As anyone who lives in a small space knows, giving up square footage may come with a few sacrifices when it comes to decor. Sure, you may not be able to splurge for that extra-large sectional, or those dreams of owning a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf just may need to be tabled for now, but the good news is that a small living room can be just as inviting as a larger one. In fact, decorating a small apartment can actually be easier than trying to fill a cavernous space (not to mention, much cheaper).
The first step to decorating a small apartment is to throw out any of those "rules" you've always lived by—yes, you can use dark paint in a small space, and no, you don't have to stick to a minimalist design. While there are tips and tricks to make the most of your square footage, there are few hard-and-fast rules you can't bend.
Here, we've rounded up our favorite small apartment ideas to help inspire you, even if your square footage is lacking.
One thing most small apartments tend to be short on? Storage. Living room storage may not be as essential as say, a linen closet, but adding a buffet or an armoire to a nook in your room can go miles towards keeping your small space free of clutter.
Add Something Living
One of the best ways to ensure your small space doesn't feel sterile is to add something living to it. A bouquet of fresh flowers is every designer's trick to finishing a room, but a potted plant or air plant are also great ideas.
Choose a Large Rug
This may seem counterintuitive, but a large statement rug can actually make a smaller living room feel larger. Not only does a well-placed rug add a lot of texture and warmth to a room, but a small living room can feel grander and more spacious with the right size rug.
A rug should be large enough to fit all the furniture on, or at least two legs. Read more about how to pick the right size rug before you buy.
Keep Shelves Clean
The last thing you want in a small apartment is clutter. And that can be difficult, especially if your small space lacks closet storage. But before you overstuff your bookshelves, consider keeping them streamlined and minimal so they don't overwhelm your small space.
Add Unexpected Seating
A small living room can make entertaining difficult, especially if you can't fit a large couch. Consider floor seating instead to add extra seating for your guests when they come over, but can easily be tucked away when not in use.
Pick Rich Materials
Rich, natural materials can add a lot of depth to any space, but they are particularly effective in a smaller living space. Deep, soft leathers or accents with materials such as burlap can add a lot of texture to a quaint space.
Play With Light Colors
Keeping your small living room light and airy is designer 101 when it comes to opening up any tight space. While moody colors aren't out of the question (we will get to that later), bright, airy colors such as cool whites, blues or grays can make a room feel more open and spacious.
Add a Statement Piece
A "wow" piece can really transform a small living room. One easy small space hack to make your living room feel larger and more significant. Here, an oversized art piece on woven fabric gives the room a textured, eclectic vibe.
Let the Light In
Hanging curtains the right way is definitely a step in the right direction, but why not ditch the curtains altogether? If you have enough privacy to forgo heavy curtains, opt for a wooden shade or roller blind instead to ensure the most sunlight hits your space every day.
Choose Double Use Furniture
In a small space, you can't afford to have pieces that serve only one function. Your couch? It's your Netflix spot and your desk. Your ottoman? A coffee table and a place to rest your feet. Opt for pieces that can serve double duty so you get the most out of every inch.
Pick Statement Art
There are a few living room decorating mistakes that are easy to avoid. One of them is neglecting to buy the right art for your space. When you have a quaint space, you should actually think big—larger statement pieces will catch the eye and make your room appear larger than it is.
Go Oversized With Greenery
Whether faux or real, a large oversized plant is a great way to add a bit of hominess and warmth to your small living room. Bringing the outside in will lighten up your home and give it a fresh feel.
Swap Out Floor Lights
Floor lamps can add a lot of unnecessary clutter and can take up more floor space than you may have. Instead, consider opting for wall sconces or hanging pendant lights. If you're renting, you can recreate this look with a hard-wired light—just pick a cord that matches your wall color.
The key to a great small space is a great layout. If you have an open floor plan, creating a layout that consists of dedicated spaces and zones will make each area feel more purposeful and specific.
Go for "Lived In"
While modern, streamlined furniture can definitely help keep your small space free of visual clutter, it can sometimes make a quaint apartment feel unfinished or temporary. To add a bit of warmth, consider a more "lived in" look with fabrics such as linen or cotton.
Opt for a Pouf
Poufs are one of those miracle decor pieces that simply work in every small space. They're compact, cute, and can function as an ottoman, coffee table, and a seat for a friend. Some can even be stuffed when needed and folded back down when not in use.
