Small living room ideas – how to decorate a compact sitting room, snug or lounge

Supersize your space with our top tips and clever design tricks to make even the smallest of rooms feel perfectly proportioned
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Smart small living room ideas ensure there is no wasted space in a compact living space. From thoughtful furniture placement and genius ways with paint to savvy curtain tricks there’s a whole host of smart ideas to make your small living room feel bigger than it actually is.

    Small living room ideas

    Choose seating with legs so more of the floor can be seen, making the room appear bigger. This trick lends itself well to any living room, as many classic-style sofas and armchairs are finished with beautiful turned wooden legs.

    Fill alcoves or bay windows with built-in storage. If there is little room for a side table next to your sofa, position a narrow console behind a sofa to serve as a display shelf.

    When you are redecorating, one of the easiest ways to make a small snug area feel more spacious is to inject soft, neutral shades into your  to keep the room warm and inviting. Check out our ideas for for more inspiration.

    Take inspiration from our gallery of beautiful small space designs to unlock the potential of your small living room.

    1. Use alternative furniture choices

    small grey living room with footstools as seating around coffee table

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rob Sanderson

    The thing you should never do if you have a small living room is cram in too much furniture. Instead, choose a sofa that’s proportional to the size of the space, and if you’re still in need of more seating, use stools. They’ll take up far less room than bulky armchairs, and can be easily manoeuvred – or used as footrests.

    For extra space-savvy points look for stowaway furniture, such as these cube stools that can be tucked under a coffee table when you don’t need them, or ottomans that hide hidden storage inside.

    And if you’re short on space but still want to be able to entertain, then consider multifunctional furniture like one of the best sofa beds so you can put up occasional overnight guests. Thinking about furniture which offers two uses in one is a great way to make each piece in your home work harder.

    2. Choose light colours for the walls

    small white living room with home office

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Wooley

    Dark colours are definitely having a moment right now, but they can be tricky to work with in small spaces. Light colours tend to work best so stick to pale tones such as white, cream, and grey to keep your room scheme light, airy and open – especially effective in small spaces with minimal natural light sources.

    Light shades will make any small living room feel fresh and inviting – cosy, and yet not closed in. Steer clear of brilliant whites and instead pick those with a subtle green, grey or taupe tone. With so many different shades available choosing the best white paint can feel like a minefield – be sure to try tester samples in the space before you paint.

    3. Embrace natural light

    living room teal velvet corner sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Make the most of natural light in the room by keeping window treatment ideas simple. Shutters are a brilliant alternative to curtains, providing privacy and light control without taking up space. If you do choose curtains, keep them light and make sure they can be swept away from the window for light or alternatively go for Roman or roller blinds.

    4. Paint the skirting boards

    Blue living room with grey sofa blue rug and pink tassel pendant light

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith

    Breaking with convention, the trick to make a space feel bigger is to paint the skirting boards in the same colour as the wall. No more bold white borders. Interior designer Kelly Hoppen enlightens with her advice, ‘One little tip, paint the skirting boards. Because it will make the whole wall look a lot taller. Because when you paint them white it’s a bit like wearing a sock and your trouser leg being too high. It kind of looks a bit odd!’

    A brilliant analogy for the look of bold white skirting boards standing out from the wall colour, for all the wrong reasons – especially prominent when using a dark living room colour scheme. This trick will prevent the wall from being divided – helping to elongate them, so the room feels taller and therefore bigger.

    Kelly Hoppen’s advice for painting skirting boards is a real game-changer in small spaces.

    5. Add a feature wall in a warm colour

    living room with navy blue feature wall and round mirror

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Fiona Walker-Arnott

    We all want our living rooms to feel cosy and restful. However, in a small space, you may feel apprehensive about introducing too many dark colours for fear of making the room feel cramped.

    In that instance, pick a rich warm colour like this plum shade as a backdrop to a part of the room that’s all about relaxation. Behind the sofa is ideal. That deep shot of colour is a visual ‘hug’ that relaxes and draws us in, without making the room feel smaller.

    6. Seamlessly transition to an outdoor space

    grey living room with balcony

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    If you small living room is lucky enough to an adjoining outdoor area, no matter how large or small, embrace the feeling of extra space. Seek to have doors that open out fully, to open up the space and create a sense of freedom from indoors to outdoors.

    Choose coordinating furniture and furnishings to decorate the two areas to unite them and make the journey from one to the other feel seamless. this will help to make any small living area feel more generous by simply knowing the outdoor area is just beyond the threshold.

    7. Create space using mirrors

    large mirror against wall in small living room

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Mark Luscombe-Whyte

    It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it really does work. You can instantly create the illusion of space by simply adding more mirrors. All the better still, like above, opt for an over-sized mirror to cover an entire wall. The mirror will create the illusion of space by reflecting light and of course the interior decor – doubling up your interior space. Try keeping the colour palette light and airy to aid the overall effect.

