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Big ideas for small living rooms

Melanie Whitehouse / 10 May 2016

Get the most from a compact living room with these interior design tips and tricks to make a small room seem larger.

Small living room
Choose armchairs with legs instead of a skirt for more visible floorspace

There are lots of clever ideas you can use to make a compact living room work well for you.

As house prices soar, people are choosing to live in smaller spaces. Your living room may be compact but that means it also has the capacity to be cosy and snug and make a real style statement. Small can be very smart indeed…

Start with the walls

Generally, light colours throughout the living room work best in a small space. However, is yours a dark living room with little natural light? Be bold and try a warm, dark, low-sheen paint on one wall, which will make it recede. Contrast the dark side with pale, painted furniture and pops of jewel-like colour.

Use wallpaper: a zingy pattern can draw attention away from the size of your living room.

Lots of light will always make a room feel larger. Opt for lighting that can be attached to the walls – lamps on swing-out arms are useful above a sofa, for instance.

Follow your chosen colour palette through the house, so it feels co-ordinated.

Related: what paint where

Furniture for a small living room


Push furniture into the room rather than up against the walls. It’s surprising how much extra space it ‘creates’. Matching fabric helps, too.

Expose as much of the floor as possible, rather than have cupboards built in down to the floor.

Be comfortable – and don’t be afraid to go large. Lots of small things in a small space give the illusion of clutter, whereas just one big sofa will shout ‘cosy’.

Give windows height by hanging curtains high on the wall instead of on top of the window. Let in the light with sheer, gauzy drapes that float in the summer breeze.


Choose chairs and sofas with legs, rather than frilly, floor-length skirts which look frumpy these days. Think sleek.

Armchairs without arms (such as slipper chairs that are popular for bedrooms) are ideal in a small space.

Create seating with storage, such as a window seat built into a bay with space underneath for clutter.


Go for clear furniture, such as Lucite tables, or tables made of mirrored glass that refract the light.

Use two drum-style side tables instead of one big coffee table – they’re more portable and less of a lump in the room. They can also double as extra seating.


Unite displays by theme or colour: a collection of vintage jugs, repeated vases of flowers, floral oil paintings on the walls…

Pick furniture with storage below, like an ottoman that doubles as both seating and a coffee table, and keep board games, magazines and throws in there. Stow other items in baskets hidden under the sofa.


Instead of putting the television on a media unit, mount it on the wall or on a metal arm that swings out into the room and can be folded neatly into a corner.

Embrace 21st century technology by ditching the desktop and opting for a little laptop. Go further and exchange the bulky sound system for an iPod and dock, then upload your CDs (and sell them on eBay).

Related: how to brighten up a dark room

Add some tricks of the trade

Colour co-ordinate your bookshelves – you’ll be amazed what a difference it makes!

Use rugs to delineate a space, such as a dining area.

Open bookshelves on castors can double-up as a room divider.

Floating shelves and even floating console tables lift clutter from the floor - if it can be wall-mounted, do it!

Put up wall hooks for clothing and umbrellas.

Swap solid wood doors for those with glass panels.

Related: how to make the most of your space

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.