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How to Make your Small Living Room feel Colossal

How to Make your Small Living Room feel Colossal

freedom furniture living room with grey sofa and deep blue feature wall with abstract artwork

The small living room is no stranger to me. We’ve been acquainted many times. I’ve lived in my fair share of rental apartments and units over the years, and it’s fair to say that the majority of them all had a small living room. As I often say on this blog, before I studied to become an interior stylist I made every decorating mistake in the book (here’s 9 of the biggest ones). And packing a small living room full of unsuitable furniture and decor was often one of them.

In this post, I want to show you some great examples of a small living room being styled exceptionally well. I also want to show you some furniture styles that would work wonders in this area too. And lastly, we’ll debunk some of those common myths that all the so-called experts tell you about making a small living room seem bigger.

Hopefully at the end of this post you’ll be able to look at your own living room and figure out what’s preventing it from feeling as large as it could. So let’s do this!

And the added bonus: all of these ideas can be made if you’re renting. If you’re after specific rental styling ideas, this post will help.

How to Make your Small Living Room feel Colossal

west elm powder blue tufted sofa and cream shag rug with mid century table lamp

Ban the Chunky Sofas

It’s likely to be the largest piece in the room, and that makes your sofa the most crucial to get right. The bad news if you have a chunky sofa; it’s the enemy of the small living room.

In a room that has a small foot print, you need to look to sofa’s with thin arms, ideally raised off the floor and with a back that isn’t too high, either. The above image is an example of a sofa that would be ideal.

You might be thinking… that doesn’t look cosy. And you’re right. If you’re after something more sumptuous and cushy, you can opt for something that’s more solid and grounded. But just keep an eye on the depth of the seat to ensure it doesn’t jut out too far. Also ensure it’s raised off the ground on legs.

Bonus tip: Sofas with a chaise or return on them are doable in a small space. Just ensure the chaise runs along the wall, and not jutting out into the middle of the room. Having it in the middle of the room immediately cuts the room off visually and will make it feel cramped.

royal blue sofa and hexagonal marble side tables in grey living room with gallery wall

Avoid Square coffee tables

Sorry ’bout it, but if your living room sports a thick coffee table and it’s square or rectangular, it’s not doing you any favours. Living rooms with round tables will always feel larger, because fluid shapes allow the eye to glide across the room (more on this in the next point).

A great idea for a small living room is to use a few side tables as your coffee table. Like in the photo above. They can sit side by side when you need them to, but can also be moved around the room or put somewhere else if you need the floor space in front of your sofa.

Bonus tip: When looking for side tables for your small living room, look to pieces with thin legs. You want to feel as if the air in the room can move through them. Try and avoid round chunky wooden side tables. They dominate too much valuable space.

small living room with cowhide rug and gold brass pendants and gold framed wall art

Fluid Lines for the Win

The picture above is a perfect example of how fluid lines can make a space feel less structured and also less tiny. The cowhide rug is perhaps my favourite moment, because it does wonders for the eye.

Often, with square or rectangle rugs in a small space, it’s like they tell the eye “these are the limitations of the room”. It often works against what you’re trying to achieve in a small living room. For the most part, anyway. There are exceptions. That’s why I always pop a cowhide rug (or round rug) on the floor in a client’s living area if it’s tight on space. It helps significantly.

The other thing you’ll notice is the armchairs are also quite fluid (no hard edges or corners). Add to that the round pendants and the tall, round side table (with thin legs) and you’re ticking just about every small living room style box. I love it.

small living room with grey yellow and white colour scheme and grey blue feature wall

Give pieces room to breathe

Often in a small living room, people will push everything against the wall to create more space. Like with the square rug, it often makes it really obvious where the limitations of the room exist. By pulling your sofa off the wall a little, you give it more space to breathe. It can also often make the room feel more inviting, cosier, but not cramped.

You can then place a side table or lamp at the end of the sofa if you have the space, and give the impression that there is a lot of space and air flow through the room. Give it a go in your current living room and let me know if it’s helped.

Side note: Don’t be afraid of a feature wall in a small space. The one above is a good example of choosing a colour that works with the rest of the room. If you need some feature wall inso, check this out.

Less pieces on the floor

The above photo is a favourite of mine. It’s because it demonstrates how a small living room (and a narrow one) can still work beautifully. It also happens to have a square rug, which I’d normally furrow a brow at. But because the stripes are running your eye all the way toward the window, it takes you on a visual journey. So it’s won me over. But proceed with caution on an idea like this.

What this room does so well is place minimal items on the floor itself. We have a sofa (with low arms), a floor rug, a coffee table, small side tables and an armchair (again, low arms, low back). But the room still feels resolved and complete because they’re utilising the vertical space.

Notice the mirror and art on the wall? Notice the fireplace, the wall sconce, the curtains, the pendant? All of these element are off the floor, leaving the room to feel open and spacious.

Bonus tip: See also how thin and lightweight the lamps are? In a small living room, always choose lamps with one leg, and make the leg thin. The shade can be larger, sure. But avoid tripod lamps or other varieties that’ll require a lot of your floor space to exist.

tall wooden frame mirror leaning on wall in small living room with dark floors

Debunking Small Living Room Myths

I hate reading articles (usually by people who don’t actually work in the industry), that tell you the same ol garbage about making a small room feel bigger. Below I want to address some of them so you know which ones are actually ridiculous. And know which myths are just that: complete myths!

1. Make it all-white

Lies, lies lies. A small living room isn’t going to suddenly multiply in size because everything in it is white. It’s actually more about the pieces you put into the room, their size and shape, and how they’re configured that makes a room feel bigger, not necessarily the colours.

2. A giant mirror bounces light

Yes, it does. But only if light is coming into the room. You also have to be aware of where the mirror is positioned and if it’s actually reflecting something nice. There’s no point putting a large mirror across from the window in your small living room if the view isn’t nice. If you do that, you just end up seeing two bad views.

3. Put less on display in a small living room

Often experts will say you have to keep the room visually uncluttered, turning down the colour and the pattern and limiting your decorations. I agree to an extent, but I also think you have to choose what your focal point is going to be.

Any room should only have one or two major focal points. But in a small living room, I’d go for one. So decide if that’s your gallery wall, your rug, your sofa, and then ensure everything else in the space is a supporting player.

eclectic mid century living room with grey sofa and turquoise chair and shag rug

Now to your Small Living Room…

I’d love to know if this post is making you look at your small living room in a new way, and what you might consider tweaking or bringing into the space. Perhaps it’s time to sell a few larger items and replace them with something more streamlined?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know what the plans are for your small living room!

Image credits: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


Outside of his work as Editor of The Life Creative blog, Chris is also an interior stylist, presenter and author. His first book, Sydney Precincts, is out now. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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  1. George

    6 March

    Love article on ‘small living look spacious’, keep it coming.

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