13 small living room design ideas

Blessed with a small living room? Want it to feel bigger, brighter and better? Be inspired by our ideas and advice to make your small living room feel fabulous

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The living room is the most lived-in spot in your home: it's where you relax, unwind and entertain. But a designing a 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 – especially if that living room is small. 

Fear not, we have a plethora of solutions for your small living room woes. Whether you are decorating 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.

1. Opt for multi-functional furniture

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 pouffe 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! 

This bed in a box ottoman is from Sofa.com.

Sofa.com ottoman

(Image: © Sofa.com)

2. Replace bulky curtains with slimline shutters

Living room curtains have their upsides: they add colour, 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 co-ordinate around. Plus, DIY-fit options are super affordable.

Plantation shutters by California Shutters.

Living room with plantation shutters

(Image: © California Shutters)

3. Double up on stackable furniture

Why have one table when you can have two in the same space? A set of nested tables 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. 

This gold and marble pair from Dunelm is compact but stylish.

Dunelm marble nested tables

(Image: © Dunelm)

4. Use wall space for lots of narrow storage

If you are lacking in square footage but have reasonably high ceilings, you can easily make a room feel bigger by utilising 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 magazine racks – will provide extra storage and display space with a minimal footprint. 

This wall mounted shelving unit from Ikea comes in different depths and widths so you can choose a size to suit your space. 

Ikea shelving

(Image: © Ikea)

Top tip: Choose storage with sliding doors as they don’t take up space when opened. 

5. Layer your lighting to stretch space visually

Adding varied light sources at different heights will draw the eye to different areas of the 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 cosy reading nook; and an anglepoise lamp can instantly create a work space in your living room. Ensure all your living room lighting is on dimmers, too, so that you can adjust to mood to suit the occasion. 

Room by Ikea.

Ikea layering lighting

(Image: © Ikea)

6. Position mirrors strategically

Using mirrors to create the illusion of more space and light is the oldest design trick 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. 

Marseille mirror by Graham & Green.

Graham and Green Floor mirror

(Image: © Graham and Green)

7. Replace bulky furniture with transparent pieces

Another age-old, space-making 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, like this coffee table from West Elm, to let light flow through the space. 

West Elm coffee table

(Image: © John Lewis)

8. Rethink your living room's layout

There is a common tendency, when designing the layout of a small living room, 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, 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. PS. Less furniture is more in a small living room.

Floating furniture

(Image: © Graham and Green)

9. Slim down your furniture

Think about alternatives to the traditional three piece suite. 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 cosiness to pared back furniture with plenty of cushions and by layering throws. 

For less space-greedy seating try swapping a bulky armchair for this wicker chair from Graham and Green

Graham and Green wicker chair

(Image: © Graham and Green)

Top tip: If you simply can’t go without a large sofa, corner sofas are idea for smaller living rooms as they maximise seating in minimal space. Even better, find one like the Tidworth Chaise sofa from Willow & Hall that has added storage. 

10. Invest in built in storage 

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 customise your shelving to suit your needs. 

The Neville Johnson Sudbury Living Concept fitted furniture range works well here because it’s been designed to fit the TV (and all of its ugly wires) as well as leaving plenty of room for decorative pieces. 

Fitted storage wall in a living space by Neville Johnson

(Image: © Neville Johnson)

11. Choose the best living room colour scheme

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

A grey sofa with assorted scatter cushions against a pink and white wall

(Image: © Homesense)

12. And don't be afraid to go dark

Darker shades can actually disguise the perimeter of a room, making a it feel bigger and – at night – much cosier. If you are designing a light-starved, north-facing room, ensure you use our tricks for enhancing the space with mirrors and lighting, and add warmth to the space with richly-grained wood in furniture or flooring, and plenty of accessories in a lighter, sunnier shade.

navy blue velvet sofa and navy walls in a living room

(Image: © Dunelm)

13. Paint the floor white

White floors and ceilings bounce lots of light about and create a bigger, brighter looking space. So why not tackle honey-coloured 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 colour and a layer of comfort, or use a darker paint colour on your walls than you might have dared to previously.

Living room with tribal-inspired pink rug

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