This post about small living room design ideas was updated in December 2022.
Just because you have a small living room doesn’t mean it functions any different from a large one. No matter the size, your family room needs to accommodate movie nights, sleepovers, the big game, and all manner of gatherings. How can you get the most of your living room space? We’re sharing our best living room design tips for adding more seating to a petite space plus other great small living room ideas.
1. Start with a Living Room Plan
The most important thing to do in any small space is to start with a plan. Use a room planner to play around with floor plans. You’ll want to leave the proper amount of space between furniture pieces, and pay careful attention to pathways from room to room. Here are two helpful resources:
2. Our Favorite Small Living Room Design Idea: Swivel Chairs
Some rooms (especially small spaces) have multiple focal points which can feel confusing when you’re trying to come up with a floor plan. If you have a small space that is used for both entertaining and TV watching, you’ll probably have an even harder time figuring how to have chairs face the TV but also seat lots of people. In those cases, we highly recommend at least one or even a pair of swivel chairs.
Swivel chairs are the unsung hero of the room with two focal points. If you’re entertaining and the TV is off, the chairs can face your other seating options. If you’ve got a big crowd to watch a game, they can spin around and face the television. Swivel chairs are all about flexibility so they work well in small living rooms.
3. Armless ‘Slipper’ Chairs for Tight Small Living Room Spots
If you’ve got a tight squeeze but you’re trying to work as much seating into a room as possible, consider adding two slipper chairs. They’re great because they don’t have arms. It may seem inconsequential, but a chair arm can be anywhere from 3-6 inches. Multiply that by two arms per chair and two chairs, and you’ll be saving your room 12-24 inches! That can make a huge difference in a small living room.
Another advantage is that slipper chairs are often petite and easy to move around, so they lend themselves to entertaining. They’re easy to pull up to your seating area when guests are over but can be placed out of the way for day-to-day flow.
4. Add in Poufs and Ottomans in Your Small Living Room
It’s important to have a variety of seating options when you’re entertaining. Not every seat needs to be a big, comfy armchair. Have a few perches for people to pull up as your crowd grows.
Here’s a small living room idea — tuck an ottoman, stool, or pouf under your console or side table. You can pull it out when guests arrive, but it tucks away for everyday living.
5. Focal Points and Fireplaces: A Wonder for Small Living Rooms
If you’ve got a small living room, you may have trouble figuring out which focal point to orient your room toward. Do you place furniture facing the television, the fireplace, or a big bank of windows? It’s a challenge, and there’s really no right answer. Embrace the multiple focal points in your room and layout the space so seating options are facing each focal point.
Use the furniture pieces mentioned above (swivel chairs really are your friend!) to make your small space flexible and ready to accommodate all of your needs.
6. Embrace the Occasional Chair in Your Small Living Room Design
By definition an occasional chair is meant to be used only when you need it, not for every day. They’re usually light, so they’re easy to move around the room, and they’re often in fun patterns and colors. This is an opportunity to use a vibrant pattern or an accent color because occasional chairs are often leggy and won’t be a large visual piece.
Occasional chairs are helpful for small living rooms because they can be pulled toward the seating area, moved to the dining room when you’re hosting a large dinner party, or pulled up to a workspace when needed. Everyone needs a few around the house.
7. Light Your Small Living Room Space
Poor lighting can turn even the most comfortable, beautifully decorated space into an awkward cave. Lots of light sources — a combination of overhead, task, and ambient — will make your room feel larger and more open. In addition to overhead lighting, you want between 2-4 light sources at eye level which will cast the most flattering glow around the room.
Tip: All overhead lighting needs to be on a dimmer.
One challenge when working with a small living room is having enough surfaces for table lamps. In these cases, floor lamps and sconces are your best friend. Have a few sconces mounted throughout the room to create light that casts at eye level (when you’re standing).
8. Super Size Your Small Living Room’s Rug
Nothing accentuates a small living room’s lack of size like a rug that’s too small. It may sound counterintuitive, but in a small space, you want your rug to be big! A rug that is almost wall to wall will make the room feel larger so look for the size that will leave about 4-12 inches around the edge of your room. You want nearly all of your furniture to fit on the rug.
If you’re working in a budget, consider a super sized natural fiber rug. You can then layer a smaller, more expensive option on top.
Need more small living room ideas? Here are some of our best places to start:
- 10 Ways to Start Decorating a Room from Scratch
- 5 Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- How to Layout a Room
- How to Space Furniture in Your Room
- How to Create a Focal Point in Any Room
For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards.
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