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How to Make a Small Living Room Look and Feel Bigger

By: Sania Tran
December 3, 2018

Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

As real estate prices get higher and higher, many Americans find themselves paying an arm and a leg for a tiny space to call home. Most of us dream of living in a spacious apartment with lots of natural light, but end up in a place bearing a striking resemblance to the cupboard under the stairs where the young Harry Potter spent his pre-Hogwarts years. It's especially hard if you are an extrovert that enjoys having friends over, but your living room can barely fit you, your TV and a 10" pizza. If that description strikes home, worry not! Just follow the tips below and your living space will feel bigger in no time.

1. Open up your small space.

Trick your mind into thinking that there is abundant space by adding…  more space! Except, not exactly. If you can remove the doors to adjacent rooms,it will create an illusion of a larger living area. Just make sure to always ask your landlord before making any changes or you may not get your security deposit back. If your property manager is against any major remodeling, just keep the doors to other rooms open.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

  • Place an oversized mirror in front of the open doorway. This small decor hack will make your room visually appear larger. Just be sure not to walk into the mirror!

  • Leave windows uncovered to let the natural light in the room. Uncovered clean windows help make any room brighter and feel more spacious. If you choose to use curtains, opt for the long ones. They will stretch the wall height and visually make the ceilings look higher.

2. Use smart furniture.

Use space-saving furniture with extra storage. Your ottoman can also be home to your pet's brushes, leashes, and toys. End tables and coffee tables can be replaced with console tables, which can serve both as storage and a TV stand.

Photo by West Elm, Mid-Century Pop-Up Storage Coffee Table

  • Consider using built-in “murphy-style” furniture. It’s furniture that be transformed into something else, for example, a bed that can be transformed into a couch or a closet. The less furniture you have, the less crowded your space will appear.
  • Buy lightweight furniture. Bulky heavy pieces make smaller spaces look cluttered. Opt for furniture with taller legs that allow light to go between the floor and your couch.

3. Choose the right colors.

The color scheme you pick matters. Dark colors absorb light and can make your room appear smaller, while light colors reflect light and can help open up the space. Decor rule of thumb: Opt for light colors on the walls and floor.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

  • Go for 50 shades of blue, or beige, or any other neutral color when painting your walls. Using different shades of the same color helps achieve a cohesive look.

  • Choose bright wallpaper or paint for the ceiling. It will draw your eyes upwards, making your ceilings seem much higher.

  • Ideally, your living room and the spaces adjacent to it, such as your hallway, should be the same color. It will make your apartment seem like one giant room.

  • Go for stripes. Use vertically striped wallpaper to add height to a room and horizontal stripes to make it look wider. Striped floors will also visually elongate your space.

4. Placement is everything.

Move your furniture away from the walls to create the appearance of a larger space. It doesn't mean that your sofa should be smack dab in the middle of the room, just create enough space for the light to move around the furniture and throughout the room.

Photo via Pixabay

  • Good interior design will aim to draw the eye upward. Hanging shelves high up on the wall do the trick, making the ceilings look higher.

  • Play with lighting. Invest in a couple of different lamps, such as one bright overhead chandelier and a bright corner lamp. The first will draw the eye upward, while the second one will make the room look longer.

  • Take advantage of your wall space. Fill it with art pieces, shelves for books, hanging plants and additional wall decor.

  • Opt for accent pieces over knick-knacks. Decor that draws attention can be a focal point of the whole room and a conversation piece among guests.

  • When decorating, follow the "cantaloupe rule"—everything smaller than a cantaloupe will make your already small room look cluttered and messy.

Use area rugs to divide a small room into separate areas. If your living area doubles as a dining room, a couple of bright area rugs will help you define those areas.

5. It's all about materials and fabrics.

Believe it or not, fabrics can make a big difference in the visual perception of your room. Heavier and darker fabrics will make most rooms feel cozier but smaller, whereas translucent materials will create an illusion of more space.

Photo by Karolina Szczur on Unsplash

  • When it comes to curtains, choose lightweight flowing fabrics. Heavy materials will weigh your room down by absorbing light.

  • Transparency is key, be it your relationship, job or living room space. Opt for glass and other see-through materials when choosing tables. They might be a pain to clean, but it's the trade-off you make to achieve an airy and spacious living room.

When maximizing your living room space, it's all about being creative and resourceful. But before you let your inner designer guide you through a remodel, always read your rental agreement and ask for your landlord's permission in writing before making any major changes to your apartment. Otherwise, it might cost you a big chunk of your security deposit. Planning to make over your space? Send a message and let us know on Twitter or Instagram.

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Sania is a content manager and contributing author at Apartment List. Sania previously worked in marketing at Habitat for Humanity and Samsung Electronics. Read More
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