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25 Small Living Room Ideas to Maximize Your Space

December 8, 2023
Not sure how to make the most of your small living room? Implement some of these small living room ideas to bring your small space to life!

Does your new rental have a super small living room? Are you looking for ways to maximize the space?  Maybe you’re just looking for some easy-to-implement small living room ideas. As Apartment List writers, we've seen (and even lived in) a lot of small spaces, and we've created a collection of the best tips and tricks to help you maximize the space in a small living room beautifully and effectively.

25 Small Living Room Ideas

1. Define Activity Areas

One mistake I used to make a lot in my own apartments was that I would have design around some other, ideal life. I would think about what an apartment "should" look like instead of how I actually lived. But really, your first step ought to be to think about how you do (or will) use your living room. Take a moment to really think about how each part of your living room is utilized, and then plan your design around what enhancing what works and fixing what doesn't.

Once you have a good idea about what is and isn't working in your daily use of the space, then you can make decisions about everything from laying out the design to organizing your items. For instance, if your small apartment design is also used as a dining room or entryway, patterned area rugs can help define activity areas. A hand-woven rug with a beautiful motif will add a splendid pop of color and pattern to your small room while also visually defining different areas.

And if you know how you use your space, you won't need to ask yourself where to store things. They'll be stored where you use them most!

Wall Gallery

2. Climb the Walls

While floor space may be at a premium in your small apartment or house, you’re sure to have plenty of walls to play with. Add a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall with all your favorite artworks or framed photos. Or, hang planters from the ceiling down in differing heights for an eye-catching grouping. Taking décor to the walls adds visual interest and draws the eye up, making the room appear larger.

Shelves

3. Add Height with Shelves

Installing floor-to-ceiling shelves or suspended wall shelves are other ways to draw the eye up while increasing storage space. This will give you a place to display all your coveted collectibles, favorite books, and other beloved items.

Living Room Trunk

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

4. Tone It Down

Neutrals of white, beige, light grey and blush have a way of opening up a room. One of the top small living room ideas is simply utilizing white walls and neutral furnishings. Forgo wall-to-wall colorful paint or wallpaper and opt for the illusion of airiness created by white walls and tone-on-tone upholstery. It’s fresh and visually open. 

pink and green colorful room

5. Pop with Color

Of course, white walls and neutrally-toned furniture are just a base. You still want to add a pop of color on top of it to create visual excitement and lead the eye. The easiest way to do this is with a "feature wall," or a wall that is painted or wallpapered in order to stand out against the room and provide a pleasing contrast.

You can also use perfectly-tossed accent pillows in vibrant hues, a colorful throw on a chair back, thoughtfully-placed artwork at the far end of the room, and a bright patterned rug. These colorful elements will create an additional sense of roominess.

Floral wallpaper as an accent for a small living room

6. Play with Patterns

Don’t be afraid to go big with visual elements such as pattern. You can play with pattern to your heart’s content on the floor, window treatments, wall art to expand the room visually. Think big geometrics, oversized florals, and stripes. 

Floor lamp

7. Get Your Glow On

Lighting can be a great way to expand a small living room. Perfectly placed floor lamps with up lighting draw the eye to the ceiling. A grand chandelier centered above the conversation area can create a striking visual. 

Smart light bulbs

8. Be Smart with Lighting

Smart lighting features allow you to turn on lamps and fixtures automatically without tripping over furniture in your tiny space. There are simple to install smart lighting kits you can control from your phone that will add big value as far as small apartments go. 

Grain wood furniture

9. Try Multi-Purpose Furniture

From coffee tables with built-in storage to expansive sofa beds, furnishing your space with multi-purpose furniture will give you the biggest return. Here are a few examples:

With their increased popularity, today’s micro-apartments and studios have inspired so many multi-functional furnishings. You can find a plethora of possibilities sold on sites like Wayfair and Ikea

Convertible Sofa

10. Get a Convertible Sofa

If your small apartment design leans towards the tiny or micro-size like in a studio or efficiency apartment, your living room probably doubles as your bedroom. No worries, you can accommodate both sitting and sleeping in one dual-purpose piece such as a modern convertible sofa, futon, or sofa bed.

leather loveseat

11. Invest in a Loveseat

If you don't need the extra sleeping space, forgo the convertible sofa and choose a loveseat instead. It will offer seating for two and nicely float if space affords. If the space permits, you can also add a loveseat with a sofa in order to provide several comfortable options for guests.

teal sectional

12. Take Advantage of Empty Corners with a Sectional

For small living rooms with an ample corner, tucking an L-shaped sectional in will give you loads of seating while using every inch efficiently. Skip the chaise to avoid blocking traffic flow in and around the sofa.

floating furniture

13. Float Your Furniture

Whether facing into the room or out, floating furniture can give the illusion of a more spacious living room. Center a large rug under your floating furniture layout to help create visual perimeters. Keep furniture low-profile to allow the gaze to move unobstructed through the room. This is one of our favorite small living room ideas. 

