Small living room ideas: 16 ways to make your space feel bigger

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

Small living room ideas by Ikea
(Image credit: Ikea/Nato Welton)

You will find small living room ideas galore right here! Whilst we do love looking at gorgeous huge living rooms with high ceilings and more floor space than is our whole homes, they aren't the reality for most of us. They certainly aren't for the Real Homes team, so we have learned a thing or two about designing and decorating small living rooms and are more than happy to share. 

Let's be honest, the living room is the most lived-in spot in your home: it's where you relax, unwind and entertain. But 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 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.

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

Sofa.com ottoman

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

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. Our guide to the small sofas and the best small sofa beds are good starting points.

2. Replace bulky curtains with slimline shutters

Living room with plantation shutters

(Image credit: California Shutters)

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 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.

These plantation shutters are by California Shutters.

Check out more living room window ideas in our guide. 

3. Double up on stackable furniture

small living room with neutral scheme and yellow and red cushions by furniture village

(Image credit: Furniture Village)

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

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

Ikea shelving

(Image credit: Ikea)

If you are lacking in square footage but have reasonably high ceilings, you can easily make a small living 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. 

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

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 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. 

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. 

Check our more mirror design and display ideas.

7. Replace bulky furniture with slimline pieces

Living room with rocking chair from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea/Benjamin Edwards)

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

Grey living room with rug by Designers Guide and sofa by Sweet Pea and Willow

(Image credit: Sweet Pea and Willow)

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. PS. Less furniture is more in a small living room.

9. Slim down your furniture

Light grey living room with marble coffee table

(Image credit: Norsu Interiors)

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 cosiness to pared back furniture with plenty of cushions and by layering throws. 

For more tips on how to choose the best furniture for small living rooms have a read through our guide. Find the best sofas for small living rooms and the best sofa beds for small spaces, too.

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

Small living room ideas by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea/Nato Welton)

If you simply can’t go without a large sofa, corner sofas are ideal for smaller living rooms as they maximise 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 

Fitted storage wall in a living space by Neville Johnson

(Image credit: Neville Johnson)

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 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. 

12. Choose the best small living room colour scheme

Farrow and Ball wall paper in a small, traditional living room

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

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 colour 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 cosier. If you want to experiment with darker colours, 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 colour 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

Light wooden flooring in a small living room

(Image credit: Harvey Maria)

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-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. Or, just throw down a light-coloured 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. Be creative with lighting in small living rooms

John Lewis lighting: neon star light on a festive side table

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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.

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