Small living room layouts are all about making a room feel less cramped and cluttered using clever furniture arrangement tricks. With smart styling, furniture shapes, colors, and placements, you can easily solve the problems a pint-sized room poses.
If you have a small living room and want to make it a comfortable, stylish oasis for you and your family to hang out in, then these useful suggestions by experts will help. Find out how to use furniture pieces, layouts, and storage in a way that opens up the room, and makes it feel spacious.
1. Opt for a symmetrical living room layout
If you're wondering how to maximize living space visually, symmetry could be a great solution. 'Symmetry makes everything easier on the eye and it’ll automatically make the space feel orderly and calm,' says interior designer Naomi Astley Clarke.
However, don’t go too streamlined; a small apartment living room can often feel boxy so break up lines with plenty of curves and textured surfaces to add interest. She also suggests incorporating seamless hidden doors when wall space is at a premium – you can hang pictures on it, or even create a recessed bookcase within the door itself.
2. Choose furniture pieces carefully
The first and foremost thing to consider is ideal small living room furniture pieces that offer practicality but don't eat up the floor space. Furniture is key to making or breaking the look and usability of the space.
'When planning a small living room arrangement, do your best to have adequate seating and different types of seating,' says Victoria Holly, principal and founder of Victoria Holly Interiors. 'You don't want to just have a sofa or just have a sectional, as this doesn't allow for a conversation space. There are plenty of creative workarounds when designing a small space living room. You could explore a sofa and ottoman combination, where the movability of the ottoman works in your favor.'
'A modular sectional works similarly where you can rearrange it as needed for entertaining,' says Victoria. 'So it can work as a sofa but when you need more seating, it can be expanded. Another great option is a wall-hugging sectional that wraps around tightly to fit two or three walls and feels really custom to the space. It almost acts as an accessory to the walls instead of imposing furniture.'
3. Build it in
Sometimes even the best of designers struggle with how to make a small living room look bigger. One great way is to swap the sofa with a space-saving bench. Or by choosing a sofa dimension that fits snugly within a niche, without taking up more square footage.
In this chic San Fran pad, ABD Studios utilized the corner by creating a stylish shallow-depth lounger, swapping a bulky backrest for a stash of plump cushions propped up against the windows.
4. Break it up
If your budget won’t stretch to bespoke designs, modular furniture is the next best thing that will expand space and lay the grounds for a cozy living room. Interior designer Emily Rickard hacked this Ikea Soderhamn sectional sofa to fit her space by popping a nifty triangular storage table in between two sections. It meant the sofa could fan around the corner of the room to gain extra floor space.
'Modular sectionals have adaptable pieces that can be easily rearranged, offering flexibility for spaces of different shapes and sizes,' says Ginger Curtis, founder and CEO of Urbanology Designs. 'This allows you to tailor the sectional to your unique needs, making it a perfect fit for smaller spaces.'
'A modular sectional works similarly where you can rearrange it as needed for entertaining,' advises Ginger. 'So it can work as a sofa but when you need more seating, it can be expanded. Another great option is a wall-hugging sectional that wraps around tightly to fit two or three walls and feels really custom to the space. It almost acts as an accessory to the walls instead of imposing furniture.'
5. Make mirrors key in a small living room layout
Living room mirrors are a brilliant way to enhance the perception of space and an essential to creating a small living room layout that feels light and open. Why not go one step further and add a statement mirror wall for real glam factor.
'Consider mirrors in varied shapes,' says Noorein Kapoor, founder of Noorein Kapoor Design. 'Think circles, ovals, and rectangles but don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. Uneven, asymmetrical, and positively weird shapes are a key contemporary mirror trend, so feel free to get a wiggle on.'
6. Go floor to ceiling with storage
There's nothing more useful than a floor-to-ceiling living room storage. Not only is this an opportunity to create a shelfie-worthy space, it also adds bags of charm in a limited space.
Kingston Lafferty designed this playful bookcase with a ladder to access the full-height storage. 'Using mirrored paneling breaks up the solid block of cabinets and gives the illusion that the floor runs on beyond the furniture,' says Róisín Lafferty, founder of Kingston Lafferty.
7. Choose space saving furniture
Corner or chaise sofas are often a go-to and also set the stage for an elegant living room as they offer maximum comfort and take up minimal floor space. Plus they’re fab for impromptu sleepovers.
If you regularly have overnight guests, then you could take multifunctional furniture to the max by swapping your sofa for a sofa bed. Also, choose curvy pieces – they not only look chic but save valuable inches by shaving off the corners.
'Choose furniture pieces wisely, that do double duty,' says interior designer Mary Patton. 'Living room sectionals can double your seating, and make the space feel cozy and inviting. Plus you can stretch out with plenty of room for guests and efficiently use all the space you have.'
8. Create a cozy nook
If you’ve got a quirky recess at home like in mine, then some of the designs from our bay window ideas could translate effortlessly into a seating area. For added use, include storage underneath like in this apartment renovation by Vanrenen GW Designs to stash any inevitable living-room flotsam.
9. Work with a narrow living room
If you’ve got a long, narrow living room layout to work with, think outside the box – literally. Carve out niches, recesses and oriel windows to create seating opportunities as well as extra surfaces for books and knick-knacks. Architecture firm Loader Monteith added a series of frameless windows in this living room to avoid a dark corridor effect and to make it feel visually wider.
10. Make the most of wall space
If you’re working with a super-tiny space, slim picture ledges are a slick way of incorporating storage without taking up room with bulky furniture, as well as adding interest with books, art and photos. To maximize the illusion of space, a clever living room color could be a dark tone – by painting both the walls and shelving black, it’ll make the walls look further away than they really are.
11. Pick a small living layout that embraces the coziness
'Avoid pushing the furniture back against the wall, even if you feel like you can’t fit it in,' says interior designer Emily Rickard. 'A little breathing space around key pieces makes the room feel bigger, plus it will create an intimate and cosy vibe.'
A living room rug will also help ground the furniture and leaving a border of floor space will enhance the sense of spaciousness.
12. Utilize the back of the sofa
In cramped spaces, every surface is an opportunity, so think about using the back of a living room sofa, especially in an open-plan layout. This is a clever sofa idea for small living rooms.
'We wanted to include a study space without impacting the elegance of the sitting room, where we knew we wanted two slim sofas facing each other,' says Sarah Peake of Studio Peake. 'Putting a slim desk against the back of a sofa was the perfect solution. Always try to incorporate a view if you can – we positioned it so you can gaze out the window beyond the sitting room.'
13. Rethink your lighting scheme
Planning the living room lighting needs a decent amount of thought, but when you’re trying to squeeze every square inch out of the floorplan, table and floor lamps can feel like a luxury. Swing-arm wall sconces are a savvy choice as they make stylish reading lamps, leaving side-table surfaces free.
Where should you place the TV in a small living room?
Small living room TV ideas need to be carefully considered because these contraptions can quickly take over the space, and affect its aesthetic. One way is to hide them inside a cabinet, or a media unit. You can even place the TV within a bookcase so that the books and the decoratives hide the unsightly visuals of the TV. Another way is by blending the TV with the walls. You can do this by painting the walls a deep navy or velvety black so the TV merges with the walls and is not so much of a focal point anymore. A heavily-patterned wallpaper can do the same trick.
3 products for small living room layouts
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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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