There's no reason that a small living room can't be as functional and stylish as a big one. Check out these small-space decor tips and tricks—everything from furniture selection and layout to wall color and lighting—that will help you to maximize every last square inch of your compact living room while elevating its design.
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Limit the Color Palette
“The primary thing to remember when designing a small room is to ensure all tones stick to the same color palette—thus creating flow throughout the room,” says Gian Moore, former interior designer and partner at Mellowpine. “Make sure to shift your focus around monochromatic and tonal hues that will accentuate the scheme further.”Continue to 2 of 45 below.
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Layer Your Lighting
“Layering the heights of your lighting is key—so ensure you have a pendant light overhead with a dimmable control, lots of lamplight and wall lights,” says Moore. “Choose shades that can both direct light for tasks like reading, and create pools of light for the atmosphere. Having wall lights that direct soft shafts of light up and down will also make the space look taller.”Continue to 3 of 45 below.
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Open Up Walls
Homeowners can add a contemporary feel to a small living room by opening up walls. “A bright and fresh feeling is created when you open up the space, allowing natural light to enter,” says interior designer Kate Diaz of Swanky Den. “You can install floor-to-ceiling windows or doors, or side panels. You can also paint your walls in light colors with white trim, which will make it seem large.”Continue to 4 of 45 below.
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According to Diaz, adding a mirror leading into your living room will help give the space a more light and airy feel. You can also try hanging mirrors facing one another on opposite walls to increase sightlines and create the impression of a bigger space.Continue to 5 of 45 below.
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Install Open Shelving
Open concept shelving might not seem like the best idea if you’re trying to minimize clutter—but this type of airy shelving unit will do much better than closed off or boxy shelving if you’re hoping to create a more light-flooded living space. Just be sure to keep it tidy and well styled.Continue to 6 of 45 below.
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Opt for Neutral Walls
Paint walls in a single neutral shade, says Diaz. If you do want to add more personality, you can always add pops of color in select furniture pieces and accessories.Continue to 7 of 45 below.
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Contrast Walls and Floors
Light colors are great for your walls—but you can opt for a darker floor color if you’re looking to create a sense of warmth. “Using light colors on the walls with dark floors will create a clean look,” explains Diaz.Continue to 8 of 45 below.
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Be Strategic with Artwork
The right wall art can add visual interest to a small space. Diaz suggests hanging artwork directly above your sofa rather than all around the room to add visual interest while keeping visual clutter to a minimum.Continue to 9 of 45 below.
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Opt for Multi-Purpose Furniture
Multi-purpose furniture is a great way to save space while still ensuring your living room is as cozy and functional as possible. According to Diaz, this could look like placing bookshelves near windows so they can double as window seats or using an upholstered ottoman as a coffee table that can also be used as seating.Continue to 10 of 45 below.
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Use a Variety of Heights and Depths
Choose furniture with varying heights and depths to give your small living room a sense of dimension, helping it to feel more visually interesting.Continue to 11 of 45 below.
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Hang Small Artwork
“You’ll want to keep any pictures or wall art small and only hang them if they are meaningful,” says Diaz. This will allow your walls to breathe and actually make the room look much more expansive than it is.Continue to 12 of 45 below.
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Decorate With Vases
You don’t need to forego decorations in order to make your space feel neat and tidy. “Adding vases to your space can offer visual interest without looking cluttered,” says Diaz. “I suggest using a glass or porcelain vase for a tall, clean look.”Continue to 13 of 45 below.
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Consider Wall Sconces
Wall sconces are a great way to add mood lighting without taking up floor space. Diaz suggests grouping sconces together for a bold wall statement or positioning them over picture windows for a gallery-like effect.Continue to 14 of 45 below.
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Double Space with a Floor Mirror
Leaning a large decorative floor mirror against the wall of a small living room will reflect the rest of the room, visually doubling its size. In this apartment living room from NYC-based interior designer Alvin Wayne, dark wall paint adds coziness and the floor mirror bounces light around.Continue to 15 of 45 below.
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Take Advantage of Alcoves
“If you have the space, put your sofa in an alcove to make it feel cozy,” says Diaz. If you have a smaller alcove you can hang shelves or create a smaller seating nook to maximize space.Continue to 16 of 45 below.
