How to organize a small living room, according to the pros

Experts say it's doable

Snug but bright and breezy living room with sectional
(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Small living rooms aren’t just challenging to live in, they can also be difficult to organize and maintain. After all, if you live in a small home, the living room isn’t always just the living room, it can also be a home office, guest room, dining room or serve all three these purposes at once. So having the right furniture and decor to utilize every square foot is essential. Are you ready to get your small living room organized? Here are seven tips from professional organizers.

1. Maximize the space with functional furniture

The less space you have, the more storage you need. So choosing furniture that has hidden storage can help curb excess clutter. “When I’m doing a consult for a new client I’m listening to their needs for the space. I’m thinking we need to declutter here and get proper storage for the space. I see all the good items that the client can keep and then also have to discuss the larger items that may be useful but are too large for the space,” says Carrie Kauffman, professional organizer, and owner of Carrie’s Essential Services (opens in new tab).

Kaufman likes the Ornavo Large Storage Ottoman Bench (opens in new tab) and Lark Manor Upholstered Storage Ottoman (opens in new tab) because both have space to stash extra linens and miscellaneous items. Looking to store books or knickknacks? Opt for Vario Stacking Cubes (opens in new tab) from Container Store.

2. Consider a coffee table with storage

In addition to ottomans, you can’t go wrong with a coffee table that has storage. “Get a coffee table that you can entertain your company on and one that will give you some added storage that you can add throw blankets,” says professional organizer Shantae Duckworth (opens in new tab). Then take a less is more approach to decor. “Books and candles don't need to be on display.”

Duckworth recommends the Kakotito Modern Round Storage Ottoman (opens in new tab) because it has plenty of storage inside and features a modern aesthetic. However, if your living room has more of a vintage vibe go with the Yaheetech Modern Lift Top Vintage Coffee Table. (opens in new tab)If your space is too small for an ottoman, a storage stool such as the Sand & Sable Storage Stool (opens in new tab) can also work.

3. Have a WFH desk work harder

Do you work from home? Having a coffee table that converts into a desk is a worthwhile space saver. Duckworth tells me, “We know that a computer desk can take up valuable space. You can also convert the space back into a livable space. Functional multi-purpose furniture is the key to small spaces.”

The Corrigan Studio Amethy Coffee Table (opens in new tab) has a stylish mid-century modern aesthetic while the Hommpa Lift Top Coffee Table (opens in new tab) has a comfortable ergonomic design. Looking for something minimalist in style and price? Consider the HOMCOM 39" Modern Lift Top Coffee Table Desk (opens in new tab).

4. Utilize wall space

“Functional wall space can go unused (or underused),” says Kaufman. “Make the wall function for things you need every day but may not have the flat space to put items on. Wall space just isn’t for frames and artwork.”

Wallniture Avila Floating Shelves (opens in new tab) are a decorative way to do this, but you can also use the 17 Stories Kendelle Wall Organizer With Wall Baskets (opens in new tab) or Container Store Acrylic Wall Display Cubes (opens in new tab) instead.

The best way to approach using wall space is to get vertical. Duckworth likes using tall storage pieces such as bookshelves. “[In addition to displaying books], you can also put your photos, sentimental items, and or collectibles on display.”

A good example of this is the Latitude Run Elite Media Shelves (opens in new tab) becasue this unit has lots of compartments. Those with more traditional tastes may want to go with the espresso wood Furinno Jaya 5-Shelf Book Case (opens in new tab). Another option is a bookshelf/desk combo such as the Nathan James Theo 2-Shelf Industrial Wall Mount (opens in new tab), which can be helpful for living rooms that also serve as home offices.

5. Store things where it makes sense

When you have a small living room both storage and finding the space to entertain can be tricky. Kaufman advises keeping items where you use them, especially when you’re entertaining. “Small living room space is your primary entertaining space, keep items you need handy versus clogging up valuable travel space in an apartment. [So you don’t need to] head back to the kitchen for drinks or refills! Store wine and liquor in your entertaining space where folks will be gathering. Think about small carts, cabinets, wine racks.”

Keep wines and spirits within reach using a timeless gold bar cart such as the Vasgale Bar Cart (opens in new tab). Not a fan of carts and have a little bit of extra space? Why not go with a larger cabinet like 17 Stories Lachesis Metal Bar Cabinet (opens in new tab) instead? Or to take advantage of vertical space consider Iron Stackable Wine Racks (opens in new tab).

6. Consider little ones too

Children may be little, but they can have a lot of things that sure make the living rooms extra hard to keep organized. “When you are short on space but your kids have more toys and crafts than they ever will—storage is essential in any small space,” says Kaufman. 

The organizer suggests utilizing pieces that work with your aesthetic but are discreet and functional. “Benches, ottomans, and cubes offering storage can also keep toys out of sight and out of mind. This ensures that your home can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike.”

Some of Kaufman’s favorite types of products for tackling this include clear totes (opens in new tab), tiered stackable storage bins (opens in new tab), and fabric baskets (opens in new tab).

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!