How to make a small living room look bigger – tips and tricks to stretch your space

Think big with easy ideas and visual trickery that will make your living space feel miles bigger

Pink living room with french doors and a pink sofa
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Lack of space can make a living room feel cramped and crowded, which isn’t ideal in a space where you want to switch off, kick back and relax. Working out how to make a small living room look bigger has its challenges, but with clever use of colour, furniture placement and simple visual tricks, making a small living room feel more spacious isn’t too hard to pull off.

Start by taking a long, hard look at your living room and working out what bits of it work well and what bits don’t work quite so well. Re-assessing the space, getting rid of items that aren’t earning their spot and then re-working the layout, can do wonders in a small living room. And, of course, a good decluttter is a brilliant way of freeing up space that could be put to better use.

How to make a small living room look bigger

Colour is a game changer when it comes to small living room ideas. Using muted colours and soothing shades throughout can help to calm a busy space and create a cohesive look that in turn feels more spacious and easier on the eye.

‘When selecting colours for your living space, think about how you would like the space to feel. Perhaps consider soothing, tranquil green tones or more natural neutrals to bring warmth and harmony to the room,’ says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director at Little Greene (opens in new tab).

‘Neutral paint colours set the scene for harmony and tranquillity, while muted tones reflect nature at its purest and these gentle tones can warm cooler spaces and breathe light into darker rooms.’

1. Invest in a large rug

living room with sofa and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

When it comes to living room rugs, big is better, especially in small living rooms. It might seem counterintuitive, but a large rug can help to stretch the space, drawing the eye and making the floor area feel bigger. If a rug is too small it can appear as if it's floating in the middle of the room and look out of sync with the proportions of larger items of furniture.

Go for a rug that is as large as (or even wider) than your sofa if you can. A large rug will act as an anchor point in a living room that can help with how to arrange living room furniture. Run it under the legs of your sofa idea for small living rooms as well as the coffee table if possible and try to leave around 25-30cm around the edge of the room so you can still see the floor beneath.

2. Pull furniture away from walls

living room with grey sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

While it’s tempting to push all the furniture against the walls in a small living room to put more floor space on show and make the room feel bigger, it can actually have the reverse effect. Having everything pushed up against walls can limit the sense of space and horizon, making a modern small living room idea appear much smaller.

Try pulling sofas and armchairs away from walls to give them more breathing space. An easy solution for how to make a small living room look bigger, it will also make the room feel more inviting. No more dead space in the middle of the room. Group seating together to create a more relaxed, sociable feel.

3. Let more light in

Living room with sofa in bright blue, pale blue walls, rug in pale blue, white ceiling and white table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Natural light can help increase the sense of space in a small living room, making it feel brighter, breezier and much bigger. Avoid heavy curtains and solid blinds that block out sunlight and instead opt for lightweight linens, voiles and sheers that will let maximum light flood in.

One trick for small living rooms that can help stretch the space, is to install a longer curtain pole at a standard-sized window. Extending the pole on either side of the window will make it appear wider and allow curtains to be drawn back fully allowing extra light in.

4. Save space with sleek built-ins

grey living room with brown sofa and built in alcove shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sharps)

Too many large bulky pieces of furniture can crowd a small living room and make it feel cramped. Opting for built-in furniture is a great way of making use of under-utilised alcoves and recesses and frees up floor space, rather than having lots of freestanding pieces. Paint built-in storage to match wall colour to create a more unified look that can also help increase the sense of space in a small room.

‘Alcoves offer pockets of extra space in living rooms, but it can often be difficult to know how to get the best use out of them,’ says Racheal Hutcheson, National Retail Manager at Sharps (opens in new tab). ‘Integrated shelving helps to create a dedicated space to display your prized possessions, whether it’s an impressive collection of books, a series of treasured photos or an A/V entertainment system.’ So bear this in mind when thinking about your small living room tv ideas.

‘Fitted cupboards are the perfect place to hide any unsightly items or clutter that can build up, making your living room appear more spacious. Whether it’s stashing away blankets or media accessories in a living space, a tidy area promotes a feeling of relaxation.’

5. Blur the boundaries

living room with blue sofa and rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Wrap the room in colour, by painting living room walls and ceiling in the same warm shade throughout. A good trick for small spaces, awkwardly-shaped areas or rooms with sloping ceilings, painting walls, trims and ceiling the same colour ensures that the eye doesn’t get drawn to the corners of the room which helps create a greater feeling of space.

Don’t shy away from blue living room ideas in smaller spaces - blue can work well in any living room providing you choose the right shade. It's definitely a winner when looking at how to make a small living room look bigger.

