34 Big Ideas for Small Living Rooms That Will Make the Most of Your Space

updated Nov 10, 2022
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A small living room with a large window, grey sofa, cowhide rug, and white coffee table

Small living spaces are cozy, affordable and more often than not, completely adorable. But when it comes to designing your diminutive space to make it just right for you, challenges abound. You’ll need to filter every decision, from what furniture to buy, how to arrange it, and even what colors to use, through the lens of small-space living. But it’s worth the extra effort, because a well-designed living room can transform a little nook into a thoughtful gathering space for the whole household.

Your main living area may not be large, but there are tons of ways to create an inviting space that feels like home, all the while maximizing storage and placement of your favorite items. In this article, we’ve included some of our favorite small apartment living room ideas for you to browse for inspiration.  Fortunately, the beauty of creative freedom — and the power of the internet — mean no matter how small your living room is, there are plenty of ideas and layouts that can serve as the perfect solution for your living situation.

Small-space Design Tips

When it comes to small spaces, a few clever design tips can help you configure your living room in a way that tricks your eye into feeling like it’s plenty spacious. Below, Kathy Kuo, CEO and Founder of Kathy Kuo Home, shares some of her favorite small apartment living room ideas.

  • Make smart choices with color: Use white paint on walls, trim, and the ceiling to make your room feel more spacious.
  • Make sure your rug fits your space well: Going too small will make the space feel more cramped. 
  • Make use of reflective surfaces: Mirrors can make a room feel larger.
  • Curate your finishing touches: Aim for a well-edited collection of a few accessories; too many small pieces can make the room feel cluttered.
  • Prioritize furniture pieces that are multi-use: Borrow from the minimalist design philosophy: Any time you get several functions out of one item, you free up additional space and reduce clutter. Benches with hidden storage or nesting tables are a great way to save space and create versatility.

Small Apartment Living Room Ideas

Coming up are 40 rooms — from teeny tiny spaces teeming with inspiration to more medium-ish living rooms that have adapted to living small — that all showcase the best ways to expand your square footage without any demo or renovating.

1. Add an accent.

An accent wall is nice, but if you’re looking for small apartment living room ideas, try defining a small accent area, like the one shown in this Dutch living room. The pleasant green arch creates visual interest in this small space.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

2. Utilize under-bench storage.

It’s not just the natural tones and abundant light that make this small living room seem much bigger; it’s also the skilled use of storage for excess items. The renters in this Toronto apartment have stowed several baskets under a small bench to keep clutter out of the way.

Credit: Brianna Nunes

3. Arrange things artfully.

Not all small apartment living rooms involve keeping items sparse. This 425-square-foot Los Angeles living room has plenty of furniture, but it’s displayed in such a way to avoid looking cluttered and stuffy. 

Credit: Senaida Mehmedovic

4. Stick with a color scheme.

Incorporating a continuous color scheme throughout your entire space is a clever way to make a studio or one-room space look larger and less cluttered. We love the boho-chic look Senaida Mehmedovic used in her Denver studio apartment

Credit: Wyatt Mangum

5. Go long.

Looking for small apartment living room ideas for a  narrow room? Look to this sleek Brooklyn apartment for a layout that’s perfect. To cop a similar look, search for furniture with small dimensions and leggy, airy pieces that don’t have a lot of visual weight. Place key furnishings like your sofa and large bookcases against the wall to take advantage of every square inch of floor space.

6. Elevate an alcove.

Even a tiny alcove, like in this New York apartment, can work as the perfect living room. Emphasize the coziness of a small footprint with soft textures and calming colors, both of which can make a tiny area feel intentionally small.

Credit: Liz Calka

7. Embrace a multipurpose room.

Not enough space for a separate dining room, living room, and breakfast nook? Follow the example of this dreamy, pink-walled Washington DC studio and carve those areas out of one room. With the right sized furniture, this decorating strategy can make a layout look more like a deliberately open floor plan—not just a one room apartment.

