17 small living room ideas to prove small can still be stylish

Be inspired by our small living room ideas and advice that will turn even the tiniest of spaces into something super stylish

small living room ideas
(Image credit: Ikea)

You will find the small living room ideas you need right here. Yes, we are fully aware that while we do love looking at gorgeous huge living rooms with high ceilings and more floor space than in our whole homes, they aren't the reality for most of us. 

Designing a small living room that strikes the balance between spacious and calm, and is packed with enough seating and storage to make the room practical, can be tricky to achieve. But fear not, we have a plethora of solutions for your small living room woes. Whether you are designing a living room from scratch or feeling cramped in your current space, our tips and tricks will allow you to expand your square footage without having to knock down any walls. 

  • Check out our living room ideas page too for plenty more looks that can all be adapted for small spaces. 

1. Opt for multi-functional furniture in a small living room 

Living room with storage ottoman from Dunelm

(Image credit: Dunelm)

In any small room, each piece of furniture needs to earn its keep, so choose pieces that are multi-purpose. A stool that can be used as an end table, a pouf that transforms into a storage box, a sofa with secret storage... you get the idea. Ottomans are great for this: top them with a tray and they become a coffee table; strew them with cushions and they're extra seating; buy a bed in a box and you've got a guest space, too! 

2. Replace bulky curtains with slimline shutters

Small living room ideas

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

When looking for small living room ideas, you might not immediately think of what's at the windows. However, switching them up to something more subtle can make a huge difference. 

Of course, living room curtains have their upsides: they add color, pattern and a feeling of comfort to a room. But if yours are bulky and stealing light from an already compact window, why not swap them for shutters? They let in tons of light, don't take up any space and are easy to coordinate around. Plus, DIY-fit options are super affordable.

3. Double up on stackable furniture in a small living room

When renovating their run-down period terrace, Ali and Rob created an open-plan extension that works for everyone

(Image credit: Rachel Manns)

Why have one table when you can have two in the same space? Picking out furniture that can expand or create more surface space without permanently taking up too much room is a fab small living room idea. 

A set of nested tables for example that fits one or two drinks is ideal for creating more surface space when you have guests over. When you are done entertaining you can just slot them neatly away. 

4. Use wall space for lots of narrow storage

Open plan living room in a renovated school house

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

If you are lacking in square footage but have reasonably high ceilings, you can easily make a small living room feel bigger by utilizing vertical space. This space may not be that useful for adding extra seating but clever living room storage ideas – ladder-style shelving, floating shelves or wall mounted units – will provide extra storage and display space with a minimal footprint. 

5. Layer your lighting to stretch space visually

Green velvet sofa in front of a gallery wall

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Adding varied light sources at different heights will draw the eye to different areas of a small living room, making the space feel more interesting and marking out its various zones. For example, a strategically placed table lamp can turn a dark corner into a cozy reading nook; and an anglepoise lamp can instantly create a workspace in your living room. Ensure all your living room lighting is on dimmers, too, so that you can adjust the mood to suit the occasion. 

6. Easiest small living room idea? Mirrors

Small living room idea with armchair and mirror

(Image credit: Chris Snook )

Using mirrors to create the illusion of more space and light is the oldest small living room idea in the book. Placing a large mirror on the adjacent wall to your biggest window will reflect the most light, but if your windows are small or you don’t want to rely on natural light, try placing a tall mirror behind furniture to create the visual trick of another room opening up beyond. 

7. Replace bulky furniture with slimline pieces

Fireplace ideas

(Image credit: Modern Organic)

Another age-old, small living room design trick: swap out dark, bulky furniture for transparent items made from glass or acrylic. Doing so removes visual barriers and opens up a room.  Alternatively, go for pieces with slim frames to let light flow through the space. 

8. Rethink your small living room's layout

Living room with wooden beams and rustic decor

(Image credit: Design by Emily Henderson Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp)

There is a common tendency, when designing a living room layout, to shove all your furnishings up against walls. But this attempt to claim back those precious few inches can often have an adverse effect. Instead, copy this small living room design and pull your furniture away from the wall a tad, creating space around the outside of the room, and group them around a central coffee table. P.S. Less furniture is more in a small living room.

9. Slim down your furniture

Snug with grey chairs

(Image credit: Nest Out West )

Think about alternatives to the traditional three-piece suite was designing a small living room. We might be automatically drawn to filling our living rooms with large sofas and armchairs, but resisting the temptation and choosing fewer, or less bulky, pieces will make a difference to how large a small living room feels. You can always add coziness to pared-back furniture with plenty of cushions and by layering throws. 

