By Hebe Hatton
There's no denying that decorating small spaces can feel like a daunting task, but there are so many stylish small apartment living room ideas out there that it shouldn't feel like a mammoth task. Sure, you might have to get clever with layouts and pick furniture more carefully than if you had acres of square footage to play with, but really designing a small living room can be just as an enjoyable experience.
So whether you live in a studio apartment and looking for ways to make your living area feel separate and cozy, or want the living room in your small apartment to appear bigger and brighter, we have you covered with plenty of stylish small living room ideas. The best layouts, space-expanding color schemes, and strategically placed decor will all help you create a gorgeous living space that doesn't feel limited by its smaller proportions.
Small apartment living room ideas
Not sure where to start with a small apartment living room? What furniture would suit the space? How much furniture should you buy? What colors will make a small living room feel bigger? What layouts are going to work? We could go on, but we answer all those questions, as well as provide lots of lovely living rooms that prove small can still be stylish.
1. Stick to the essentials
If you are starting total from scratch in a space, choosing the perfect small living room furniture is a good place to start. As with most small spaces, the rule less is more usually applies. You don't want your room to be crammed with furniture so go back to basics and focus on the key pieces of furniture your room needs to function as a practical living space. Seating and storage. These are essentially all you want to have in your living room. Keeping it simple with as few pieces of furniture as possible will stop the space feeling cluttered.
2. Be clever with layouts
In small apartment living rooms, a clever layout can make all the difference. The right arrangement will keep the space feeling open and airy rather than boxy and cramped.
When it comes to small living room layouts, we have a tendency to want to push everything against the walls, leaving this empty sea of floor space in the center. In fact, all that layout does is make the room feel empty and uninteresting. Pull your furniture away from the walls, and give those bigger pieces room to breathe. Instead of using the walls as the room's dimensions, throw down a large area rug and place, or partially place, your furniture on top of that.
3. Keep it minimal
Minimalism is known for working wonders in small spaces. You want your living room to be as clutter-free as you can make it as clutter is only going to make the space feel smaller. So along with sticking with just key pieces of furniture, you want to be organized, and have plenty of closed storage options that you can hide away unsightly essentials like TV remotes, tech, toys, etc.
See how in this lovely white living room, there's not tons of decor or knick-knacks on show. Just a few curated pieces that add interest and personality but not unnecessary clutter.
4. Clear visual bulk with armless furniture
Ditch the arms on your sofas and chairs. You'd be surprised how much visual bulk it removes from the room and makes a space feel so much more open. See how in this small apartment living room, choosing a huge corner sofa but with an armless design doesn't break up the space. The fact that it's quite low-slung too means plenty of light can still flow around the room.
5. Incorporate delicate pieces
And in the same vein as keeping furniture visually light, keep any accent pieces like console tables and side tables from cluttering the space by choosing delicate, slimline frames. The small living area in an open-plan apartment manages to squeeze in some extra surface space in the form of two thin-framed nesting tables, and yet they don't block the light or appear to take up any floor space.
6. Loose the legs too
Where you can, wall mount your furniture. Floating pieces like sideboards and shelving frees up the floor space underneath and tricks the eye, creating the allusion of a larger room.
Here, a sideboard that originally sat on legs has been secured to the wall, adding plenty of storage and extra surface space for a very impressive home bar. But do you see what we mean about the floor being uninterrupted and how much of a difference that makes?
7. Don't always go small in a small living room
It's tempting to fill a small apartment living room with small furniture for fear of overwhelming the room with large pieces. But sometimes you are best going big, one modular sofa is going to look less busy than a love seat and two armchairs. Plus, a sectional sofa is the ideal choice if your living area is part of an open plan space and they can be used as 'walls' to separate the space, making it feel cozier. Browse our shopping guide to the best sofas to find some versatile options.
Or, if your apartment is short on bedrooms, consider making your living space multifunctional by swapping your sofa for a sofa bed, that way you can still host overnight guests even if you don't have a dedicated guest bedroom. Finding an option that's comfortable enough for everyday sitting and guest bedding can be tricky, but we've narrowed down the options for you in our guide to the best sofa beds.
