris Design)

Another method for utilizing storage to make the most of a small space is to introduce a desk area within open shelving, or get one of the best storage ottomans to be both a coffee table and clutter hider. Many wall hung storage systems are modular, meaning you can customize the layout and functionality to suit your exact needs, whether it's for an expanse of wall or a living room corner

‘When we work with families who are tight on space, we always get creative with the space we do have,’ says Jennifer J Morris, principal interior designer at JMorris Design. ‘If a family only has one room to share outside of their bedrooms, creating an area to work can be a great catch-all for art projects, homework and paying bills.’

8. Build it into furniture

built in storage in a living room window seat

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

If space is really at a premium, think about how you might be able to incorporate storage within other furniture elements in your room. ‘Window seating is the perfect solution for a small room,’ says Jen & Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox. ‘Often built-in to a bay window, this stylish multi-functional seating provides extra storage and additional seating.’

To really make the most of the space, Jen & Mar offer the following advice; ‘Consider what you would like to store inside - this could be a living room toy storage idea, or for magazines or electronics. If you require regular access, choosing draws or cupboards rather than a soft close lid or loose top is best,’ they say. ‘A professional cabinet maker will be able to advise on shape and measurements ensuring the fit is seamless, making the most of the space available.’ 

How do I add storage to my living room?

When beginning to think about how to add storage to your living room, it’s important to consider exactly what you need to store and how you want to store it. To do this, it can be helpful to work out how often you need to access something, as well as decide whether an item is decorative or functional. ‘It sounds simple, but you must think about what you intend to put in a cupboard or on a shelf,’ explains Natascha Dartnall, founder and director of ND Studios. ‘Functional items should go in cupboards while decorative items should be on display on shelves.’

One way to incorporate both of these types of storage is through bespoke joinery. ‘If you are able to make the investment, I love built-ins because they are both functional and decorative - you can constantly be adding to or rearranging the items displayed,’ says Holly Waterfield, interior designer with The Brooklyn Home Company.

There are also a huge amount of freestanding pieces out there, and while they may not be custom designed to fit your space, you’re sure to find something that will work. ‘Finding freestanding furniture for difficult nooks can be a minefield,’ admits Natascha of ND studios. ‘However, there is something extremely satisfying - especially for people who love antique hunting - about finding a chest or dresser that is the perfect fit.’

How can I hide my storage in a living room? 

We don’t always want everything on show, so it’s a good idea to consider ways of introducing concealed storage - this will also enable you space to enjoy the items you are choosing to display. ‘Open shelving won't look beautifully curated if it’s filled with clutter,’ says Gemma Tucker, founder of Balance Interior Design. ‘So make way for concealed storage alongside, such as drawers and cupboards. A storage ottoman is a great way to introduce extra hidden storage in a living room.’

Holly from The Brooklyn Home Company agrees; ‘I also love clever storage solutions such as benches or ottomans that have storage components. These are great for extra throw pillows or blankets that you wouldn't necessarily leave out but can easily grab as needed.’

Interiors stylist and journalist Amy Neason was the Deputy Style and Interiors editor at House Beautiful for years. She is now a freelance props and set stylist, creating work for a range of national publications and brands such as Imogen Heath. She has previously worked at Established & Sons, and her skills include styling still life and interiors shots for editorial features and sourcing unique products to create inspirational imagery. She is particularly respected for interpreting seasonal trends into feature ideas and style stories.