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Go for Neutral Rugs and Carpets
Neutral colorways will make a tiny space appear larger—but that’s especially true for your carpets or rugs. You’ll want to opt for light-colored textiles, which will make a room look light and spacious, regardless of the size.Continue to 17 of 45 below.
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Use an Anchor Piece
You might be tempted to opt for smaller furniture in order to make your space look bigger—but sometimes an abundance of small pieces can actually make your space feel more cluttered. Instead, opt for a large anchor piece like a sectional sofa and keep extra seating to a minimum, like this San Francisco condo living room from Cathie Hong Interiors.
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Decluttering your living room is a great way to clear out extra space—but you don’t have to get rid of anything you don’t want to. In fact, Diaz suggests decluttering by putting items in different places around the room to keep the space interesting.Continue to 19 of 45 below.
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Hang It Up
“As much as possible, you’ll want to focus on hanging cabinets or open air coffee table storage,” says Jeneva Aaron of The House Wire. “The floor space can still be used for something else, so choosing hanging cabinets or coffee table storage that isn’t too bulky is key.”Continue to 20 of 45 below.
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Keep It Minimalist
Using a minimalist design approach works well in a small living room. “Choose multifunctional furniture,” says Aaron. “Be creative and try to mix and match.”Continue to 21 of 45 below.
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Use Mirrored Furniture
Another way to use mirrors to decorate a small living room is by incorporating mirrored furniture pieces that reflect views, expand sightlines, and bounce light around. In this cottage-style living room from blogger Ursula Carmona of Home Made By Carmona, a pair of round mirrors illuminate a dark corner and a vintage-inspired mirrored buffet with criss-cross painted wood detailing and hidden storage does the trick.Continue to 22 of 45 below.
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Work Those Weird Angles
A living room with an awkward layout might seem like a challenge to decorate and furnish—but it’s actually a great opportunity to take the emphasis off the small size. Opt for a salon-style gallery wall or jewel box-inspired decor to help make your quirky space shine.Continue to 23 of 45 below.
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Minimize the TV
Decorating around the TV is a constant challenge for interior designers. In this small open plan living room from Brexton Cole Interiors, the black-and-white palette and rounded modern furnishings create a streamlined feel and preserve flow. A floor-to-ceiling accent wall clad in vertical shiplap painted in a dark shade of navy helps to obscure the large flat-screen above the contemporary gas fireplace insert.Continue to 24 of 45 below.
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Optimize Natural Light
Smaller living rooms can seem a whole lot bigger when flooded with natural light. Optimize natural light using mirrors, sheer curtains, regularly cleaning windows, and clearing window sills of clutter.Continue to 25 of 45 below.
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Reflect Natural Light
“Colors such as white have a higher reflectance, and this can make your room seem a lot bigger than it is,” explains Roman Ramona, Founder of Living Beyond Design. “This trick works well when we're dealing with small spaces as it lets the light bounce around the room.”Continue to 26 of 45 below.
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Avoid Statement Rugs
According to Ramona, you’ll want to avoid using bold or statement rugs when possible. The logic behind this is that if you, let's say, have light flooring, like oak, and add a black or dark brown rug on top it will create a focal point and make the room seem smaller. “Try to make everything as uniform as possible," Ramona says, "because that contrast can draw attention to that rug and your room will seem even smaller,”Continue to 28 of 45 below.
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Add Color With Statement Art
In this tight but high-ceilinged city living room from interior designer Alvin Wayne, a neutral and earth-toned palette keeps the seating area feeling pulled together and sleek, while an oversized wall hanging adds an energizing dose of vibrant color.Continue to 29 of 45 below.
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Hang Mirrors Opposite Windows
“Placing a mirror on a wall doubles the space visually," says Ramona, but if it's hung opposite a window, it will reflect and bounce around natural light, making the room feel more expansive.Continue to 30 of 45 below.
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Allow the Room to Breathe
“The effective use of space is the most important element in designing a small living environment,” says interior designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio. “Although it is tempting to try and use every square inch, maintaining a balance with open, empty space is key to creating a personal, high-functioning design that provides comfort and visual appeal.”Continue to 31 of 45 below.