Organized room

14. Make Storage Part of the Design

Beyond multi-purpose furniture, there are many ways you can make storage part of the design. An organized and tidy space san the clutter will always appear larger and more inviting. Tuck away clutter in clever ways from decorative baskets to storage furniture. Make sure each piece you have is meaningful and well-placed to enliven and enlarge your living space. Here's a few popular options for hiding away your items:

Ottoman

15. Ottomanize

Instead of using a wood or metal coffee table, go with a soft, fully upholstered ottoman. This will add an extra layer of comfort to the room and give visual interest, especially if the ottoman is button tufted. Set a wood or metal serving tray on top to hold drinks and plates with stability. This will allow you to keep the functionality of a coffee table without sacrificing comfort. 

Activity Areas

16. Give Your Small Items a Distinguished Place

You've probably been collecting small items your whole life. Whether they are travel souvenirs, memories from nights out, photographs, or other cherised items, they deserve a special place in your home. Before you run out to by a bunch of decorative items, consider how you could artfully display the things you've already collected throughout your life.

17. Measure Everything & Keep It Small

In addition to the storage pieces available for small living spaces, diminutive furniture with the smallest footprints can be found everywhere. Make sure you measure your space before you buy any new furniture, and try to picture how large an item will appear once its in the space.

Keeping to smallish furniture such as low-profile armchairs, slender side tables, and a loveseat instead of a sofa will allow you to get more into your space without the bulk. 

A set of nested tables for a small living room

2-Piece Nested Tables Kit. Photo via Wayfair

18. Stack It

Stacking furniture allows multiple items to be kept handy for use when needed and instant storage when not in use. Think metal and wood stack chairs for extra seating when friends come over that easily tuck away in a closet or corner after. Little stacking or nesting tables also provide extra table space when guests are over.

Loveseat with legs

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

19. Go Leggy with Furniture

Another one of our small apartment ideas offers two approaches. Furniture with legs, tall and slender preferably, allow light to flow through the small space, making it appear airy and bigger. Tall chairs and elevated sofas with legs also offer additional stash space for your stuff. Just fill up a decorative box or basket and tuck it between the legs. 

Corner sectional

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

20. Corner It

Think unconventionally when approaching the layout of your furniture. If you can get more room to move about by tucking an armchair, table, and floor lamp in a corner, then go for it.

Neutral tone living room

21. Go Against the Grain

If you plan to use wood furniture in your small living room, consider using dense wood with a fine grain instead of large expressive grain. Visually you will be able to leverage the solid look of the wood against other colorful or patterned elements for a more cohesive aesthetic. 

Floor to ceiling windows

22. Treat Your Windows

We love the look of floor to ceiling window panels in small living rooms. It brings the eye up to the ceiling. Wispy white panels can create this illusion as well as patterned and colorful draperies. Go with what makes your heart soar. 

Transparent coffee table

23. Be Clear

Transparent furniture is a wonderful way to let light flow through your space. Think acrylic coffee tables, upholstered stools with transparent legs, or clear acrylic armchairs.

A mirror in a small living room

24. Bounce the Light

Anything mirrored bounces light and increases the illusion of space through reflection. Think large mirrors spanning a wall and mirrored sofa tables or end tables. A mirrored surface is your best friend when it comes to expanding your space visually. 

Creative interior design. DIY wall art

25. Keep Only What You Love or Need

This isn't really a furniture or design tip, but if you work on donating or throwing out items you no longer need or love, it'll be a lot easier to keep your space feeling light and open. For me, this is really the most important step in keeping my apartment feeling light. I try to avoid hiding extra junk in clever storage, and instead focus on how nice it feels to know that I have room to bring more things in my home in the future when I decide to.

Looking for more design tips? Check out these great insights from The DIY Mommy:

Ready to Change Living Rooms?

If you're ready to move on from your old living space, let Apartment List help you find your next home! You can take our easy quiz which will match you with an apartment that has the amenities you want in your budget and location!

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Dr. Katherine Blake
CONTENT EDITOR
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Joanna Dorman
AUTHOR
Joanna is a freelance writer at Apartment List. She has over 16 years of experience creating interior design, furnishings, home decor, and home improvement content. Read More
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