    8. Use lighting to your advantage

    white living room with sofas pulled away form the walls

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    In order to make the most out of your space ensure you have at least three working lights in the room. Light should be located a different heights, be indirect and allow your eye to move about the room. More light and more varied light is always good for a compact room.

    9. Replace curtains with blinds

    neutral living room with blinds

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Alexander James

    Kelly Hoppen’s design advice for small spaces is to ditch the curtains and go for a window blind idea instead. ‘Often people focus on something which really doesn’t need to be changed,’ explains Kelly, appearing on This Morning. She suggests it can be as simple as changing a few little tiny things to make all the difference. Such as the curtains.

    When working with a challenging small bay window with dark curtains hanging either side Kelly offers this advice, ’I would put blinds up rather than curtains, which would actually make the room seem taller’. What a great insider design tip to help make any small space feel instantly larger. The free space either side of the windows would create the illusion of airy space. So simple, yet so brilliant.

    10. Build in a window seat to save space

    grey living room with small window seat in bay window

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rob Sanderson

    If you have a bay window use the awkward space to build a smart seating solution. A smart window seat idea provides an for extra space for guests to perch without the need for bulky furniture taking up valuable floor space.

    11. Up the storage potential

    living room with vertical storage shelves

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    The key in a small space is to make the most of every inch available. When it comes to storage think outside the box and create bespoke storage solutions that use the free vertical space on walls  and unused corners and nooks as an advantage. An affordable way to use a recess space for storage is to fit stacked floating shelves.

    Staggering them allows you to use both sides of the wall. the openness helps to keep the look light and airy, rather than boxed in. Just be sure not to overwhelm the room with clutter – use the shelves for displaying your favourite books and trinkets.

    12. Take storage to new heights

    white living room

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    Don’t let vertical space go to waste. Hang pictures, choose tall furniture and think about practical shelving solutions. A striking picture or wall hanging will draw the eye up, making a space feel more expansive than it actually is.

    13. Swap your sofa for a small snuggler

    green living room with armchair and small sofa

    Image credit: Sofa.com

    A bulky sofa can eat up living room space quickly, so if you have an especially tiny room, ask yourself if you could manage with an equally comfy but far less invasive ‘snuggler’ or ‘loveseat’. Otherwise known as a 1.5 seater, it can easily accommodate a parent and child – or a cuddly couple.

    This room also employs another neat trick that’s genius for small rooms that back onto gardens – a botanical decorating scheme. Pretty florals are perfect for blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. Creating this visual link will draw the eye outside and again make the room feel bigger.

    14. Wall-mount and conceal a TV

    hidden TV with butterfly print screen

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    A wall-mounted TV is always going to be the better option for small living rooms. Firstly we don’t want it taking up valuable space! Secure your modern flatscreen to the wall to create a streamlined look, freeing up the space beneath where you would otherwise have to accommodate a TV stand. Above a disused fireplace helps to use up otherwise redundant wall space too.

    Look for smart ways to disguise your TV to prevent it standing out as point of focus. Cleverly concealing the large black oblong, that looks like a black hole, will help to stop it encroaching on a small space.

    15. Make your own media centre

    Small living room idea wall-mounted TV

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Jo Henderson

    Free up floor space, from storage units, by creating your own media centre that takes up minimal space. Fix an MDF panel to the wall and mount your TV screen and floating shelves on it, one above and one below if needed. The space saving shelves will allow for storage without taking up too much needed space. The area underneath the bottom shelf allows for extra storage for items such as slim drawer units or drum storage stools.

    16. Utilise awkward architectural spaces

    small living room with sofa in bay window

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Cleveland

    Does your living room lack space due to awkward room proportions? Often with period properties the features which we love the most, such as bay windows, present a logistical nightmare for arranging furniture. Use the space to your advantage. If you have a compact sofa it should fit neatly into the position, without taking up valuable floor space.

    Alternatively use the awkward area to house larger, bulkier furniture pieces such as sideboards and TV units. This prevents the pieces overpowering the rest of the petite room, because the space would be otherwise unused anyway.

    17. Hang baskets to provide extra wall storage

    woven storage baskets on hooks in living room

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Joanna Henderson

    If you are faced with small space living the only way really is up! Make the most of any floor space by keeping it as clutter-free as possible. That includes any small bits and bobs you might otherwise have laying around. We have used attractive willow baskets to solve the storage problem. Ideal because one they look great and two they are sturdy enough to hold all manner of clutter – a savvy living room storage idea.

    Hanging from decorative hooks that can take a lot of weight, these baskets are great for quick end-of-day tidy-ups for toys, books, magazines, iPads and all the other stuff that tends to lay around.