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Use Modular Storage
Providing enough and the right type of storage is crucial, says Higgins. “Modular-style storage with cabinets and drawers will conceal clutter and streamline a space,” says Higgins. “I often create a ‘storage wall’ that runs the length of a space. Because the units are usually just 15-18” deep, they require very little floor space, but provide copious storage.”Continue to 32 of 45 below.
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Create a Focal Point
Creating a focal point in a small living room can make it feel grander than it is, and give you a roadmap for laying out furniture. In this 1920s Tudor home living room from Brexton Cole Interiors, the classic fireplace is a natural focal point, embellished with a black-and-white patterned tile surround. Some kitschy contemporary art and a decorative bust add personality.Continue to 33 of 45 below.
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Consider a Low Sofa
The visual impact of a low-slung sofa and other furniture will help make your ceilings look much higher, creating more open feel.Continue to 34 of 45 below.
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In a small space with a neutral color palette and minimal furnishings and decor, focus on adding texture by using a mix of textiles or finishes in order to keep the space visually interesting and inviting.Continue to 35 of 45 below.
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Use Cool Shades
Opting for warm colorways might seem like a cozy idea—but it can also make a room feel more congested. Instead, stick to cool shades and classic colors that will establish a flow throughout the whole room.Continue to 36 of 45 below.
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Consider using monochromatic and tonal hues. “Using different colors makes the room look divided, which ultimately makes it look smaller,” says Richard Fung, Owner of Forever Homes. “Even if you use more than one color, limit that to two.”
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Commit to Black and White
A black-and-white palette works in any size space, but it can give a small living room a polished, pulled together feel that takes the focus off of size.Continue to 38 of 45 below.
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Float the Furniture
Many people are tempted to push all the furniture up against the walls of a small living room. But that move can actually make a small space feel even smaller. In this New York City apartment living room from interior designer Alvin Wayne, the plush velvet sofa floats in the center of the room, anchoring the open plan space and leaving the floor-to-ceiling windows free and clear to show off the view.Continue to 39 of 45 below.
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Maximize Vertical Space
Maximizing vertical space by installing tall shelves or floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, or drawing the eye upward by hanging a decorative chandelier or pendant light will give the room a sense of space by making the ceilings appear higher and adding visual interest without taking up much floor space.Continue to 40 of 45 below.
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Consider An All-White Design
All white might seem a little bland—but it’s the easiest way to add light and the appearance of more space to a room. White reflects light which can help make the space feel much more light and airy. An all-white room also offers a clean and modern effect.Continue to 41 of 45 below.
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Lose the Drapes
Drapes and curtains are a great way to add visual interest to a space while controlling light. But thick drapes can easily obstruct the view from outside, hence making the space feel much more closed off. Floor-to-ceiling drapes can also take up valuable floor space whereas blinds take up no space at all.Continue to 42 of 45 below.
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Pick a Sofa with Legs
Ramona suggests using furniture that is raised off the ground—such as a sofa with legs—to help create more visual space, tricking the eye into thinking the living room is larger than it is.Continue to 43 of 45 below.
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Choose a Coffee Table With an Airy Base
Choosing a coffee table with slender legs or an otherwise an airy base will allow light to flow through and help create a sense of airiness. In this snug historic row house living room from Brexton Cole Interiors, a modern coffee table with a solid wood top and a delicate base helps to make the space feel functional and current. You can also opt for a transparent lucite or acrylic table that will virtually disappear when not in use.Continue to 44 of 45 below.
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Add a Wall of Shelving
In this cottage living room from blogger Ursula Carmona of Home Made By Carmona, a large shelving fills most of the wall, creating a concentrated spot to store books and display decorative objects that adds warmth without encumbering the rest of the space.Continue to 45 of 45 below.
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Add a Bar Cart
In this highrise living room from Forbes + Masters, every corner is exploited to its fullest potential, increasing functionality and creating a sense of luxury in the small space. A well styled vintage bar cart and an inviting curvy armchair by the window creates a sweet spot for after work cocktails.