Small Living Room Design Ideas

AAA Print

Design Concept

If you have a small room, you may feel obligated to create the illusion of a larger space. You may have read guides that encourage you to choose light colors while designing a certain layout, for example. Especially in a living room, you may feel inclined to leave essential items out of your room to avoid an overcrowded look and feel at all costs. Remember rule number one of designing a small living room: restraint is not the answer.

If you find yourself feeling stressed about your home, take a step back, and stop associating your small living room with negative concepts such as clutter and overcrowding. With a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, you can turn any space-large or small-into a beautiful and comfortable hangout spot. Think of your living room in a positive light as cozy as opposed to crammed or small. With this mindset, beauty will quickly follow.

Luxurious décor does not necessarily mean that your room needs to be spacious. In actuality, both large rooms and small rooms have their benefits and drawbacks. A large room, for example, can feel very empty when there is not enough décor to fill the space. A small room can quickly feel cluttered when there is too much stuff, even if you think that you are decorating your space as efficiently as possible.

Instead of focusing on architecture that you can't change, adopt a mindset that allows you to make the most of what you have. Instead of focusing on making your small space look larger, focus on making it the best that it can be.


You may find yourself with so many ideas that you aren't sure where and how to start decorating. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you may find yourself with too few options and without a clear understanding of how or where to begin.

A theme can help you focus your design objectives and thoughts. Choose a color scheme, pattern, decorative style, or design approach to guide your interior decorating strategy. Explore a few themes before you get started-you may find that your room and garage are packed with materials that you would otherwise need to go out and buy. Choosing a theme will also help you plan your budget since you will be able to outline your specific objectives ahead of time. You might even be able to make your own décor and furniture-a do it yourself project involving your family.

Example themes that are ideal for a living room include modern, rustic, contemporary, Mediterranean, country, Victorian, formal, and more. You can even choose a color, whether you want to focus on shades of pink, black, blue, green, purple, or something entirely different. Explore themes that highlight your lifestyle favorites: for example, if you love your electronics and video games, choose an option where everything is easily accessible and on display. That way, you won't have to deal with the hassle of putting things away and taking them out again on a daily (or hourly) basis. If you dislike cleaning, you probably want a theme that will allow you to keep your mop away for as long as possible. A modern theme may be ideal for you, since you won't need to deal with a space that is filled with clutter and items to clean.

The bottom line: if you're feeling overwhelmed (or uninspired), choose a theme to help you get started. When you choose a theme, pay attention to more than just the aesthetics, and find an arrangement that complements your family's lifestyle.


No matter what theme you choose, in a small space especially, your design goal should be to create a comfortable space. With this concept in mind, select furniture that makes sense within the context of your living room's architecture.

Examples of furniture items that you may want include couches, accent chairs, coffee tables, side tables, side chairs, floor lamps, bookcases, and entertainment centers. To keep yourself organized, make a list of everything that you think you might need. Do you entertain guests regularly? If so, you need to ensure that you have enough seating to accommodate everyone. Do you enjoy playing board games or serving appetizers in your living room? If so, you will need a coffee table. Do you have a large book collection that you need to keep in a central place? If so, invest in a living room bookcase. If you are limited with space, a bookcase is something that you can keep in another part of your home, such as an office.

After you make a list of everything that you will need for your living room, try to visualize how you can combine everything into a streamlined layout. If you're having trouble seeing your desired results, try to put everything on paper. Think like an architect or cartographer and draw everything to scale so that you have a precise idea of how your sketch will translate into real life.

If you find that you have more stuff than you are able to fit in your space, start with the basics. Your couch is probably more important for a functional living room than a grandfather clock or large entertainment center.

If you are shopping for furniture, make sure that you have everything planned out before you go out and buy items. Transporting and assembling furniture can be a hassle, and you will have a much easier time if you only have to bring stuff home once.

Clutter & Storage

In a small room, you need to do whatever you can to avoid clutter. Keep as much as you can - toys, games, décor-out of the living room. For the stuff that you can't avoid keeping in the living room, consider buying a few shelving or storage units. If your couches are high enough, you may be able to keep a couple of bins underneath. To make the most out of your room, leave less stuff lying around.

Color, Lighting & Mirrors

It's a myth that small rooms look best when painted in a light color. In actuality, dark colors, when combined with the right lighting, can make a small room appear comfortable and inviting.

If you paint your wallpaper your walls with a dark color, you can use wall lighting to help direct the focus of the room upwards, creating a streamlined space. Wall sconces and floor lamps can help you direct lights upward.

If you'd like to paint your room in a bold, bright, dark, or non-neutral shade, you can consider painting an accent wall instead of accent trimming. Instead of having four walls that are the same color, you can have one dominant wall in a bright shade. The other three walls can be painted with plain, neutral tones.


No matter what material-hardwood floors or carpet-you choose for your living room floor, make sure that you select a light color in a neutral shade. Bright or dark colors can make your room appear crammed, and it may clash with your furniture and evolving style.

Make sure that you keep your changing preferences and lifestyle in mind when choosing a material for your floor. If you have a home full of pets, you may prefer carpets over wood flooring that may scratch easily. If you have allergies, you may prefer wood flooring as opposed to carpet, which accumulates dust easily.

Last Updated: March 28, 2013
AAA Print

About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

Note: The information provided on this site may be provided by third parties. The owners and operators of this site do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, and compliance of the content on this site. Such content is not and shall not be deemed tax, legal, financial, or other advice, and we encourage you to confirm the accuracy of the content. Use is at your own risk, and use of this site shall be deemed acceptance of the above.