20 Genius Small Living Room Ideas to Make the Most Your Space

Updated 10/21/19
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Katerine Carter

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.

01 of 20

Plan Your Layout

small space living room ideas
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Katerine Carter

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."

02 of 20

Decide What the Room Will Be Most Used For

Gray Living Room Paint

Max Humphrey

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.

03 of 20

Consider Your Furniture

An armless, dusty pink loveseat positioned in living room
Cost Plus World Market

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? 

04 of 20

Go Big with Your Sofa

small living room furniture arrangements
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Katerine Carter

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.

05 of 20

Size Down

Flush mount statement lighting in living room

Courtesy of Studio DB 

Natale believes small furniture is a better bet if you want "more opportunities to include all the pieces you like." Consider what's more important to you: comfort and big style, or having more variety?

06 of 20

Choose Narrow Pieces

small space ideas
Courtesy of Tali Roth

If you decide that bigger is better when it comes to furniture, Natale recommends pieces with a sleek silhouette, such as a "sofa with a low, narrow shape and slender arms; chairs with narrow or no arms; and tables with glass tops and narrow or cutaway legs."

07 of 20

Neutral Is Failsafe

Ashley Goldman—How to Decorate a Small Living Room
Sara Tramp for Emily Henderson DESIGN: Ashley Goldman

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.

08 of 20

Be Bold

Blue Living Room Paint
Studio McGee

If you're all about color, you aren't out of luck. Designer Jeff Andrews believes there's absolutely a place for it in a small living room. "Go dark and go big," he says. "I love dark, glossy walls in a small room to create a sense of drama and intimacy."

09 of 20

Mirror It Up

small living room mirror ideas
Julia Robbs

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.

10 of 20

Trick Your Eye

Small living room design
Fantastic Frank

This trick is one you've probably never even considered before, but it's a total game-changer. Opt for a sofa with legs and no upholstery on the base. It will visually open up the room, advises Natale.

11 of 20

Use Multifunctional Furniture

Repurposed vintage and existing furniture in living room

Courtesy of Amber Interior Design

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.

12 of 20

Layer, Layer, Layer

small space living room rugs
Sarah Sherman Samuel

A thoughtful mix of furniture and décor in varying styles and finishes adds depth and coziness to any space, not to mention seriously ramps up the style factor. "If you fill a room with things you love you can't go wrong," says Humphrey.

13 of 20

Go Minimalist

zen décor
Pella Hedeby

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."

14 of 20

Whiten Your Walls

Small Living Room
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Ginny Macdonald

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.

15 of 20

Play with Grays

gray living room couch
Fantastic Frank

If you're keen to ditch white completely, go gray instead. Designer Tom Stringer loves Benjamin Moore HC 173 Edgecomb Gray as a "great neutral with undertones that work with most spaces.

16 of 20

Incorporate Wallpaper

Printed wallpaper and colorful throw pillows in a living room

 Katherine Carter

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.

17 of 20

Edit Yourself

Small-space living room design tips
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Stefani Stein

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? 

18 of 20

Organize Your Clutter

Minimalist Living Room Design
ACP/Trunk Archive

If you live by the motto that "more is more," an edited space won't appeal. Stringer says "clutter is good as long as it is organized," so group like items together (think baskets for magazines). Organize your items into vignettes so the clutter feels more cohesive.

19 of 20

Make Sure Furniture Fits

Scandi living room

Courtesy of My Scandinavian Home

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.

20 of 20

Take Risks

small living room ideas on a budget
Katie Martinez

If you're feeling hesitant, Andrews wants you to ditch the fear. "Don't be afraid to try something and take a risk with styling," he says. "Go for the unexpected, take a look, and then edit."

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