    18. Add storage near the ceiling

    white living room with storage cupboards up to the ceiling

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Georgia Burns

    You might not even have spotted it at first glance, but this owner has mounted some carefully camouflaged white storage units at the top of the living room walls, where any clutter can be stashed away. Off-the-shelf kitchen wall cabinets are ideal for this, if you plan to do the same, be very to careful the maximum load that each unit can take when wall mounted – you don’t want everything crashing down on your head, after all.

    She’s also stuck to furniture in simple shapes for a clutter-free look. Go for occasional tables with cut-away sides that reveal more floor space and trick the eye into believing the room is larger than it really is.

    19. Avoid a corridor effect with a corner sofa

    small white living room with grey corner sofa geometric cushions

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    This reception room is quite long and thin, and previously the owners had a long dark sofa, which only added to the corridor effect. By swapping it for a pale L-shaped design, they’ve created a cosy corner and opened up the space. Choosing the best corner sofa set up means there’s now room for more seating by way of large floor cushions or a footstool. 

    20. Draw attention to the windows

    Painted-window-surround

    Image credit: Walls in Cream White and Mustard Jar Easyclean Matt emulsion, £25 for 2.5ltrs, Crown Paint

    To let as much light in as possible make sure there is nothing obscuring your windows. Avoid hanging heavy curtains and opt for minimal blinds instead. Also, remember to keep windows clean, this will lighten and brighten up the room beyond. Painting the window surround can help to draw attention to the source of natural light, which aids the feeling of space.

    21. Invest in multi-functional furniture

    small living room sofa in grey with yellow cushions and red floorlamp

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    When it comes to small living room ideas, hard-working, multi-functional pieces of furniture are key. Take this coffee table, which doubles as a storage bin, allowing you to clear away any clutter at a moment’s notice.

    You could also invest in lidded stools, or even a sofa with storage under the seat. Add wall mirrors and furniture with reflective surfaces into your design scheme to maximise the amount of natural light in your living room to make it feel bigger and brighter.

    22. Draw attention away from the door

    rustic white living room with exposed wood beams above windows

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    Whether a country cottage or a studio flat, it can be tricky to create a relaxing bolt hole when your front door opens straight into your living room. Take the emphasis away from the entrance by creating a focal point with thoughtfully arranged seating. Here, a neat two-seater and comfy armchair have been placed at a 90-degree angle to a slim side table and lamp.

    A cool neutral palette works beautifully with the rustic plasterwork and the roller blind makes the most of a recessed window to add extra square inches to the room.

    23. Decorate vertically

    Grey living room with teal feature wall above fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Think about living room wallpaper designs to complement your lounge. Take that décor up high when floor space is limited. Here, a small section of a brilliant white room has been transformed with a feature wall of blue that pulls the eye upwards to make the most of a high ceiling.

    Geometric pattern at the window helps to echo the blue tones, and ties in a statement pattern in this smart small living room idea.

    24. Pare it back with multifunctional furniture

    wooden rocking chair wooden ladder bookshelf

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Brittain

    Think about alternatives to traditional living room furniture, such as the three-piece suite. It’s still possible to have a cosy area for relaxing and reading with less space-greedy furnishings. Swap an upholstered armchair for a wooden rocker with cushions; and bookcases for slimline ladder-style shelving. Wash walls and accessorise with subtle colour.

    25. Pop an L-shaped sofa into a tight space

    sofa in eaves small living room idea

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

    Before decorating or furnishing an awkwardly shaped living room consider how best to optimise the space available. Think about an L-shaped sofa in a tight eaves space teamed with trunks that can function as coffee tables as well as handy storage. Keep a dark room white to make the most of what little light there is.

    26. Distract with statement pieces

    narrow white living room with three armchairs footstool and large red rug

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Paul Raeside

    Pick one or two statement items, such as an over-sized table lamp, an attention-grabbing piece of art or an armchair upholstered in a fabulous fabric, and keep the rest of the room relatively clutter free. These will make the room feel up to date and draw attention away from its size.

    27. Factor in textural pieces

    White living room fireplace with wood pile

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

    Decorating with white on walls, ceiling and floor is a winning small living room idea it can leave it feeling clinical and stark. Take the chill off a compact nook with a homely leather armchair, red floor lamp and woollen rug – all circled around a log-filled fireplace. A tactile cushion and soft throw in viridian green add a final designer touch.

    28. Create a central focus with overhead light

    small White living room with grey sofa natural wood door and white gloss sideboard

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Parmiter

    Mark out a living space with an overhanging pendant light and carefully positioned round coffee table. The two pieces work together to create a focal point around which you can sit a couple of chairs and add floor cushions or stools when guests visit.