Credit: Andrew Bui

8. Size down and build up.

If your home has been blessed with high ceilings, you can use them to your advantage. Think vertically by decorating with tall mirrors, high shelves, and curtains mounted several inches above your actual windows, which draws the eye up and creates the illusion of a bigger home. All of these strategies — plus, the use of a smaller loveseat sofa and a tiny trunk as a coffee table — are exactly what make this stylish yet small Brooklyn studio look larger and more spacious.

9. Look to decor stores as inspiration.

Think of the room setups you see in stores like IKEA, West Elm, and Target—they’re great sources of small apartment living room ideas. If a home store vignette reflects the actual dimensions of your home, as in this artsy New York studio, you can simply replicate these ultra stylized setups.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

10. Get your reflection on.

Mirrors are one of the best ways to make your tiny space feel open and airy. That’s why Ayesha Curry and Parisa O’Connell chose to create this awesome optical illusion in their diminutive dwelling space. Our opinion? It totally works! 

Credit: Cathy Pyle

11. Fill ‘er up.

In a tiny space, you might be afraid of overwhelming things with too-large furniture, but oftentimes, if you go full throttle with a large sectional that hugs the walls, you’ll get a room that 1) seats a ton of people and 2) feels super welcoming and cozy. Take notes from this home we toured in the UK that fits a family of four.

Credit: Aivi Nguyen

12. Embrace the cozy eclectic look.

Another example of a tiny space embracing all things cozy for the better can be seen in this comfortable, sunny Philadelphia condo. Layer in an eclectic mix of objects and furnishings that are special to you, and you’ll be left with a living room full of colorful textures you’ll never want to leave.

13. Keep things linear.

To add to your list of small apartment living room ideas, try implementing varying geometric and linear prints, like the dramatic rug in this Houston apartment. This gives a small space a sense of structure while also providing the illusion of additional length and width.

Credit: Cathy Pyle

14. Invite tiny keepsakes & treasures into your space.

In this charming London living room, your attention is occupied and delighted by all the personal accents and accessories that draw you into each area of the little space.

Credit: Andrew Bui

15. Use color to define spaces.

When you’re trying to carve a living room out of a smaller studio space, you can always use color blocking to your advantage. This Brooklyn renter anchored her sofa with a hunter green wall, which makes the space that also contains her bed look like two separate rooms. She kept the look as airy as possible by restricting her living room furniture to the bare minimum — just a couch, coffee table, and two pretty magenta pink stools.

Credit: Minette Hand

16. Install a wall of books.

To turn a small living space into your favorite room, consider taking an empty wall and turning it into a top-to-bottom mini library. It’ll provide plenty of storage opportunities, but also makes such a statement and gives a luxe built-in effect. For an even more stylish push, pick a rich color, like the hunter green of this room, and add molding to polish off the custom look.

17. Don’t be scared of quirky set ups.

Just because this area’s called a “living room” doesn’t mean it can’t serve a purpose beyond just lounging. The roommates in this San Francisco apartment actually squeezed a washing machine in the corner of their living room. Although unexpected, the white unit almost blends into the space, since it’s close in color to the walls. It even features a fabric accent that matches the living room sofa.

18. Embrace less.

If you’re averse to clutter, just put the good bones of your living room on display. A perfect example is this light and airy Michigan apartment, which has the essential pieces of furniture and just a few select decor items. Sometimes less is more, especially when you have a beautiful fireplace, nice hardwood floors, and large windows that let in tons of light.

19. The power of the tuck.

The main goal of any small living space is always to use every area as efficiently as possible. And the area under your coffee table (considering yours doesn’t have shelving) can be prime real estate! Mimic the clever space from this wine country home, where poufs that serve as additional seating are tucked neatly beneath the coffee table.

Credit: Submitted by Dean Sameshima

20. Keep your space alive.

It’s no secret that plants add so much value to any room in the home, but you can really get creative with them in your living area. In a tour of her home via House Beautiful, Justina Blakeney shows off just that in her compact living room, and is smart about hanging greenery so as to avoid taking up any precious floor space.

