7 Spaces That Prove a Full Sized Sofa Isn’t the Be-All, End-All of Living Room Design

updated Feb 6, 2020
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(Image credit: Jon O’Shaughnessy)

Alright—what I’m about to say here is going to be very controversial: A successfully decorated living room doesn’t need a full-sized sofa. Boom! Notice I didn’t say seating though. You obviously need that in spades, especially if you want to have people over or entertain. But if your living room just isn’t big enough for a sectional or even a full-sized sofa, don’t force it. Instead find yourself an alternative—a loveseat, an armchair, a settee. You’ll be surprised what might work—even something non-traditional like a chaise, bench or a stack of floor pillows can get the job done. Need some proof? These seven rooms are giving me life right now.

1. Little Loveseat

(Image credit: Jon O’Shaughnessy)

Honestly, when I first saw this living room, I wasn’t 100 percent sure the sofa wasn’t full-sized, which is either a testament to the photography, decorating scheme or both. But a 400-square-foot apartment? I figured it had to be a compact couch. And sure enough, when I read the fine print, turns out it’s Room & Board’s 71-inch Jasper Loveseat. There’s no question though that the piece looks ample and inviting in the room. And it appears to be just long enough for one average-ish height person to stretch out on—and a few to comfortably sit—which is kind of all you need if you live alone and have people over occasionally.

2. Functional Futon

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Remember your college dorm or first apartment? Did you have a futon? Well, it might be time to bring back the idea of the small convertible couch. Because you have to admit—they didn’t take up much floor space and were super convenient if someone had to crash at your place for a night. And nowadays, futon design has come a long way and can be, dare I say, very chic, thanks to an increase in color and fabric options. Back in the day they really only had black and red, it seemed. But this room has given me a whole new perspective on the small space futon-style sofa.

3. Coordinating Chairs

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Sometimes it’s just about embracing all the chairs in your setup and forgoing a sofa entirely. This vintage velvet lounge set is kind of out there in theory—it’s purple, is comprised of one and two-seat pieces and its wood trim has a bit of a baroque thing going on. But pair this with a great rug, and you wouldn’t even notice a proper sofa is missing from this living area. It just doesn’t need one to look like a complete room.

4. Compact Chesterfield

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

And if you like that broken-in Chesterfield sofa look, don’t worry. You can find a mini-me version of that out there. This homeowner did. This style of sofa is usually big and hulking, especially in the traditional distressed or dark brown leather finish. But it’s far less visually heavy when it’s pretty much the size of an armchair.

5. Low Lounging

Or you can just use an armchair or set of chairs sans any kind of sofa. I’d recommend this in a tiny room with a weird layouts or very sharp, angular walls. Think basically anywhere where even a loveseat would feel too cramped.

6. Shapely Settee

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

If you’ve ever wanted to use a settee but felt like it looked too much like dollhouse furniture, you might want to reconsider. Settees are like loveseats but tend to be a little more feminine, curvier and daintier in proportion, making them a win for any small space living room. If you can find a super shapely one and swing it, you won’t be disappointed. That one piece could make your whole room.

7. Head to Toe

(Image credit: IKEA)

And have you given thought to the idea of just using chaises? You can float them in the middle of a room, facing one another, as seen in this IKEA interior. It’s kind of like a modern day secretary bench. And truthfully, you get a lot a seat for a little footprint, especially if you orient the top of one to the bottom of the other so they’re almost forming a rectangle when seen from overhead.

And, of course, you can make a circle of floor cushions or a bench work, too. Know your limits though—if you prefer sitting up to read or watch TV, you might be better off going the chair or loveseat route.

So there you have it. It’s totally possible to make a living room work—and work well—without a large-scale sofa. You just have to be down for a little less-than-traditional layout.

*Re-edited from a post first published 02.15.19 -B.M.