How to Decorate a Small Living Room

Though all spaces present design challenges, the small living room can be especially tricky as it is where you probably spend the most time and entertain guests as well. How do you strike a balance between making the room feel as spacious as possible while also squeezing in extra seating? What furniture should you choose, and where do you put it? These design tips will help you make the most of your space.

Add Plants

Like wallpaper and mirrors, plants are a wonderful way to add depth to a small living room. Lush greenery softens corners and fools the eye into thinking there is more to the room than there really is. Plants are especially effective in corners and beside or behind chairs and sofas.

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Use Multifunctional Furniture

In a small living room, each piece of furniture should earn its keep. Think of using ottomans that work as a coffee table or extra seating, nesting side tables that can be moved around as needed or versatile little stools that can be seats or tables.

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but if you have a small corner living room space, sometimes going with the largest piece of furniture possible can actually make it feel bigger. Why? A generously sized sectional is comfortable and able to seat tons of people — but because it reads as just one piece, it helps the room feel uncluttered. A modern sectional with clean, straight lines works better in a small space than an overstuffed version.

Completely Fill a Corner

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but if you have a small corner living room space, sometimes going with the largest piece of furniture possible can actually make it feel bigger. Why? A generously sized sectional is comfortable and able to seat tons of people — but because it reads as just one piece, it helps the room feel uncluttered. A modern sectional with clean, straight lines works better in a small space than an overstuffed version.

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Build in Storage

Instead of letting lots of small pieces of furniture (a bookshelf here, a chest there) eat up space, bite the bullet and devote one entire wall to storage. A floor-to-ceiling storage wall can be customized to contain everything from books to a media center — perhaps even a pull-down desk.

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Skip the Sofa

Who says a living room has to have a sofa at all? If space is tight, try circling two, three or four armchairs around a coffee table instead. For added flexibility, make the coffee table a tray-topped ottoman that can be used as a seat, or add a pouf or stool to the arrangement.

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Choose Small-Scale Furniture

There is more to living room furniture than full-size sofas and bulky armchairs. Antiques shops are a great place to look for small-scale furniture, because the average room size was typically quite small until the last half century or so. Look for small settees, love seats and chairs that can work for your space.

Add Hidden Storage

Pick furniture with built-in storage to limit clutter. A trunk or storage ottoman as a coffee table works well. Along the perimeter of the room, try a small chest of drawers or a small credenza instead of a console table to boost storage options.

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Downsize the Sofa

In some spaces a full-size sofa just won’t do. Try a slimmed-down love seat or a petite sofa on for size instead. Choose one with clean lines and exposed legs for the airiest look.

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Keep a Stash of Spare Seats

In a small space, it may not be possible to have as many seating options as you would like. One way to get around this is by storing a few folding cafe chairs or stacking stools in a closet or under a bed, where you can easily pull them out when company is coming.

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Use Mirrors and Wallpaper

A small living room, especially if it’s short on windows, can feel a bit boxed in. Create a focal point, boost light and add depth all at once by adding wallpaper and hanging a mirror on top. If you can position the mirror across from a window, all the better — the mirror will reflect the view outside, giving the impression of an extra window.

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Embrace Vertical Space

If your small living room is blessed with high ceilings, take full advantage of that extra space. While vertical space doesn’t help with squeezing in an extra seat, drawing the eye upward does help give the impression that your room is far larger and grander that it would otherwise seem. Fill the vertical space with an eclectic art gallery.

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Your Turn:
We’d love to see your small living room. Please share a photo and tell us about it in the Comments!

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