Bland, cramped, and messy: three words you definitely don’t want to describe your living room. But when you’re dealing with limited square footage, not much storage, and low natural light, a white box apartment can be discouraging to decorate. Making a lounge feel layered and inviting is a whole lot easier with lots of windows, sky-high ceilings, sweeping vistas, and cavernous proportions.
But even the darkest, smallest nooks can be brimming with potential—that is if you know what to do with them. The trick is to play up a small room’s features instead of going against them. Have short ceilings? Highlight them. Is it too dark? Go ultra-cozy. No space for furniture? Build it in. Here are nine small living room ideas that just may show you how much unrealized potential your tiny area really has.
Designers know that swathing a room in a dark hue doesn’t really make a space feel smaller—it just gives it purpose. If your living area doesn’t get much natural light, painting your walls navy, like Christina Bryant did in her Manhattan pad, will dial up the hygge so much that you’ll forget all about your lack of sunshine and square footage.
Pile on the Pillows
One benefit that small spaces have is that they can feel incredibly snug. This is precisely the reason we all loved building forts and pillow tents as kids. Replicate that feeling in your small living room by layering rugs, pillows, and blankets to create a cocoon feel, as in Thomas O’Brien’s Bellport, New York, home.
Keep Storage Low and Seamless
What Emily Farnham’s Los Angeles living room lacks in square footage it makes up for in wow factor. The narrow room (which also features a pass-through hallway on one end) was optimized with a long, low-slung cabinet that blends into the wall and continues into the next room. Suddenly, the TV on the hallway wall feels intentional and there’s no bulky furniture blocking the passageway. Bonus: Closet-to-the-ground storage makes ceilings seem taller.
Draw the Eye Up
What’s the best way to distract from four walls closing in on you? Just look up. Take a note from this New York City living room by Studio DB, which draws the eye toward the sky with a glossy lacquered ceiling and a statement six-branch chandelier.
Customize Your Furniture
This nook in Malia Mau’s Topanga, California, home exhibits precisely what a well-considered small space looks like: built-in furniture, simple accents, oversize art, and lots of natural light. Incorporating a bookcase into a small two-seater sofa saves a few inches and makes the most of the tiny (and otherwise unusable) corner.
Make the Most of Your Floor
If your room only allows for a small love seat but you like having people over for game night or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel marathons, XL floor pillows and a plush rug (à la Michelle Dopp) provide a great way to improvise extra seating at a moment’s notice.
Keep Seating Arms Slim
One of the easiest ways to save a few inches when furnishing a small living room is to cut down on bulky seating arms. Take the Hans Wegner sofa in Serena Mitnik-Miller’s Topanga Hills home. A single seat cushion and a slim wood frame keep things streamlined.
Stick to a Monochrome Color Palette
Too many colors can feel overwhelming in a limited space, so if you’re going for a serene feel, do as Camille Boillot did in her Burgundy, France, home and stick to a palette of two to three hues. She opted for white, gray, and light wood tones, but any combination can work as long as you keep it restrained.
Add Something Off-Scale
One of the easiest ways to throw off a room’s small scale is to add something oversize. In the case of Liz Gardner’s Minneapolis home, tall branches of pampas grass and a three-light hanging alabaster chandelier give the space a larger-than-life allure that distracts from its small scale.
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