    29. Display objects of interest

    small grey living room with small sofa picture rail and neon sign

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    Just because your living room is verging on the small side, it doesn’t mean that you should hide away all your favourite belongings in storage. If you have objects that are worthy of showing off then display them along an open shelf, above the sofa. This idea is great for when floor space is at a premium. Hanging a neon sign also helps to distract the eye.

    30. Place your pattern to create a theme

    ambient green living room with open fire check grey sofa with throws and cushions

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Brittain

    Pattern can work as well in small living rooms as it does in large, but it pays to think carefully about where you put it. Wool fabrics are made for cosy country-style firesides, but keep tartans, checks, paisleys and florals confined to throws and cushions on sofas and armchairs, leaving walls for plain paint finishes. Add a natural flooring rug to bring the two sides of a room together.

    31. Distract the eye with characterful furnishings

    small living room with brick fireplace with alcove shelves

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    While banishing clutter might help a smaller living room feel more open, if you’re a fan of the cosy, lived-in look such a pared back scheme will do little for you. But small doesn’t have to mean bare and characterless. Try the classic combination of dark leather furniture and traditional fireplace – there’s nothing like it for creating a warm, cosy environment.

    Add much-loved items and accessories – in an interesting, character-filled scheme, no one will be thinking about how small the room is.

    32. Make the most of the space under the stairs

    small living room idea with bookcase built under staircase

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Jamie Mason

    Make the most of the unused space under the stairs by incorporating everything from storage to quirky accessories. If you have space issues in your small abode and need to make the most of every nook and cranny then turn to that nimble spot under the stairs into a warm and cosy living space. Here a thoughtful staircase idea results in a built-in bookcase and sofa tucking in neatly in that often unloved and underused area.

    33. Make storage fit comfortably

    small grey living room with black fireplace and brown velvet sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Use architectural features to incorporate smart storage. Build storage seamlessly into alcoves either side of a fireplace. Give the surrounding original features a  modern update with a fresh coat of paint and light retouching. Here original features have been painted to give this grey living room idea a modern edge. The black fireplace remains the focal point, and adds a sense of cosiness along with the chunky sofa and rustic wooden coffee table. A wool rug brings texture to the scheme and enhances the inviting feel of the room.

    34. Maximise storage potential

    small living room with armchairs instead of sofas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Small living room ideas need to be kept fresh and uncluttered with well-chosen storage. A great way to make a small living room feel larger is to keep it meticulously tidy and in order to do that, everything in the room needs to have its proper place. Floating shelves are perfect for small rooms because they can hold a lot of things on a wall or in alcoves, or choose bespoke fitted, floor-to-ceiling shelves and cupboards that make use of every inch of spare space.

    35. Keep it to scale

    a small grey sofa in a small living room with colourful cushions and a large white fireplace

    If you have a little living room, don’t go overboard with a huge L-shaped sofa that’s big enough for the whole family, the dog and the neighbours when they pop round for a cuppa. Large furniture will easily overwhelm a small space, so keep it simple – a two-seater sofa works perfectly in this sunny living room and a neutral scheme keeps things feeling light and bright.

    36. Play with patterns

    patterned feature wall in a living room with dado rail

    Image credit: David Brittain

    Don’t be afraid to experiment with fun, bold patterns in a small room. This fabulous floral print not only creates a beautiful statement in this snug space but it also sets the colour theme for the room, which is drawn upon in the soft furnishings and accessories. This gives the space a lovely unified, considered feel.

    37. Nice and neutral

    a small living room in a neutral decor scheme

    Image credit: David Giles

    Like we mentioned earlier, neutral tones will help a small room to feel larger. Light coloured carpets, walls and furniture are a great way to keep a space feeling bright and airy, whatever the size of the room. We love the little extra touches in this charming living room – the wall-mounted shelving unit provides the perfect space for personal mementos and accessories.

    38. Make it multi-functional

    small day bed in a small room

    Image credit: Carolyn Barber

    If your living room doubles up as a place for guests to stay, multi-functional furniture will make the world of difference. Here a tailor-made day bed doubles as a sofa and a cosy place for guests to rest their head. Built-in storage is an added bonus, especially when tight on space.

    39. Go big

    tropical bamboo wallpaper in a living room with grey sofa and orange accents

    Image credit: Graham & Brown

    Go big, in a tiny room? Didn’t we just tell you not to buy a massive sofa? Yes, yes, but when it comes to wall décor and artwork, it’s a different story. If you’ve got the wall space, use it! This small living room makes a big impact thanks to this tropical feature wall.

    Will you be incorporating any of these small living room ideas into your scheme? Make the most of a compact home with these clever room brightening and space-saving decorating tips for small rooms.

    All the latest from Ideal Home