Credit: Liz Calka

21. Double duty furniture.

This ultra creative Washington DC apartment uses furniture with a dual purpose to save on space. The coffee table is able to go from regular height to the height of a proper dining room table and can seat up to four guests, erasing the need for a separate eating nook and excessive pieces of furniture.

22. Add height with floor to ceiling draperies.

Floor-to-ceiling curtains are the quickest way to add instant height to any space. The trick is to hang them from right around where your wall meets your ceiling and let them slightly puddle on the ground. Light-colored sheer panels are designed this way, popping against a dark background in this Colorado home

23. Behold the power of threes.

Grouping items into threes is a great way to make a living room feel a bit bigger by adding more pieces to a space without taking up more real estate. (Not to mention, you can move smaller furnishings around as needed, as is the case in this Houston modern farmhouse-style home.)

Credit: Jill Ruzicka

24. K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, sweetie! When you don’t have a ton of room to play with but you want to inject some color, it’s best to keep it simple if you’re a newbie. Start with a foundation of neutrals and add in one feature color and one metallic and run with it, like this “joyfully minimal” Chicago space, which invites varying textures and finishes to add depth while remaining light and airy on the eyes.

25. Fit it all in.

Packing your teeny space with lots of purpose is another way to trick yourself into thinking things are bigger than they appear. In this Chicago studio apartment, the living room seamlessly connects to an office area, feeling cohesive and interesting.

26. Brighten up with white.

Nothing brightens and opens up a space like the color white can, which is why this technique is tops on our list of small apartment living room ideas. This coastal-reminiscent apartment in California shows how even the tiniest living rooms can look larger than life when decorated in a monochrome palette.

27. Layer your lighting.

This small Victorian living room feels big and spacious due in large part to tall ceilings and big windows, but also of note is the layered lighting. Keeping light at multiple levels (via floor lamps, chandeliers, and task lights) creates a moody yet well-lit room.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

28. Don’t overlook underused spots.

If you have windows in your tiny living room, put those windowsills to work holding books, plants and other decorative objects as in this sunny Brooklyn living room.

29. Go big with a rug.

A large rug like this one in the West Village apartment of Lee Lenox makes a tiny space feel much bigger than it actually is, according to Kuo.

Credit: Minette Hand

30. Go vertical.

Blankets are a must for a cozy living room experience. But when you’re short on space to store said blankets, you don’t have many options. Sure, you can stash them in a basket, but that takes up valuable floor space. A better option? A leaning ladder, as in this historic Charleston home.

Credit: Samara Vise

31. Skip the coffee table in place of an ottoman or pouf.

This space from Cup of Jo is by no means a small living room, but let’s pretend for a second that it is to learn a thing or two from it. See those two poufs on the other side of the coffee table? Those could easily swap in for the actual coffee table itself in a tighter space, which lends flexibility; crucial in a small space. Opting for ottomans or poufs over larger furnishings is a smart way to still have a spot to place a drink or remote but be able to move things easily around as you please (and of course, create more seating).

Credit: Anna Spaller

32. Thinking clearly.

Acrylic or glass furniture has long been a designer trick for small spaces. They serve a purpose (i.e., holding drinks, etc.) while basically disappearing into the space, as this coffee table does in this Providence, RI condo. The result is a room with all the function you need, but without all the visual clutter.

33. Be delicate.

Similar to the above trick, choosing accent furniture with delicate frames is another way to tone down the visual noise. This tiny seating living room (the home of content strategist Cole Wilson via One Kings Lane) feels full sized thanks to the delicate gold base and glass top coffee table, thin framed accent chairs and floor lamp.

34. Try matchy-matchy.

While some might tell you that all-white rooms are the key to stretching a small space, we’re here to tell you that no matter what paint you go with, the effect of color is a lot more nuanced than that.

A trick that always works, though, no matter what’s on your wall? Matching your drapes (bonus points if they’re sheer) to your wall. In this Montreal living room, white walls seem to go on forever as the visual line is not interrupted by different colored curtains. If you flip this and decide to go dark and moody, stick to draperies in equally dramatic tones for a super cohesive, polished look perfect for a small living room.