For many inhabitants of studio apartments and small homes, the question is not just how to make the living room furniture layout work; it's how to make it all work in a way that serves ten purposes while still leaving room to breathe. A living room is often the hub of a house, but when it’s cramped and narrow, choosing and arranging furniture can feel like an impossible math problem. The good news is that it’s possible to have a small living room that can do it all and still feel (relatively) spacious.
One key to maximizing the potential of a small living room is carefully selecting furnishings that fit the space and can serve multiple purposes. Another important part of the process is getting creative with your layout and finding ways to arrange your furniture to make use of every square foot, even those awkward corners. From there, you’ll want to choose decor, such as art and mirrors, that adds personality without taking up space. Whether you’re starting from scratch in a new space or are feeling cramped in your current living room, there’s a solution to your woes. We’ve gathered the best small-living-room ideas to help you make the most of your space. Read on to get style tips from the pros and find inspiration for your small space.
Accentuate the Room’s Best Features
New York interior designer Christina Murphy approaches a small living room strategically: “Assessing the room’s assets and making those the focal point as much as possible is the best way to make the room appealing,” she says. If it’s got great light, play that up with lighter colours to create a sense of expansiveness; if it has a stunning fireplace, draw attention to it.
Scale Down Furniture
In a narrow living room, every piece of furniture matters. Choose leaner tables and wall sconces to save much-needed floor space. For seating, tight-back sofas and club chairs are your friends, says Murphy: “They can be a lot less deep than loose-back options while still being just as comfortable.” Consider wall-mounted shelves and a floating desk over bulky bookcases and workstations.
Get Creative with the Layout
Limited space challenges you to think beyond seating conventions. “I love built-in banquettes since they’re efficient, maximizing space and conversation areas,” says Murphy. If the room is narrow but also long, she recommends placing sofas back-to-back to allow for two seating areas.
Use Decor to Add Visual Interest
“Having several different lighting sources at different heights will draw your eye to different areas of the room, making it feel bigger and more interesting,” says Murphy. She also recommends adding a larger attention-getter to balance scale, such as a piece of art or built-in bookshelves. Try an eye-catching gallery wall or artwork or mirrors, or add a bold accent wall or wallpaper.
Float a Selection of Furniture
In any room that's tight on space, it's tempting to push all big furniture up against the walls to create a kind of pool of open flooring in the middle. But while useful for doing cartwheels—and there is some real liberation in being able to do just that—the space would be put to better use serving a function. In the living room of social media savant Amy Stone, the design team at One Kings Lane opted to float the couch across from two wicker-and-chrome chairs in the middle of the room, transforming the heart of it into a space for conversation.
Try Café-Style Seating
If you've ever tried eating dinner at a coffee table, you know it really isn't possible unless you don't mind being hunched over so far, your nose touches your knees. But a single person—or even a pair of people—doesn't need a massive dining room table to suit their needs on a daily basis. If your living room needs to also serve as the dining room, consider a round café table with two chairs. It can easily be pulled out from the wall to fit four in the event of a dinner party just by adding two folding chairs.
Fashion a Desk from a Console
Besides being the picture-perfect place to stash another bit of seating, a console that's wide enough can also serve as a desk without looking like one. By day, stack it with books and a lamp, and maybe even your keys when you arrive home; by night, settle down at that ottoman you snuck beneath it for a bit of highly glamorous bill-paying.
Delineate Functions Using Rugs
To visually set apart that floated sitting area in the middle of the room from the room's other functions, Amy Stone's design team chose a rug just larger than the couch and matching chairs. The edge of that rug doesn't extend all the way to the walls as you'd expect; instead, the café table dining area and console/desk sit outside of its edges. The line visually cues that you're moving from one "zone" into another, which keeps the furniture from feeling like a jumble.
This article originally appeared on Architectural Digest