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Space-Saving Design Ideas for Small Living Rooms

You’re looking forward to settling in for the night, but as you reach for the remote control, you trip over the bulky coffee table and find yourself face to face with the rug! If only you had more space in that tiny living room… Guess what? You’re not alone. Even inhabitants of roomier living spaces often lament that they don’t have a larger area for entertaining, lounging or visiting with family. The bottom line: unless a remodel is in the budget, we must appreciate the space we have. And there’s no better way to do this than by making some strategic design choices!

Small Living Rooms Design Ideas

If you live in the middle of a large city, chances are you have a condo or an apartment that may not be as roomy as you wish. Or perhaps you have a large family, and your living room is a crowded hub of activity. Never fear! By showcasing furniture that’s a good fit for your home, you can create the illusion of space. Not to mention, you’ll have more room to navigate the area. Below we feature a variety of living rooms that show you how to make the most of your space.

Choose Compact Furnishings

Let’s start with the obvious. If you have a small living room, you can’t have an abundance of giant furniture. Pick pieces that are small enough to fit in the space but large enough to serve a purpose. For example, the Cielo Shadow Loveseat from CB2 is the perfect size for a compact room:

A clear side table in a small living space

Another great piece? the Flex Orange Sleeper Sofa, also from CB2. Not to mention, if you have company, this sofa can accommodate an overnight guest.

A bright orange sleeper sofa in a modern living room

Narrow spaces require narrow pieces. If your living room is longer than it is wide, go with furnishings that are long and lean. Like the sofa, coffee table duo and console/shelf in the room below. [from Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture via Houzz]

A compact living room with narrow furnishings

Purchase Modular Furniture

Another great option for small spaces involves using modular furniture that can be moved at a moment’s notice. The Lotus Natural Sectional Pieces below can be arranged in a variety of configurations. Entertaining a group? Separate them to allow for more seating and easier conversation. [from CB2]

Sectional seating in a modern living room

One of the most popular modular options is the use of two end tables as one long coffee table. If you need to open up the middle of the room, simply stash them in a corner, or on either side of the sofa. [from Home Glamour Now via Houzz]

A compact living room with modular furniture

The room below is well-stocked with small tables that can double as stools. From the woven pieces that serve as a coffee table to the striped pieces conveniently stowed under the console table, there’s no shortage of seating if guests visit! [from Stephanie Wiley Photography via Houzz]

Modular furniture in a modern living room

Make Every Piece Count

When space is scarce, it’s important to make every piece count. In fact, for extra compact rooms, the less furniture, the better. Rather than looking scarce, these spaces can shine with carefully selected furnishings. The room below proves that one large art piece, a vibrant sofa, a striped bowl and interesting greenery can give a room an artistic appearance. [from Roger Hirsch Architect via Houzz]

A small living room with a red couch

On a similar note, going with fewer furnishings can make it possible to accommodate larger pieces. An arched lamp, sectional sofa and square coffee table make a big statement in the room below. These fine pieces are stately without creating a claustrophobic feel. However, the situation would be different if the room also included a bookcase and end tables! [from Mark Newman Design via Houzz]

Modern design in a small space

In the next space, we once again feature a sectional sofa and a square-shaped coffee table. Throw in a large potted plant, and it’s possible to evoke the elegance of a lobby. Another nice touch for a small space? Textured walls. If you can’t enlarge the room or install a stone wall, try adding some personality with interesting wallpaper! [from Ocean Gecko Designs and Marine Services via Houzz]

Textured walls in a contemporary living room

Below we see a living room that revels in vintage elegance with two cane chairs, a round brass coffee table and lush greenery. The care with which each piece was selected is evidenced by the interesting textures, vivid accent colors and artful decorative pieces arranged in the space. [from Cheryl Burke Interior Design via Houzz]

A modern compact living room

As one final tribute to the “every piece counts” mentality, we spotlight the Julius Grass Storage Ottoman from CB2. If you have limited space, why not choose a furnishing that can serve more than one purpose? Need a place to stash unwanted clutter? The ottoman opens up, offering a storage receptacle for your convenience. Need a place to rest your feet? Use the ottoman. Need an extra seat for a guest? You get the idea!

A storage ottoman hides clutter

Incorporate Glass and Acrylic Furniture

We now showcase one of today’s most popular design secrets: the space-multiplying illusion created by see-through furniture. As we’ve mentioned in previous acrylic furniture posts, transparent pieces seem to disappear in a room. This is great when you’re trying to make a space appear larger. At the same time, acrylic pieces are undeniably chic, evoking modern design, or even vintage glamor!  [from Dawna Jones Design via Houzz]

A small living room with an acrylic coffee table

Your see-through finds shouldn’t be limited to Lucite and Plexiglas. Try actual glass, as shown by the rectangular coffee table below. When the piece is transparent, it appears to float in a space and take up less room. So you can get away with incorporating a larger furnishing! [from Cary Bernstein Architect via Houzz]

A modern living room with a glass coffee table

Another rule: Shiny=reflective=space-enhancing. The reflective surfaces in the living space below make you forget that this room could stand to be bigger. Note the shine of the coffee table, mirror and pendant light fixture shades. Brilliant! [from Design Studio B via Houzz]

A small living room with an abundance of shiny surfaces

Wondering where to go for see-through finds? The good news is that acrylic pieces are on the rise. For example, retailers like CB2 offer a range of acrylic furnishings, from console tables to side tables…

Acrylic furniture creates the illusion of space

…and the Peekaboo Clear Media Console, which is helpful in three distinct ways. It’s compact. It’s transparent. And it has two levels for maximum storage. Compact perfection!

An acrylic media console

Find Creative Storage Solutions

Your living room shouldn’t serve the same storage function as your closet, but you will probably need to use at least part of the space to hold your stuff. You know, items like DVDs, magazines, books and collectibles. Only the rarest of rooms can afford to feature nothing more than furniture and a couple of vases. Good thing retailers like West Elm carry pieces such as the Industrial Metal TV Cart, which includes a built-in cabinet to hold whatever you desire.

A metal TV cart

For a more subtle storage solution, check out the Rustic Storage Tables, also from West Elm. Deep drawers are practically hidden. And they hide your belongings, too!

Modern storage tables

Don’t underestimate the power of wall-mounted storage. Like the Invisible Book Shelf from Urban Outfitters. This subtle  powder coated steel piece hides itself from view, creating the illusion of books that float against the wall. Interesting and efficient!

An invisible bookshelf

If you’d rather keep your surface tops free from small collectibles, mount a curiosity shelf on the wall, and fill it with the oddities of your choice. A great way to add personality to the room in a manner that is more artistic than cluttered! [from Urban Outfitters]

A curiosity shelf

Following strategic design tips can help immensely with your space-saving needs. But sometimes you just need to de-clutter. When occupying a smaller home, it may not be possible to display every decorative item you have. Purchase a couple of large plastic bins, and use them to store decor that is currently “on hold.” Pack it away in the closet. You can rotate items seasonally, or save your decorative stash for a rainy day, when you’re tired of looking at the pieces that are currently on display. How do you know when it’s time to donate furniture and accessories? There’s no right answer, but if you haven’t used it for years and have no desire to dig it out in the future, it may be time to say goodbye. After all, as today’s post has shown, sometimes less is more!

Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and design blogger with a love of all things decor. She spent her childhood writing stories and working on interior design-themed DIY projects. Kate’s published writing reflects her special interest in how design has changed through the decades. Her blog Mirror80 ( http://mirror80.com/) explores the fashion and [...]

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