Call us crazy, but we prefer styling a small space over a large one any day. There's something incredibly thrilling about size-challenged decorating that really forces you to get creative. Yes, you'll make mistakes along the way, but when decorated well, small rooms can look seriously stylish (these tiny bathrooms are proof). Just because there's less space to work with, doesn't mean you have to compromise on taste, either. If you're looking for small living room ideas, follow these decorating tips.
Plan Your Layout
When it comes to small–living room ideas, designer Tom Stringer says that prior planning is key when space is so limited. "The first step is to ensure that the layout will be functional for your needs," he says. "Then confirm the sizes of the pieces."
Decide What the Room Will Be Most Used For
If you're stumped on how to plan your layout, answer celebrated interior designer Max Humphrey's simple question: What will the room be used for most? "While you might plan on having friends over all the time for TV night, chances are it'll be you and your family using it the most, so keep that in mind when designing it," Humphrey says. So even if you love occasional seating, a big comfy sofa will probably be the most practical. "You can always bring in a chair or two from the dining room when you have extra people over," he suggests.
Consider Your Furniture
Since you don't have the luxury of space, you can't just throw a bunch of pretty things together and hope it'll work. Australian interior designer and The Tailored Interior author Greg Natale believes it's important to first consider all the pieces of furniture you'll need in order to create a "welcoming, livable space." Ask yourself questions like Would stools or ottomans work better in the space than armchairs? Would a side table be a more size-friendly option than a coffee table?
Go Big with Your Sofa
So you have a tiny living room, but does that mean you have to compromise on the big furniture you love? Humphrey doesn't think so. "I always recommend buying the absolute biggest sofa that will fit in the space, because if you're anything like me, chances are that's where you'll spend most of your time lounging around. Plus, it's no fun trying to stretch out on a loveseat," he says.
Neutral Is Failsafe
When it comes to small-space living room ideas, you really can't go wrong if you stick to neutral, natural hues. You can carry this over to your furniture, too. "Use furniture that appears light or disappears, such as a glass or acrylic piece," Designer Trip Haenisch says.
Mirror It Up
When in doubt, revert to mirrors. "My living space at home is not huge, so I decided to mirror panel one entire wall, which is 13 feet high, and it doubled the size of the space to the eye," says Cordony. If you can't panel the whole wall, hang large mirrors on the walls, ideally opposite a window or door to reflect the light.
Use Multifunctional Furniture
In a small living room, the more uses each piece of furniture can serve, the better. "Make an ottoman work double time by placing a tray on it and [turning it into] a coffee table when you don't need it as a seat," says Natale.
Haenisch always prefers a minimal approach. "Restraint is everything in chic design," he says. The key to minimalism is to find your style, stick to it, and then edit. Designer Christine Gachot says, "My home is edited with a capital E. I live in a constant state of chaos with my schedule, so I need to be organized and to live minimally (shoe collection aside). This is about small spaces. Be thoughtful and precise. Each person should recognize her individual lifestyle needs and commit to a simple vision that suits it."
Whiten Your Walls
When it comes to wall color, each of our experts recommended a neutral palette with white walls and ceilings to visually brighten a room and make it appear larger. If the bleached-out look isn't your flavor, Natale suggests adding pops of color through soft furnishings, accessories, and artwork.
Feel free to forgo paint altogether and add in wallpaper. Whether you opt to do an accent wall, or wallpaper the whole room, Cordony says wallpaper will layer the space with texture.
Ensuring that everything in your small living room works together comes down to careful and constant editing. Natale says you need to "step back at every stage of your design and assess its effect, particularly in terms of balance and contrast." Some questions to ask yourself: Is there too much of something or not enough of another? Is a particular color or shape dominating the space–or conversely, does the room look bland—without enough highlights or drama?
Make Sure Furniture Fits
Most importantly, "make sure your furniture fits through the front door, in the elevator, and up the stairs," says Gachot. "If it can't turn the corner in your walk-up, then it's probably not going to fit in your studio. I learned this one the hard way—twice. Purchase pieces that will grow with you one day into a larger home, or your next pied-à-terre." Noted.