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How to make a small living room look and feel larger


Your living room may be considered small (we prefer the term cosy, anyway), but this doesn’t mean it needs to feel that way. There are many ways to make your living space look larger without breaking the bank. Here are some modern living room design ideas for you to explore. 

You’re sure to spend a lot of time in the living room; unwinding after a long day, catching up with friends, and spending quality time with loved ones. That’s why you want to ensure you do your space justice and make the most of it.

However, not everyone has the money to buy a big house. So how do you make your less-than-large living area feel comfortably spacious? We consulted the experts. Here’s what they had to say to make your modern living room the best space ever.

1. Zone your space with a rug

© Rupinder Sahota

Start from the bottom by laying a rug appropriately sized to your space. Be careful not to choose a rug too small or conversely, too large; you’ll find choosing a poorly proportioned rug will have the opposite effect. A rug is key to zoning your living room and providing an anchor for all of your furniture.

Colour is another key consideration. Bright hues may be tempting, but if creating the illusion of space is the end goal, then you’re much better off opting for neutral hues, or choosing a vintage, faded-looking pattern.

2. Only keep the essentials

how to make small living room larger
© Denise Braki. Styling: Jonathon Fleming, Allira Bell / Temple and Webster

We’re all guilty of holding onto unnecessary stuff, so if your living hall is feeling tight, it’s time to rid yourself of the junk. The key to a good living room design is to make the space feel warm, cosy and inviting. Anything that you think is unnecessary or doesn’t add value to the aesthetic, put them away. Nevertheless, make sure the room still reflects ‘you’ – as you’ll be the one living there.

3. Measure your space before buying furniture

© Rupinder Sahota

When it comes to a space as important as the living room, you need to buy the right sized furniture. The sofa is the centrepiece of any living space, and the size of yours can either make or break the whole space. To ensure you nail your modern living room design measure your space accurately – because nothing will make your room look smaller than a sofa that hangs out in front of a doorway.

4. Maximise storage

Storage solutions don’t always involve bulky boxes and chests of drawers. You can enjoy nifty storage solutions without compromising on style. Decorate with a vintage trunk, woven baskets, and choose a television unit with cupboards and extra space on top. Make sure you dress your TV unit, which you can do with books and small living room decor by creating little vignettes.

Read more: Beautiful living room ideas

5. Go for a gallery wall

© Rupinder Sahota

Displaying art is great for showing off your personal style, but popping a print or painting on every wall can box in your space and make it feel more compact. A gallery wall is a great living room idea as it pulls the eye to one area, plus, it’s a great way to mask unsightly technologies.

6. Avoid bulky pieces

It’s a no brainer that in a small room, furniture needs to breathe. No matter how much you love that chunky Chesterfield, look to slimline pieces to furnish the space.

Thanks to Scandinavian design, slim, mid-century furniture design is on-trend. Use those athletic lines to keep it airy.

7. Go for symmetry

Fact: A balanced modern living room design is technically more beautiful and is, therefore, more sympathetic to smaller spaces. Try placing a lamp and a plant stand of similar heights on either side of the room, a lounge in between, cushions on either side of the lounge and a rug in the middle.

You don’t want it to look like a showroom, but this can be a good place to start before you add flavour with more living room decor pieces.

8. White and light hues are preferred

cosy living room
© Vast Furniture and Homewares

Chapter one of living room decor 101: Paint all the walls black and only use dark timber. The space will feel instantly feel smaller. Or, you can buck the trend, throw out the gauntlet and bring on the light pastel.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb to follow for small spaces: dark and warm colours advance, where as light and cool colours recede. That means a dark colour will tend to close in a small space, especially if it gets no natural light. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you have to go for stark, clinical white. Any light neutral colour will help make a space look bigger.

Read more: 4 easy living room feng shui tips for the ultimate good vibes

9. Clear the path

Small rooms feel a lot smaller when you can’t access them easily. Creating obstructions or a clumsy flow of traffic is a sure way to throw away valuable space. Don’t forget the space a swinging door can take up, so consider installing a sliding or cantilevered door if you have limited space. Another small living room idea we can think of is to keep things to the minimum. Have only a few important pieces in the room and reserve the rest for the other spots at home.

10. Go surround with your sound

Small rooms have awesome acoustics, so introduce hidden Bluetooth speakers that don’t take up any space. Music adds that extra dimension to create a sanctuary. The smaller the room, the better. Surround sound can create a feeling of space.

11. Add a picture rail and pictures

Any opportunity to draw the eye upwards will detract from the size of the room. Try adding a picture or painting of an outdoor landscape into your modern living room design – a panoramic beach or bush shot can trick the eye into thinking about faraway places.

12. Invisible(-ish) furniture

Lightweight and durable, rattan furniture is easy to shift around the room – and thanks to baby boomer trend forecasters, it’s cool again. Best of all though, it’s partially invisible in a room. For very small rooms, nothing beats rattan furniture. Because it’s not upholstered, you can see right through it. Definitely a living room decor piece that’s worth investing in.

13. Add plants

interior with indoor plants and beds and plant elements
© Katarzyna Białasiewicz | 123rf

You don’t need to spend fortunes on living room decor, you need to turn your attention outside. When creating the illusion of space, consider where there’s lots of it? You got it – the great outdoors. Filling your tiny space with plants may seem counter-productive, but it can help blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors.

14. Use multi-purpose furniture

When it comes to small living spaces, choose furniture that serves more than one purpose like a bench seat where you can pull the top off and you’ve got a nice hideaway space, or a coffee table with shelves or drawers in it.

15. Consider monochrome rooms

It’s not for the fainthearted, but this living room idea is a sure-fire way to add space and dimension to a small room. It’s a bit more adventurous but visually it makes the room open up more than a high contrast scheme. For example, the deep jewel tones and shades of berry purple that are trending can make a striking statement.

16. Fool the eye with mirrors

© Natalie Hunfalvay. Styling: Jonathan Fleming, Allira Bell / Temple and Webster

Another tried-and-tested method to make your living hall appear larger is to fool the eye with mirrors. Play around with full-length mirrors. Try a free-standing mirror that leans against the wall to elongate the height of the room, too.

17. Experiment with feature lighting

Again, focus on drawing the eye upward with feature lighting. A pendant light, for example, can force people’s attention away from eye-level and give a real sense of the entire room.

Read more: 14 lighting tips for every room in your house

18. Go big

Guess what? Big is not always bad in a small room. Most people will tell you that buying big furniture is a huge no-no when in a small room, but that’s not always the case.  It’s good to have compact furniture but it’s more important to scale it down. One big couch will work better than two smaller couches. The same goes for artwork. One large piece of art will make a bigger statement. You’ll probably save more by investing in one good piece anyway. 

19. Make use of vertical space

floating shelves
© Lothe Verstraete | 123rf

Low on storage? Go up. Use your wall space smartly. Floating storage and shelves will take your storage upwards without taking any floor space, leaving you more room to walk and place other furniture pieces without cluttering the space.

If you’re looking for more modern living room design ideas, read this next: These colourful living rooms will breathe new life into your home

This article was originally published as How to make a small living room look and feel larger and 16 simple tricks to make a small living room feel big by written by Katie Skelly and Alice Bradley

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