Don't Be Afraid of Color
While neutral colors can definitely invite the light in, don't be afraid of bold colors. That said, there are a few tricks when it comes to using bright colors in small spaces, such as infusing color with furniture or art instead of the walls, which can sometimes create the effect of closing off a small room.
Fill the Room
Think a small room has to be minimalist? Think again. Sometimes filling more empty space can make a room feel more defined and even stretch its limits. If you decide to go big, opt for a simple color palette to keep things from getting too busy.
Go for the Dramatic
Moody, dark colors can actually add a lot of depth to a small room. A deep color can extend your field of depth and hide the fact that your apartment is lacking in square footage. We love hunter greens, rich navy colors, and even cool black hues.
Pick Floor-to-Ceiling Curtains
Instead of stopping your curtains at the base of your window, ensure they go all the way to the floor. Better yet, move your curtain rod up to the ceiling to make your ceilings appear even taller and give your small room a luxurious feel.
Keep it Cozy
No matter how big or small your apartment is, you want to create a space you actually enjoy hanging out in. Make your small living room more appealing by adding layers of textiles such as throw blankets or pillows. Opt for a variety of fabrics to give your room a lot of interest.
Add a Hanging Pendant
Lighting can make the difference between a beautiful room and a so-so one. Layering lighting is key, especially in a small space. Mix in floor lamps with overhead lights and table lamps, but opt for a centerpiece pendant light to create a focal point.
Opt for Mirrors
Mirrors will reflect the natural light in your room and can open up even the smallest of spaces. Hang a mirror over your mantel or incorporate them into your gallery wall to expand the depth and feel of any room.
Add Easily Accessible Storage
So you already know that clutter can make a small space feel even smaller, but even the best storage is only as effective as the person who uses it. If you're someone who is more likely to toss items than carefully store them (no judgment here!), strategically placed baskets can be the perfect catch-alls for kids' toys, books, and more.
Here are some of the best storage baskets for any small living room.
If you're looking to add even more storage in a very small space, consider adding wall units without legs. Keeping the floor area free can give you more visual space to add a unit without it feeling too cluttered.
Make the Most of All the Space
Not all small living rooms are the perfect cookie-cutter square or rectangle. If yours is oddly shaped, consider creating multiple living spaces. You don't necessarily need your couch and easy chairs to face each other—you can dedicate a corner to just reading or working to better use your space.
Play With Color
Built-in units are every apartment dweller's dream, but if you are lucky enough to have them, consider painting them a darker color than the rest of the room. This not only adds a focal point in your space but can also create the illusion of more depth as well.
Let Your Rooms Work Double Duty
The reality of apartment living is that sometimes you have to sacrifice that separate office or guest room. If you need to make your small living room work for multiple uses, try swapping the console table for a desk or splurging for a pull-out couch instead of a standard one.
Create a Gallery Wall
Even the most awkward, small spaces can be great candidates for a gallery wall. They actually work so beautifully in small spaces because they can be adapted to fit the exact wall you have. A busy gallery wall is actually a great way to decorate a small living room, just keep the furniture simple so it doesn't overwhelm or clash.
Work With Your Space
If you have an awkwardly cut-up house or apartment, don't feel like you have to be stuck to the rules of which rooms serve which purpose. If your living room simply doesn't work with a TV, dedicate a smaller den or bedroom as your "movie-watching room" and keep your living room for socializing.
Ditch the TV Stand
The less you have on the floor, the more open and spacious your living room will appear. While some designers may argue that this is a no-no, others wholeheartedly agree with hanging a TV over the fireplace. We say it's up to you, but eliminating even one piece of furniture like a media stand can really open up your room.
Tuck Your Pieces
One way to reduce clutter in your room without giving up those must-have items is to become an expert in the "tuck." Pick items that can easily tuck into each other, such as a pouf that fits right under your coffee table or stacking side tables that can pile on top of each other when they're not in use.
Fit that Sectional In
Don't sacrifice the pieces you really want in your small space. If owning a sectional is important, focus your layout on making a large couch work in your small apartment. While this sectional is big enough for six or more, you can find many apartment-sized sectionals that create the perfect Netflix chill spot without taking up your whole room.
When you're in a small space, the small details are even more obvious than they may be in a large living room. Because of that, be sure to put a lot of effort into the little objects around your space—share travel mementos or sentimental pieces that can act as conversation starters when guests enter your space.