10 small living room layout ideas to maximize your space

Let these small living room layout ideas show you just how much you can do with even the tiniest of spaces

Ikea cozy living room
(Image credit: Ikea)

Looking for small living room layout ideas? Well good! Because we have all the answers to your small living room woes right here. As most of us are small space dwellers ourselves, we have learned a thing or two about getting the layout right to make the most of the room you have. So we of course had to share.

You're living room, no matter what size, works hard. It has to be a space to chill out and binge watch Married at First Sight Australia, it also sometimes has to be a home office, and, in more normal times, it's a place to pack full of your friends for a competitive games night that turns into dancing on sofas to Come on Eileen. So the layout has to work with all of these uses too.

'Maximise space in a compact living room by first considering the key pieces of furniture.' explains Jen & Mar, founders of Interior Fox. 'Many people think they need a small sofa in a small living room but actually filling it and getting the biggest sofa that can fit the space will make it feel cozier and bigger.'

'Choose a sofa that has legs, it will reveal more of the floor and give the illusion of space. Coffee tables are often considered as essential when actually a side table that can be easily moved around the room could be a much better option. A soft footstool is another great alternative, pop a tray on top to balance drinks or use it for additional seating for when guests visit. Strategically placing mirrors where the light naturally falls is one of the oldest but best tricks in the book, it enhances the natural light and makes the room appear much larger and brighter.'

Thinking a bit outside the box when it comes to your layout can be a game-changer and really open up your space. As you will see with these rooms, it's not all about pushing everything against the walls and leaving a sea of empty space in the middle of your room...

1. First off pick furniture that fits the space

Fireplace ideas

(Image credit: MoutainMod)

Sounds obvious, but think really carefully about what furniture you bring into a small living room. We would say go as far as to draw up a floor plan and check if any new furniture you are buying would fit nicely into the space.

You want your pieces to have room to breathe. And you don't want to have to squeeze between furniture to be able to move around your space. This might mean you have to cut down on the amount of furniture you have or pick small pieces so the room doesn't feel too cluttered. 

2. Avoid pushing everything against  walls

Snug with grey chairs

(Image credit: Nest Out West )

There's this tendency, especially in smaller spaces, to keep all the furniture up against the walls to leave as much floor space visible as possible. And while we would recommend this kind of layout if your living room is really really tiny, if you have the space to pull your furniture away from the walls then do so. Just ensure you have enough room to walk easily around the furniture to give it a more lofty feel.  

3. Expand space with a symmetrical layout

living room

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

A symmetrical layout can work wonders in a small living room. It's very visually pleasing seeing a room that mirrors its self and this can really allude to more space too. If you can't fit in two sofas to sit across from each other you can create a similar effect using a  sofa and two smaller armchairs, as you can see above. Pop an area rug down too to ground your furniture in the center of the room. 

4. Or create a more flexible layout 

Fireplace ideas

(Image credit: Modern Organic)

Or the other option is to go down a more relaxed, flexible layout route. Decide on the best position for your biggest piece of furniture first – most likely that will be the sofa – then dot your smaller furniture a bit more randomly in the space. 

For this layout, we would say try putting your sofa lengthways with the coffee table in front, because that just makes sense, but then place mismatching chairs, stool and even small tables in the space opposite. 

5. Build in your storage to free up floor space

Storage is key for creating clutter-free small spaces, but it can be tricky to back room for it in your layout. So that's why built-in storage can be such a great choice, as it's going to take up minimal space and won't visually intrude too much into your space.

A window seat with some storage underneath is such a great addition to a small living room as you gain some extra seating too. But you could also go for built-in cupboards in any alcoves or wall-mounted shelving to keep all your storage up off the floor. 

6. Enhance the coziness 

Small living room ideas

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Sometimes a living room layout isn't all about making the room feel bigger, sometimes it's about embracing the small proportions and just rolling with it. Normally, you probably wouldn't put all this furniture into such a small area, but the warm color scheme and all that texture makes the space feel cocooning rather than cluttered. 

7. Anchor your furniture with rugs

One Kings Lane rustic living room

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

This is a hack we learned and tested recently, and can fully recommend. Layering up rugs not only makes your space cozier and inviting it can also make the space feel bigger. Start with a large area rug and use that as the edges of the room, instead of the walls, then layer a smaller rug on top to be the focal point, so you have kind of created a zone in your space rather than just going with the traditional, furniture against walls and smaller rug in the center. 

8. Keep the space open with a sectional sofa

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 aren't willing to give up on homing your dream sectional sofa, don't fear, they can still work in a smaller living room. Just cut down on the rest of the furniture in the room and keep any pieces you do want really minimal – nothing too bulky, so just make sure legs are very slimline and up off the floor so light can still flow around the space. Check out our guide to the best sofas for sectional seating inspiration.

9. Switch out seating for floor cushions 

Yes okay, it all sounds a bit hippy sitting on floor cushions. But we're talking about adding floor cushions in addition to your sofa and instead of bulky armchairs. Floor cushions are making a comeback too – you can find some really stylish options that would be a great addition to smaller living rooms.

Plus, they have the added benefit of being able to move them around so you can switch up your layout out really easily. AND low-slung furniture is always a good idea in a small space, especially if you are dealing with low ceilings too. 

10. Think about your lighting

Ikea lighting for a living room

(Image credit: Ikea)

Lighting is actually key to your living room layout. It can create a different feel in different parts of the room. Example; a floor lamp next to an armchair creates a cozy reading nook, an anglepoise light on a sideboard can create a small workspace, a pendant light in the center of the room adds a focal point. Just make sure you have lots of different sources so you can layer your light, and make sure where you place them makes sense for what you tend to do in that area of the room. 

What is the best furniture for a small living room?

The best furniture for a small living room are pieces that aren't going to feel too bulky in the space or block out lots of light. Try and pick more slimline pieces that allow light to flow underneath them which will create the allusion of their being more floor space.

How do you maximize space in a small living room?

To maximize space in a small living room really think about the essentials. What do you actually need in your living room? Can you scrap the coffee table maybe, and go for some smaller side nested tables, could you pick a smaller sofa and add an armchair too? Maybe you could wall mount the TV to get rid of a unit? The majority of the time, less is more when it comes to deciding on a small living room layout. 

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.