How To Design And Lay Out A Small Living Room

All spaces present design challenges, but as the living room is where you probably spend the most time (and certainly the one guests experience the most of), designing a small one can be especially tricky. 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? Here are 15 design tips for making the most of your space, plus 10 specific furniture layout ideas for small living rooms. Let’s get started.


1. 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 papering a wall 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.

The layout: Center the love seat on the papered wall, flanked by a pair of matching side tables and lamps. A large woven ottoman can work as a coffee table or an extra seat. If there’s room, you could work in an extra (small-scale) chair or two across from the love seat in this arrangement. Seats: two to four.


2. 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.


3. 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.

The layout: The love seat is centered in front of the bay window, with petite tables on either side. A pair of Louis XVI armchairs sit opposite the sofa, with a trunk as a coffee table in between. An antique recamier is positioned on the wall diagonally across from the sofa, with a slim console table opposite it. Seats: six.


4. Look up

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.


5. 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 (like the one shown here) 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.

The layout: A tailored sectional sofa is in one corner, with a pair of leather folding stools pulled in close to form a conversational group. Fill out the group with a slipper chair if you have the room. Seats: seven or eight.


6. 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.

The layout: A small sofa floats in the middle of this open-plan space, facing a media center on the wall. One armchair and an upholstered ottoman (that can double as an extra seat) round out the group. Seats: three or four.

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