Designers say these small living room design rules are ones to swear by

Get up close and personal with 6 small living room design rules for the ultra-stylish. Our experts explain what to do and why

Small living room design rules are so important to follow. Here is a living room with colorful seating, white walls, wall shelving, and a window
(Image credit: @adenwang)

Delving into small living room design rules will throw open the doors to cohesive aesthetics and make your lounge as swoon-worthy as possible. With there being so many things to remember when decorating, an expert list of rules is just the ticket.

We've spoken with design experts to find out how they raise the bar, from arranging their furniture around a gorgeous focal point, or playing clever tricks with lighting, our guide will zhuzh up your living space like a pro. 

When considering small living room ideas, these are the six rules you don’t want to skimp out on..

Small living room design rules

Keep these small living room design rules at the forefront of your mind now, and you'll be thanking us later from your lush lounge — promise.

As well as packaging up our tip-top advice in this six part guide you can blast through on a lunch break, we’ve also rounded up gorgeous shopping picks, to help you get the living room look that sets your heart a-flutter.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

1. Use lighting strategically

A small living room with gray walls, a gray couch, wooden coffee table, pink rug, and floor lamp

(Image credit: @ma_vie_lala)

Brightening up your space with small living room lighting ideas is one of our designer’s favorite ways to glow up this room.

“One of my top small living room design rules is visually enlarging a small area through strategic use of lighting,” says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, an award-winning interior design studio based in New York.

By combining natural light with artificial sources such as floor lamps, you can make a small room appear bigger than it is. Place these in various corners of the room to create dimension throughout.

2. Create a focal point

A small living room with white walls, colorful seating, wall shelving with decor on it, and a large window

(Image credit: @adenwang)

This rule goes for all living rooms, but it’s especially important for smaller living spaces with limited space to work with. You’re not alone — we can relate.

“Having one main focal point in a small living room can help draw the eye and make the space feel more cohesive,” says Raf Michalowski, interior designer and founder of Meble Furniture

Raf Michaelowski, Interior designer and founder of Meble Furniture
Raf Michalowski

Raf Michalowski is an interior designer. He is also the founder of Meble Furniture, which is one of the largest leading furniture retailers within North America.

He says this could be with a bold artwork piece, a vibrant accent wall, or even a statement piece of furniture. Raf adds, “Just be sure to not overwhelm the room with too many focal points.”

For those thinking they might have gone OTT on big and bright pieces, take a step back, assess each piece, and ask yourself Marie Kondo-style if you really need it.

3. Choose a cohesive color palette

A small living room with two arm chairs, a coffee table, and an L-shaped couch

(Image credit: @simplysanfordco)

It can be easy to want to go wild with your colors. Sometimes, this can work in a maximalist design form, but we recommend going for simple colors for a clean finish.

“A cohesive color palette, especially with lighter shades, can make a room feel bigger and more balanced,” says Artem.

You could use colors like white, beige, and brown together to create a neutral look, or even go for pastels for a touch more vibrancy. These are all small space color trends  worth tapping into for inspiration.

4. Utilize mirrors effectively

A living room being reflected by a large gold mirror

(Image credit: @aloftlife_)

One small living room design rule our experts sweat by is using mirrors in your setup, no matter the size of your space, as they have a magic ability to instantly improve yours.

“Mirrors reflect light, making a small living room feel lighter and brighter,” explains Ricky Allen, interior designer and director at Ever Wallpaper

A picture of Ricky Allen in a suit
Ricky Allen

Ricky Allen is the interior designer and director of Ever Wallpaper, experts in high-quality wallpapers and murals, using non-toxic, odorless, and environmentally friendly materials.

Also, when placed strategically, Ricky says they can create the illusion of depth and add visual interest to a small living room. He explains, “In your living room, try placing a large mirror across from a window to reflect natural light and give the illusion of an additional window.”

You can also use mirrored furniture pieces to achieve a similar effect if you’re going for a modern small living room vibe.

5. Bring in vertical lines

A small living room with two couches and two wooden bookshelves with decor

(Image credit: @sundayharris)

We love any optical illusions we can use to make our little spaces look larger than they are, which is why we’re obsessed with this small living room design rule.

Raf explains, “You can use vertical lines in your design elements, such as tall bookshelves or vertically striped wallpaper.”

This draws the eye upwards, creating the appearance of height and making the room feel more spacious. Achieve with bookshelves, the taller they are, the more room for books, which is always a big win for us. It can’t be just the Real Homes team with a lifelong dream of a Belle-style library? Maybe one day…

6. Be true to the room's size

A small lliving room with a gray couch, blue cupboard, wooden coffee table, and pink rug

(Image credit: @picsfromcandice)

We can’t count the number of times we’ve fallen in love with a piece and had to make the heartbreaking but right decision to put it back, knowing it wouldn’t fit properly.

“Scale down your small living room furniture pieces to match your room’s size,” explains Artem. “Select furniture you can fit in the room, but doesn’t sacrifice style and comfort.”

If you’re not sure if a piece will fit into your home, take the time to measure up your space and check the store’s listed dimensions for the item you’re after. 

For those who have checked their drawers and can’t find theirs, we think an Amazon Basics measuring tape, which comes in both pink and turquoise, will do the job nicely and is really cute to boot.

While it's a smart idea to have these small living room design rules at the top of your list when styling your place, your own style preferences are what will make your house feel like your home.

For those of you who do love an expert steer, it's also worth knowing what color small living room furniture should be.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.