‘Colours in north-facing rooms tend to appear consistently flatter and cooler than they would do bathed in natural light,’ says Ruth Mottershead. ‘Paler blues and greens may appear cold, so experiment with stronger green-blues for a warming impact. South facing rooms tend to experience warmer light and colours can often appear more yellow, so darker blues can be used to achieve a neutral scheme with more depth.’

6. Add height with contrast ceiling colour

beige panelled living room with sofa and woven round mirror

(Image credit: Little Greene)

In a small living room without much natural daylight, painting the ceiling a lighter colour is a good way of brightening up the space and making it feel more lofty. Extend the effect in a room that features a picture rail, by painting the wall area above the rail to match the ceiling colour. It will make you less aware of where the walls end and the ceiling begins and will create the impression of extra height. You can also use small living room lighting ideas to accentuate the feeling of height.

7. Open up the view

grey living room with yellow accent trim and neutral sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

In a through-lounge or open-plan living room idea avoid positioning furniture where it might block the view into the next area or across the space. Positioning larger items and bulkier pieces of furniture away from walkways will help to open up the space more and make it feel bigger.

Use round coffee tables and occasional seating between chairs and sofas. Curves are much easier to navigate around in tight spaces, with no sharp corners to bash into.

8. Create a flowery focal point

living room with pink and blue floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Sanderson/Style Library)

Living rooms work best if there is a focal point, something that draws you in and the place where your eyes land when you enter a room. In a space without a small living room fireplace idea or any other stand out features, create your own focal point by wallpapering one wall in a lively print.

A busy pattern will grab the attention and by choosing the widest wall, it will help to stretch the space and make the living room feel bigger. Position furniture in a sociable arrangement so that the feature wallpaper takes centre stage.

9. Double-up to bring balance

Living room with white sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Increase the sense of space in a small living room by simplifying the window treatments. Small windows with multiple curtains and blinds can look heavy, visually-confusing and make the space feel crowded, whereas a more simple treatment will create a sleek more unified look.

Treat side-by-side windows as one, with a window treatment that encompasses the whole area. Simple pleated blinds sit on individual window frames for a neat look and can be raised completely to let maximum light in. Opting for a single curtain pole that extends across the whole area, with just a single drape at each end, simplifies the effect further and gives a more balanced, unfussy look.

10. Go big with mirrors

grey living room with brown sofa and built in alcove shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sharps)

It may be an old and much-used trick, but clever placement of living room mirror ideas is a brilliant way of making any small space appear larger than it actually is. Positioning a large wall mirror opposite a window or propping a floor-standing mirror against a wall, reflects light back into the room and creates the illusion that the space extends further than it does, making the room feel brighter, airier and more spacious too.

11. Find the right shade of white

Living room with white wall and cane basket

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Decorating a room in pale colours and light-reflective tones is another proven way of making a small room feel bigger. But rather than painting your living room wall-to-wall in brilliant white, using warmer tones of white will feel less harsh and clinical while still retaining white’s room-enlarging qualities.

In north-facing living rooms, avoid blue and grey-toned whites which can feel a bit dark and dismal and instead opt for white with yellow or red undertones that will lift the space and make it feel more warm and cosy. South-facing living rooms tend to already get a lot of natural daylight, which can amplify the effects of warmer whites, so instead opt for cooler-toned whites which will balance out the warmth of natural light and create a more balanced effect.

What colour makes a small room look bigger?

While white is a tried-and-tested classic when it comes to making a small room look bigger, it’s not the only living room colour scheme available.

‘Pale neutrals are the obvious choice to encourage the illusion of space,’ say the experts at Dulux. ‘For a cool, stylish look, opt for light greys or grey-toned whites to imbue a sense of warmth with the light and airy feel of white. When you pair pale neutral walls with furniture in a similar colour palette, you’ll create the impression of open and seamless space.’

‘Alternatively, painting a room in dark colours creates the perception of depth, hiding the fact that it’s so small. Consider a dark feature wall in dusky grey with accent colours of purple or yellow. While rich blue tones can also provide a soothing appeal, along with added depth.’

What pattern makes a small room look bigger?

Stripes are a failsafe choice that can instantly make a small room feel bigger. Wide bands of colour or horizontal stripes on wallpaper or wall panelling (laid width-wise) can all help to make a room feel wider. Similarly, narrow vertical stripes and linear timber panelling will create the illusion of height and make a low-ceilinged room feel loftier.

Lisa Fazzani
Lisa Fazzani

Lisa is a freelance journalist who has written about interiors for more than 25 years and has worked on all the major homes titles, primarily Ideal Home, but also including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Style at Home, Livingetc, Woman & Home, Easy Gardens and Good Homes magazines. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person, as well as being a serial shopper/bargain hunter.