These small living room ideas are big on style...
Small living rooms are often cosy but they have to work much harder than their more spacious counterparts. Layout, furniture, window dressings, flooring and accessories all carry extra weight in a smaller space and it’s more important than ever to get the scale, proportions and balance right. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to play it safe either. It’s always good to follow the rules, but breaking them can make a much bigger statement. It’s all about knowing where the limits are and when you can push them.
We’ve consulted the experts to find out their top tips for creating a small living room that is big on style. Read on to discover the small living room ideas they suggest.
Whilst we’d like our rooms to be completely square with no awkward angles or dead spaces, this is rarely the case. But with some careful planning all those awkward places can be turned into treasure troves of storage potential. “Many homes have awkward alcoves. This is one area where it pays to invest in bespoke cabinetry to really maximise the storage,” says Andrew Dunning of London Contemporary. “Whether your interior is modern or traditional, cupboards and shelving will finish this space in the room without intruding into it.
The bespoke media unit in this open plan reception room provides essential storage with decorative floating shelves above. Designed by London Contemporary to fit the wall shape without protruding into the room too much.
Clever multifunctional designs are great space saving options for small spaces. Mireille Baumgart is a BoConcept Partner and says: “We recently collaborated with UNCLE Wembley rental apartments where we selected furniture that was multi-functional to the bedrooms and living spaces. In small spaces it is important to choose furniture that can be adapted easily and have multiple purposes.” She suggests opting for coffee tables that convert to a dining table or footstools that transform into a single bed.
When it comes to small living room ideas, windows have a huge role to play and have the potential to make your small room look lighter, brighter and even larger. Debbie Leigh is Design Manager at ILIV and suggests extending the curtain pole beyond the width of the window.
“This allows more light into the room and makes a room feel larger,” she says. “Hang the curtains high for a professional-looking window treatment. This will instantly give your room an illusion of extra ceiling height which in turn feels very luxurious. Ideally the pole or track should be positioned a minimum of 4 inches and a maximum of 12 inches above the top of the window.”
Flooring can make or break or a room and it is often overlooked in smaller spaces. "It needs to be flexible, to transition from the daytime role to a more relaxing space in the evening,” says Rebecca McCloskey of Weave Interiors. “But it also has to be durable. I love the clean lines of a solid floor but polished concrete and real wood floors are often not an option for everyone. Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT) can be a great alternative. I love the selection from Moduleo as it looks so realistic. They also have the benefit of being extremely practical and easy to maintain."
Rug size and placement seems like a relatively straightforward decision, but it is one that is easy to get wrong. Sam Norris, Design Consultant at Garden Street says “Choosing a large rug is another trick that will help make a room feel bigger. There's a reason interior designers always claim a rug ties the room together and it may be a cliché but it works.”
Alternatively, opt for a fully fitted carpet instead of a rug. “Rugs can make spaces look smaller, fully fit the carpet to draw your eye to the edges of the room,” says Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord.
Space is at a premium in small living rooms so furniture that can double up as storage is always a bonus. Wayfair's Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill says that searches for storage ottomans are up 20% in the last six months alone. “Storage ottomans are the small space designer's best friend,” she says. “Go for a beautifully upholstered version in a bold jewel hue for a style statement that works double duty as a secret storage spot.”
The knee jerk reaction to a small space is often to paint it white or another light shade to maximise the feeling of space. But there are other options. “Don’t be afraid to embrace the small,” says Caoimhe McKenna of Yellow Brick Road Design. “Create a cosy and inviting ambience with warm tones and tactile textures but offset this with clean, clear lines in order to retain a sense of calm."
With any small space the main priority is of course maximising natural light. But when that isn't easy or even possible, you may need to get creative to make the best of what you have says Simon Terry, MD and owner of Anglepoise. “To create the illusion of space you must think about layering and creating pools of light.”
Adam Wade, Technical Director of Anglepoise encourages us to get creative with lighting. “Make the lights work for you and don't be dictated by the more traditional ways of using lighting, he says. “If a pendant at the centre of the room isn't creating quite enough light, layer in light from the side (wall or floor) instead. It's easier to control, more pleasant to sit under.”
Instead of painting a small living room white, go bold with colour choices and create the illusion of space. “Blue is the best colour for making a space feel bigger,” says colour and paint expert Annie Sloan. “It is recessive, which means it draws the eye outwards, blurs horizon lines and gives a sense of never-ending space. It’s also a calming, meditative colour which encourages us to breath-in-and-out, creating a psychological and spiritual sense of space as well as the physical illusion.”
Ceilings are traditionally painted in light colours to draw the eye up and create a feeling of space but we needn’t stick to white. “My personal favourite would be a dusky, pale pink such as Antoinette,” says Sloane.
When working with the confines of awkwardly shaped rooms, sometimes extra creativity is required. Karen Knox of Making Spaces pulled out all the stops when designing this cosy seating area in her client’s long, narrow room. “This striking, abstract mural design with delicate white details draws the eye up and away from the client’s existing sofa and towards the wall behind it,” says Knox.
“This causes your eye to rests on the furthest point in the room giving the illusion of greater depth and more space. By then dressing the sofa in similar tones to the wallpaper, it helps the sofa recede into the wall. A large scale pattern isn't something that would normally work for small spaces, but for this room it helped to tie all the elements together, both old and new.”
To really achieve an efficient use of space in a small living room, you can’t beat bespoke furniture that makes use of every inch of space. “Bespoke furniture is a great option if you're looking for something that's unique to your home,” says Adam Brown, Director of The Painted Furniture Company. “You may have a certain awkward space you'd like to fill, or a particular colour scheme in mind. Whatever you're planning, going for a tailored option means your furniture fits your specifications exactly without having to compromise.”
There really is no right or wrong answer here. There is often a debate over whether sofas should be placed against walls, but it totally depends on how much space you have to play with. As long as you are able to create an intimate area that works for social interaction that is all that counts.
Multi-functional furniture is ideal for a small living room. Look for furniture that can double up as storage. Furniture that can fold away or that is on wheels and can be moved around is also desirable. You want the furniture to work double duty where possible.
According to LABC (Local Authority Building Control), the average UK living room is 17.09m2. That means that anything smaller than this is considered to be small. In the US, room sizes are much more generous with the average living room being almost twice as big at 330 square feet.
It is generally accepted that smaller rooms need to be decorated in lighter colours in order to reflect as much light as possible. But this isn’t always the case. A lot depends on the direction and quality of the natural light in the room. You should let that be your guide.
You can make a small living room look expensive by focusing your attention on the finer details that will elevate the look. Don’t scrimp on window dressings and make sure curtains are hung to maximise height and light. Pay special attention to lighting and aim for a layered look. Make sure that the size of the rug is proportionate to the room and remember that small rugs will make the room look smaller still.