5 ways to make a small living room look and feel expensive without having to spend a fortune

How to make a small living room look expensive – 5 ways to elevate your compact space

A beige-painted living room with a fireplace and a round mirror above it
(Image credit: Future PLC/Damian Russell)

The living room is usually the heart of the home – it’s the place where you gather and relax with your family and where you entertain your guests. So making this room look and feel the best it possibly can is high on the priority list. Even if your living space is a petite one, there are ways to make a small living room look expensive and elevated.

Very often, the best small living room ideas to perfect the space lie in the details, from the choice of lighting to the best small living room colour scheme. As our interior design experts make clear, it’s all about carefully considering every element and every corner to make a small living room work hard for your needs, while also looking luxurious and stylish of course.

How to make a small living room look expensive

‘A small space can look expensive and high-end if thoughtful and detailed design is applied,’ says Claire Garner, director of Claire Garner Interiors. ‘Sometimes, the smallest spaces require the most meticulous planning to maximise their full potential.’

Polly Aspinall and Emily Harrop-Griffiths, interior designers and co-founders of Oscar Wren Studios, agree, ‘When it comes to good design, size doesn’t matter, indeed sometimes the smallest rooms in the house can be the most interesting. The key elements are thoughtful and considered design choices that layer together to make an interesting space and unique details, to make the space feel finished and one-of-a-kind.’

And this is how you can achieve this in your own tiny living space.

1. Start with clever storage

A colour-drenched green living room with built-in storage and sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Clutter never looks luxurious. Not to mention that it makes an already small space look even tinier. So giving a lot of thought to your living room storage space and clever solutions to hide and put the clutter away is key.

‘Clever storage is key in smaller spaces. Keeping potential clutter hidden and displaying styled objects can instantly elevate your room. Opt for a striped storage ottoman to add visual weight and a subtle pattern. Not only will it look beautiful, but it will also provide storage for items that might otherwise make the room feel cluttered,’ Claire says.

She continues, ‘Creating bespoke cabinetry to fit your items, including your TV, always adds a premium feel to your space. Custom built-ins can provide tailored storage solutions that blend seamlessly with the room's design.’ We know that this can become quite a pricey endeavour, however, if you or someone in your family or circle of friends is quite handy, it could be a fun DIY project.

2. Add a large rug

A living room with a blue-painted fireplace and a light grey rug on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

Should a small living room have a rug? The answer is yes. And it’s certainly a preferable flooring choice over traditional carpet. Just keep in mind the 18-inch rug rule of appropriately spacing the rug away from the walls.

‘For flooring, choose large rugs over wall-to-wall carpet. A well-chosen rug will anchor the space, define different areas, and make the room feel more cohesive. It adds a layer of warmth and texture and can create the illusion of a larger area by drawing the eye across the floor, adding depth. Opting for a lighter colour or a subtle pattern can further enhance this effect, ensuring the space feels open and airy rather than cluttered,’ Claire explains.

3. Layer your lighting

A dark living room with a fireplace and multiple sources of light in the form of a desk lamp, a wall light and a chandelier

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Massey)

The best small living room lighting idea is to incorporate several sources of ambient lights and lamps which will also make the space look more luxurious.

‘Lighting plays a crucial role in creating a sensual and expensive ambience,’ says Olga Alexeeva, creative director of interior design studio Black & Milk. ‘Implementing multiple lighting schemes tailored for different occasions and times of the day can transform the space. Scattered floor and table lamps contribute to a welcoming and intimate atmosphere, imbuing the evening setting with an air of sophistication. The use of dimmable warm temperature light bulbs grants control over the ambience's intensity, allowing for a customizable luxury experience.’

4. Elevate artwork with high-quality framing

A living room with a light sofa with patterned cushions and a large artwork hanging above it

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Raeside)

Including artwork on your living room’s feature wall is one of the most effective ways to make the space appear more expensive. But only as long as the artwork itself looks up to scratch. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is through chic framing.

‘We believe that the key with art is all in the framing. Adding a white mount inside the frame elevates the most basic print to something more special. Likewise, choosing the right frame will enhance the artwork as well. If you have a more minimalist scheme, a simple black or white frame with a mount can look very effective. Or, if you are more of a maximalist at heart, choosing a frame with some personality - whether that’s brightly coloured, an interesting shape or with a moulding detail, like a bobbin effect - will look really considered and instantly more high-end,’ Polly and Emily say.

They add, ‘Avoid common or famous artist’s prints and anything with a slogan – think “live, laugh, love”. No one will be fooled into thinking you have real Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on your walls.’

5. Opt for an elegant colour scheme

A beige-painted living room with a fireplace and a round mirror above it

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Some colours automatically look more polished and timeless and others. Not to mention, some shades also have the power to optically stretch a room. And those are exactly the living room colour schemes you need to be incorporating.

‘Embracing muted warm earthy tones with subtle darker accents can immediately infuse the space with an air of sophistication. To achieve this, quality materials and natural textiles with varying textures can be incorporated, adding depth and richness to the decor,’ Olga says.

Our top picks

Olga of Black & Milk concludes, ‘A small living room can be transformed into a space that exudes understated opulence and luxury, enveloping its inhabitants in a cocoon of refined elegance and warmth.’ We couldn’t have said it any better than that.

Content Editor

Sara Hesikova has been a Content Editor at Ideal Home since June 2024, starting at the title as a News Writer in July 2023. Sara brings the Ideal Home’s readership features and news stories from the world of homes and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more, focusing on all things room decor, specialising in living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, home offices and dining rooms. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.