Small living room layout ideas are a really helpful way to help you make the most of your space – even if it’s limited. There are countless of different ways that you can approach small living room designs beyond layout and how you position your furniture. The colour you use, the accessories and materials that you incorporate and various other interior design tips are all ways to make your room feel larger. By breaking it down into four key areas, you can digest these 12 small living room design ideas easily, and put as many of them into practice as you’d like.
Small Living Room Layout Ideas
Small living room furniture arrangement is one of the most important areas to consider when figuring out the best layout for your space.
1) SMALL L-SHAPED LIVING ROOM LAYOUT
The best layout for a little living room is generally an L-shape. It takes up less space than most arrangements and actually makes the most of the room by spreading your furniture deep into the corner. It keeps your seating close together and conversational, but equally opens it up to make the room feel more airy, encouraging movement with open space to walk into. For more tips on how to make it work, have a read of our living room layouts article.
2) FREE-FORM LIVING ROOM LAYOUT
A free-form living room layout comprised of individual armchairs, stools, ottomans (which can also double as side tables) and benches is a great way to tailor your space for its various functions. Chairs can be pulled in or pushed out of arrangements based on whether it’s games night or a quiet night in with dinner and a movie. Using some smaller scaled furniture is key to this look so that more pieces can be fit into the room’s puzzle but it won’t feel too disjointed. Just make sure you have some sort of focal point or anchor to ground whatever arrangement you create.
3) SMALL U-SHAPED LIVING ROOM LAYOUT
Whilst a U-shape furniture arrangement is well-known for filling out a large living room space, it can also work well in a smaller living room, if done correctly. For example, a U-shaped arrangement can work if your room is used more as a snug where you want to play up the cosy factor or if it’s an extension of a larger room where one side remains open – then it doesn’t feel too enclosed. If you do choose a U-shaped arrangement, make sure the ends don’t extend too far along the walls, offering more seating but not overwhelming the space and allowing wall space for other items.
4) SOFA-LESS FURNITURE ARRANGEMENT
Don’t feel obligated to include a sofa in your small living room if it just won’t work. Better to have a well-thought-out furniture arrangement which uses armchairs, chaises or loveseats rather than a cramped environment that no one can enjoy. Two armchairs side by side, two facing corner chairs or a chaise longue can replace the traditional sofa in a small living room. They can still be positioned in the way a sofa would so you don’t lose any furniture convention yet it’s much more manageable.
Image Credit: Interior by Jay Jeffers; photography by Matthew Millma
Design Tricks for Decorating a Small Living Room
Interior designers have a little black book of small living room ideas to bear in mind too.
5) WHAT ARE THE BEST COLOURS FOR SMALL LIVING ROOMS?
Colour is a key place to start and there are two directions you can go. If your room has a good sized window with plenty of natural light, then try using a lighter paint colour to open it up even more. Paler paints or wallpapers are at their best in light rooms. But if you have less natural light, don’t try to make it feel brighter by using a white paint. If there isn’t the natural light available, it will simply look darker and muddier. You can get around this slightly by painting your walls and floorboards white, but this Scandi look isn’t for everyone. If you’re feeling brave, go for a dark tone and really play to your room’s natural strengths à la Sophie Paterson (watch her video for advice and ideas). Dark paintwork is an inspired move as a small sitting room idea. It feels brave and cosy and that’s what people will focus on, rather than the size of the room. It’s a distraction as much as it is a feature.
6) What WINDOW TREATMENTS ARE GOOD FOR SMALL LIVING ROOMs?
Another point regarding the window is to keep any treatments simple so that you aren’t concealing any of the window. Full-length curtains are perfect as they encourage the eye upwards and will make the ceiling height feel more generous. Striped designs will help to do that too. And try to not go for duvet-thick curtains because they’ll mask some of the window. A roman blind works well in a small living room too.
7) WHAT ARE THE BEST MATERIALS TO USE IN SMALL LIVING ROOMS?
In terms of the materials that you use, providing they’re to your taste, choosing a few items with reflective materials, like glass tables or even collections of accessories and stainless steel or chrome-edged coffee tables will help to bounce the light around the room too so that it feels bigger and brighter. These pieces also tend to appear visually lighter – especially if they’re used for frame-like bases.
Image Credit: Interior by Jeff Schlarb
Key Pieces for Decorating a Small Living Room
If you’re wondering how to furnish a small living room, start by thinking about multi-functional pieces. Why? Because this avoids you from being tempted to overcrowd your room and reduce the available floor space.
8) SMALL LIVING ROOM SEATING ARRANGEMENTS
When it comes to a sofa for a small living room, L-shaped sofas with chaise ends that lift to reveal storage (or equally a pair of footstools that have storage under the seats) mean you have extra seating and a place to tidy things away. But if that’s not quite to your taste or if you don’t have enough room for a corner sofa, think about upholstered pieces that are slimmed down versions of what you might otherwise choose. For example, a classic English rollarm sofa with a lower profile will suit a small front room much more than an overstuffed sectional. The latter has a much heavier silhouette and even it were to occupy the same footprint as the rollarm, it would make your living room feel more cramped. Similarly, footstools or a slim storage ottoman is generally better than small living room chairs as they’re less bulky and dominate the space less too.
9) SMALL LIVING ROOM SHELVING & SIDE TABLES
Shelving is a worthy addition as it will give you room to display books and ornaments without taking up too much space on your floorplan and another obstacle to manoeuvre around. And when it comes to small living room tables, try to keep it to just a side table at the end of your sofa, or a set of nesting tables so you can pull out extra table space when you have guests around, but can tuck them away when they’re gone. A pair of side tables can also be used in the middle of the room as a coffee table alternative.
10) USE MIRRORS TO MAKE A SMALL LIVING ROOM LOOK BIGGER
The most effective of all is an oversized mirror because it will inevitably make your room feel larger – the magic of reflection. Try a floor length mirror behind a piece of furniture (it needs to be roughly the same width or it will look like it’s just been placed there to be out of the way rather than being a considered design choice) if your space is limited. Or, try a vast mirror above the mantel with light sources like candles in front. The mirror will help that light go further. A mirror opposite a window maximises the natural light in the room and gives you lovely views from outside too, making the room feel bigger.
Image Credit: Helen Green Design
Special Considerations for Decorating a Small Living Room
11) PAINTING SMALL LIVING ROOMS
Back to paint briefly. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a white ceiling will make your room feel like the ceiling is higher than it is. Paint specialists often advise you to use the same colour as your wall because then your eye reads it as a continuation of the wall and will make the room seem taller, rather than white which interrupts the flow.
12) LIGHTING FOR SMALL LIVING ROOMS
The final point to consider for small living rooms is to not overload them with light. It’s really tempting to think that the more light sources, the brighter and bigger it will appear. But harsh lighting will only drown your room and make it a less enjoyable space to be.
Keep it ambient. Use wall lights and lamps, or floor lamps that slightly tuck beneath your furniture to save on space. Have them on dimmers so you’re in full control of the atmosphere, and be proud of the cosiness.
That’s the bottom line really – work to your room’s strengths, add in a few helpful design and layout ideas, and then love it for what it really is – small, but perfectly formed.
Do you have the opposite dilemma and don’t know how best to design a larger living room? Read of our layout and design ideas for big sitting rooms.