8. Decorate with a simple color scheme
Generally speaking, the best colors for small living rooms are lighter hues – whites, pale greys, creams, beiges – all these shades are known for their space-expanding effects. So stick with those lighter colors on the walls, you want a foundation of lighter neutrals that you can then bring pops of color into. We'd stick to two or three accents colors as you can see in this fabulous living room, it's enough to make the space feel bold and exciting but the oranges and blues don't feel too busy.
Also note how in this living room, the walls, ceilings, and woodwork are all painted in the same soft grey. A great tip for making rooms feel larger and loftier.
9. Make use of awkward spaces
In small living rooms you need to make the most of every square inch, so don't waste awkward nooks and alcoves, put them to work, and build something into these spaces.
For shallow alcoves the obvious choice is shelving or cabinetry, but if you have a larger space, why not create something like this design? In this open-plan apartment, a day bed has been added to a narrow corner of the room add a lovely place to perch, plus some extra storage underneath.
10. Choose bespoke built in storage
Effective living room storage is key in a small space. Bookcases, cupboards, console tables, all these individual storage pieces will quickly fill up a small room, so opting for built-in storage that can do the job of all these individual pieces is a simple way to gain back some space.
In terms of colors, match your built-in storage to the wall colors used throughout the rest of the room so there a seamless flow between the two, and the shelving or cupboards almost blends into the wall.
11. Trick the eye with transparent pieces
It's the oldest interior design trick in the book, by adding glass, acrylic or lucite furniture to a small space visually takes up zero room but can add extra seating or storage. As light can travel straight through these translucent pieces they keep the space feeling open and airy but are functional too.
12. Hang mirrors to 'expand' a small apartment living room
Another old hack, mirrors. Mirrors are a really simple way to make a small apartment living room feel bigger and brighter. They reflect more light around the room but they can also play the visual trick of alluding to more space, broadening the room and blurring the edges. We would recommend going as big as your room can handle and positioning it in a space it will easily bounce any natural light back into the room.
13. Go large with statement artwork
Avoid gallery walls in small apartment living rooms as they can feel cluttered in a small space and instead pick one large piece of statement art that will be the focal point, as well as a distraction from the room's modest proportions.
See how in this open plan living space the large dimensions of the artwork makes the space feel larger too. It also softens the wall dividing the two spaces so it feels less solid and imposing.
14. Ground the space with large rugs
And don't go small with rugs either. A small square of rug floating in the center of your room is only going to make the space feel smaller and fussy. Instead, pick a larger area rug that will run underneath your furniture. Keep the colors light and the pattern simple so it doesn't draw too much focus. A Berber rug works perfectly in this living room, bringing light to the floor and adding just the right amount of pattern.
15. Layer lighting in a small apartment living room
Having a good lighting scheme is particularly important in a small apartment living room as a well-lit space feels much bigger than a dark room with just a single light source.
The key is to layer your living room lighting, you want to create an all-over glow. Incorporate lighting at different levels, so as well as an overhead source, have floor lamps in the corners, table lamps situated on console tables, or a side table. This way you'll get multiple pools of light around the room.
16. Add plenty of texture for a cozy feel
Sometimes with small rooms, the best approach is to embrace the small proportions and create a cozy den-like space filled with texture and eclectic pieces. Be inspired by this grey living room and pile up the cushions, throws and rugs to create a cocooning space.
And this room also proves that darker colors can really work in small spaces, in fact, because this deep grey is taken over floors, walls, and ceiling the room appears bigger because the edges of the room aren't clear.
How do you decorate a small apartment living room?
Small apartment living rooms may lack square footage but that doesn't mean you have to compromise on style. As well as the design tricks and ideas above, there are plenty of simple ways to decorate your space so it feels like a reflection of your personal style, despite the size.
Choose furniture carefully. More often than not, what works best is picking pieces that are in proportion to your room. However, sometimes choosing one large piece like a sectional sofa or coffee table can make the room feel less cluttered and fussy. We'd recommend drawing up a floor plan to help you plan out furniture and layouts.
When it comes to colors, you can play it safe with lighter shades as these are tried and tested small apartment living room colors. Or you could go the opposite way and create a moody, cocooning space with darker colors, these deep shades can have just as much of a space expanded effect as lighter ones. And think about finishes too – a semi-gloss finish will reflect more light around the room.
And with decor, keep it simple. Less is more here, so pick a few pieces that aren't going to add too much visual clutter but will add some personal style and interest to the room.
Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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