Small living room layouts are all about making a room feel less cramped and cluttered using clever furniture arrangements. With smart styling, shapes, 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, 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. Arrange the furniture around a fireplace
In a small living room with a fireplace, consider making the fireplace the focal point of the room. 'Make sure that all the furniture of the room is centered around that, making room behind the furniture to walk around,' says Grey Joyner, founder of Grey Joyner Interiors.
Rotate the sofa, chairs, and stools towards the fireplace, and keep a coffee table in the middle to ground the space. It would be prudent to choose pairs of armchairs and sofas that are of equal scale. Consider designs that are sleek and smooth, so the room doesn't feel crowded.
'Figuring out the furniture placement for this room was tricky,' says Michelle Gage, founder and director at Michelle Gage Interiors. 'It’s a gorgeous old home – but in true 'old home fashion' the living room was narrow. The room was begging for a curved sofa. This piece helps us to give the room a true sofa size but in a less bulky manner. From there, we selected a slim bench to act as the coffee table and placed a pair of swivel chairs on the side to ensure that the room was as functional as possible.'
2. Consider a circular layout for ease of movement
In a small apartment living room, consider arranging the furniture such that the traffic is directed around the conversation area rather than through it. With circular, inward seating, this may be possible.
'Circular seating is a popular trend now,' says interior designer Tamara Magel. 'It allows people to feel closer in conversation and helps the room to move into itself. 'The rounded seating allows for a more intimate moment, which people are welcoming.'
'In case of a small room, consider grouping four chairs circled around an ottoman or coffee table so that you can prop your feet up,' says Grey. 'It makes the room seem bigger as it doesn’t take up as much square footage.'
3. Opt for a symmetrical living room layout
If you're wondering how to make a small living room look bigger, 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 space can often feel boxy so break up lines with plenty of curves and textured surfaces to add interest. She also suggests incorporating seamlessly 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.
4. Bring all the furniture to the centre of the room
'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 cozy vibe.'
A living room rug will also help ground the furniture and leaving a border of floor space will enhance the sense of spaciousness.
5. Consider different combinations of furniture
Choose the ideal small living room furniture pieces that offer practicality but don't eat up the floor 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 custom to the space. It almost acts as an accessory to the walls instead of imposing furniture.'
6. Go for space-saving furniture
Look for creative alternatives for your living room. Bring in pieces that offer more use than one, and perhaps even swap out a traditional sofa for two accent chairs.
'An ottoman that also serves as a coffee table works great in small spaces,' says Grey. 'Floor lamps for lighting are also a great way to cut down on any smaller side tables needed for table lamps.'
'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.'
7. Or go for built-in furniture
Sometimes the living room doesn't have enough space to accommodate even the most basic furniture pieces without looking too cramped. While this idea may not be possible in rented accommodations, for homeowners, a built-in bay window for the living room could work.
'One of the biggest challenges with the house was that some of the spaces have atypical angles or large openings,' says Jake Arnold, founder of Studio Jake Arnold. 'We utilized the bay window for a settee to make the most of the space. Since we were working with a smaller footprint we made sure the furniture had the right scale to not overwhelm the room, and complemented the seating with pleated fabric blinds.'
8. 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 custom to the space. It almost acts as an accessory to the walls instead of imposing furniture.'
9. Go floor to ceiling with storage
There's nothing more useful than floor-to-ceiling living room storage. Not only is this an opportunity to create a 'shelfie'-worthy space, but 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.
10. Work with a narrow living room
If you’ve got a long, narrow living room layout to work with, choose pieces that have a light visual frame, to not overwhelm the room. Also, paint colors go a long way in opening up this room.
'Dark paint is the great illusionist,' says Melissa Frederiksen, director at Atmosphere 360. 'Remember, dark colors recede so they are often the perfect solution to widen a space.' In this example of a living room accent wall, Brooklyn-based designers, OAD Interiors wanted to provide contrast and guide the eye to the end of the room to help emphasize the space.
11. Utilize the back of the sofa in open floor plans
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.'
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. You need to do it in a way that the TV does not ruin the aesthetics of the space.
'Incorporating a TV into living room design is something that we can no longer avoid, especially with such an increase in the popularity of open-plan architecture,' says designer Jessica Hubner of Hübner Studio. 'You will often see designers creating ways to conceal or hide them, but this isn't always feasible, particularly with smaller spaces.'
'I often think that the best thing to do in these cases is to make the TV feel as though it's an integral part of the design and embrace it,' says Jessica. 'We have done this for clients in the past by incorporating the TV into a joinery unit that serves multiple uses such as a bookshelf and a media unit. The multi-use element then becomes a feature in the room, embracing the TV rather than something to hide '
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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