10. Or one piece of larger furniture that's perfect for the space

Living room with white walls, tan leather L-shape sofa, rugs, rattan pouffs and coffee table made from wooden palett boards

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

If you simply can’t go without a large sofa, corner sofas are ideal for smaller living rooms as they maximize seating in minimal space. Even better, find one that has added storage so you can store throws, blanket, spare bedding. If you do choose one larger piece of furniture, keep the rest as minimal and as slimline as possible. 

11. Invest in built in storage for a small living room 

Proctor House: Anna and John used their skills as an artist and architect in a colourful transformation of their Battersea home

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

Instead of dotting lots of different types of storage around a room, bite the bullet and invest in one wall of built-in storage that fits perfectly in your space. You can then customize your shelving to suit your needs, plus creates a really seamless look, especially if you paint it the same color as your walls like in the space above. 

12. Choose the best small living room colour scheme

Small living room ideas

(Image credit: Jemma Watts)

Generally speaking, crisp white walls and minimalist hues make a small living room feel more spacious, but having a small space to work with doesn’t need to crush your color dreams. If you prefer a more vibrant aesthetic over magnolia-blah then run with it. Be inspired by more living room paint ideas in our dedicated feature.

13. Don't be afraid to go dark in a small living room 

Small living room idea with white white and dark floorboards

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Darker shades can actually disguise the perimeter of a room, making it feel bigger and – at night – much cozier. If you want to experiment with darker colors, but concerned it will look too harsh on the walls, copy this small living room idea and paint the floorboards. Keep the walls fresh and bright but go for a more dramatic color on the floor, enhance it even more by choosing dark accessories too.

If you want to DIY this look check out our guide to how to paint floorboards

14. Paint the floor white... or throw down a light rug

Nikki’s elegant, light-filled extension took hard work, time, plenty of saving and attention to detail in the design

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

If darker floorboards aren't going to be for you white floors and ceilings always bounce lots of light about and create a bigger, brighter-looking small living room. So why not tackle honey-colored floorboards with a paintbrush? 

You'll have a more contemporary, bigger-looking space in hours for no more than the price of a can of paint. Plus, you can always throw down a bright rug to add a splash of color and a layer of comfort or use a darker paint color on your walls than you might have dared to previously. Or, just throw down a light-colored rug for an instant transformation.

15. Add interest to a small living room with a mural

Living room with large corner sofa, coffee table and monochrome rug

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Before we go on to talk about the many positive points of adding prints and murals to a small living room, can we just appreciate the artful layering in this living room? That's how it's done, people! 

Anyway, yes, murals – a great small living room idea. They are also a fab option if you are decorating a rented home, because you can choose to hang a mural rather than paste it permanently to your wall. In this small living room, the use of a mural expands the space as it stops an expanse of white wall making the room feel boxy. For more wall mural ideas, check out our feature. 

16. Layer your lighting 

Cream living room ideas: cream living room with bold black accents through furniture frames and shelving

(Image credit: Ikea)

You REALLY want to avoid overhead lighting in small living rooms (actually, we'd say, any living room). Why? It creates a bland space that's unwelcoming at night and, despite casting a bright light over a room, does nothing to improve its proportions. 

What does make a small room feel larger is various pools of light that highlight the room's best features, whether a lovely painting, a great-looking piece of furniture or a handsome armchair. Then, of course, you'll need to consider task lighting so that night-time reading isn't a chore... In other words, lighting a small living room is not a one-fitting solution. Find more about living room lighting ideas in our guide.

17. Embrace the coziness of a small living room 

One Kings Lane rustic living room

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

So far we've focused a fair bit on how to make a small living room feel bigger, but sometimes it's just best to accept your small proportion and roll with it. Creating a cozy living space is so simple too, just stick to a nice warm color palette and pile up all the throws and blankets. Make sure you opt for something soft underfoot too, either a squishy carpet or a lovely soft rug. 

How can I arrange my small living room?

Arranging a small living room to make the space functional but also still spacious can be a challenge. If you have the room, we would recommend floating your furniture, so pulling it away from the walls, giving it a bit of breathing space. This can actually make the room feel larger than if you were to push all your furniture up against the walls.

Maybe try scrapping the coffee table in the centre of your room to allow for more space and light to travel around the room. Place end tables next to your sofas and armchairs instead. 

Use a large area rug to anchor your furniture and then layer a smaller one on top and arrange  your living room furniture around that rather than the edges of the room.

What colors make a small living room look bigger?

It's design 101 that lighter colors will make a small living room look bigger. But that's not to say you have to shy away from dark colors if that's more your style. Painting a room darker can actually expand the space because it blurs the edges of your room o if you are not quite brave enough to go darker on all four walls yet, just go with one dark feature wall.

What is the best furniture for a small living room?

The best furniture for small living rooms tends to be slim and low slung. You don't want anything too bulky visually blocking up the space. Pick sofas that have legs and some up off the floor so light can flow under your furniture too, and don't add any pieces that are unnecessary – less is always more in smaller spaces. 

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.