Seven Decorating Ideas for Small Living Rooms

April 12th, 2006 by

Decorating any apartment room can be difficult due to size constraints, but the living room poses a special challenge. It’s traditionally supposed to house giant furniture—a ten-section couch, a big-screen TV, large lamps, overstuffed armchairs, and long empty tables. You probably don’t want to carry these types of items up four floors to your apartment, and you probably wouldn’t have space for them once they got there, anyway. This article contains snazzy ideas for dressing up your small living room without using hulking behemoths for furniture items.

1. Think thematic

Picking a decorating scheme for a room is always a good way to start. You can focus on a favorite color, pattern, or style—rustic, classic, contemporary, or whatever else pleases you. Visit different furniture or home improvement stores for ideas, or browse design websites. There are millions of models for you to study out there—you’re not the first person to decorate a small living room. Online listings of furniture and decorating sites are your friends, as are Google, HGTV and About.com! And don’t be afraid to pick a non-traditional style. The living room is described as a “living” room for a reason—you’ll be spending lots of time in it, and if you decorate using a style you don’t love, you might not want to use your living room as much as you otherwise would. Whether you’re obsessed with giraffes, gemstones, or Kelly Clarkson, you can find a way to (subtly, of course) insert your individuality into a room. Although wallpapering the room with pictures of Kelly is not the best decorating technique, you can display books about her or use her favorite color in the room. Keep it individualized but not insane, and the theme you choose will help you create a unique and welcoming room that’s special to you—the person living there.

2. Stay small

A small apartment living room can easily be overwhelmed by excessively large furniture. Fortunately, many furniture stores and decorating services understand this, and offer a focus on smaller items for the apartment-dweller. If you do have a large piece of furniture, either keep it from dominating the room by adding colorful or unusual accent pieces, or give in let the large item be the focus.

While you need to fit the furniture to the room, do avoid creating a sense of clutter by using too many small items. If your living room has sufficient space, you may want to use two larger couches instead of four chairs or three loveseats. Efficiency is still a concern even in aesthetic matters, and your furniture and accessories need to fit the space they’re going to occupy. That being said, there’s no reason you can’t have one or two special pieces that operate on a different scale from the rest of the room. If most of your furniture is small and low, consider using a tall cabinet (to hold your television, perhaps), unusual lamp, or grandfather clock to add height and interest to the room. Attracting attention upward

3. Make it mirrored

Mirrors are a classic way to open up space in a room and make it appear larger. You can learn to use mirrors cleverly and avoid overwhelming a room with them. Mirrors function best not just by reflecting existing space, but by adding light to a room—a key element in making the room appear more expansive and inviting. Position mirrors so they reflect and enhance light sources or light-colored walls. Whether you’re using one large mirror or several small ones, the effect will be immediate, striking, and fantastic.

4. Arrange appropriately

After you choose your furniture, you’ll need to position it in a way that best organizes and accents your living room. Consider what activities you’ll use the living room for—Reading? Watching television? Conversing with friends? Make sure to provide areas equipped specifically for all the living room endeavors on which you’ll embark. Also keep in mind that you may need to walk through your living room (if it’s positioned between other rooms), and so you’ll have to leave “traffic flow” areas open accordingly. You may wish to position rugs over these high-traffic areas to help keep your carpet from wearing differently or being discolored due to heavy use. And rugs bring us to the most important part of decorating…

5. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Nobody, especially not you, wants to live in a “living” room that only holds furniture items. Where are the books, the lamps, the blankets, the conversation-sparking artifacts from your trip to Machu Picchu (or maybe to Massachusetts, if you’re not quite a world traveler)? Once you’ve established and arranged your furniture, it’s time to accessorize. To personalize the room, first use items that you already own. Why spend $80 on a book that Barnes & Noble labels a beautiful “coffee table” accessory when you already own several volumes that reflect your personality? Books are extra useful accessories because they provide visitors (and you!) the opportunity to interact and learn something. Small or unusual games like these Japanese puzzle boxes also make interactive and attractive accessories. Remember, your living room is for living in, not staring at—make it fun, functional, and fabulously decorated.

6. Wonderful wallflowers

Even where space is limited, walls aren’t—even the tiniest apartment offers plenty of wall space. Use it to your advantage by decorating walls with paint, wallpaper, fabric, or hanging items. And don’t just hang pictures—you can hang blankets, outfits, beads, and more, or consider putting up some shelves to showcase non-hangable items. You can even hang empty picture frames (perhaps with another unusual object hung inside) if the frame is attractive enough to merit it. If your furniture is sleek and simple, your walls can be the focal point of the room. However, if you’ve chosen to use heavily patterned furniture, or lots of colorful accent rugs and throw pillows, you’ll want to keep the walls somewhat neutral so as not to overwhelm the room. There can be a balance between cluttered and boring, but adding accessories or wall art is always easier than adding or replacing a piece of furniture. If your basic scheme is solid, you’ll have no trouble adding individual flourishes to it.

7. Live and learn (and live it up!)

The most important decoration for your living room is you. Without you living in it, your living room doesn’t serve its purpose. If you’ve finished decorating your living room and don’t spend much time in it, ask yourself why. Is it uninviting? Did you use the wrong colors? Is the furniture too close together, inspiring feelings of claustrophobia? Whatever the reason, fix any problems you can identify. Then ask yourself what motivates you to spend time in the rooms where you do hang out. Do you need a better light for reading? Do you need to add a table so you can engage in favorite activities like crafting or playing cards or board games? It’s your living room and it needs to meet your needs. If you’re not loving it, something needs to change. And that’s an important component of design: don’t be afraid to change.

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29 Responses to “Seven Decorating Ideas for Small Living Rooms”

  1. Guest Says:

    This has been one of the better sites I have been to that really allows for making the room better and not just saying- “find a focal point” thank you!!!

    Sarah A

  2. Guest Says:

    THANK YOU, very helpful

  3. Guest Says:

    interesting, helpful, & actually useful too!
    something to keep on file for future reference as well! thank you
    Kim curci
    ventura CA

  4. Guest Says:

    Ideas are good. Would like to see some ideas in photos.

    Can furniture be put in front of ugly old radiators.

  5. Guest Says:

    Very good ideas! Thanks

  6. Guest Says:

    I agree. I would like to see pics to view as a guide.

  7. Guest Says:

    This was so helpful, I had an idea in my head but couldnt put words to explain it, my husband actually found this site for me. Together we were able to decorate and know we love our living room.

    Thanks,
    Kahlers

  8. Guest Says:

    i am horrified by your site. i mean is it a site to show people. i could’nt find a single information in it. i am sorry to say but this is no site

  9. Guest Says:

    PHOTOS WILL MAKE THIS SITE SO SO MUCH MORE EXCITING. ITS A GREAT SITE BUT PICS WILL MAKE IT BETTER.
    THANKS FOR THE HANDY HINTS.Jahbah Kzn

  10. Guest Says:

    loved your ideas….would love to see them on pics
    Brea

  11. Guest Says:

    i want a idea for a really small room that connects into kitchen. i need some ideas and cheap , because i’m not rich

  12. Guest Says:

    The site is quite informative but some photos will help make it much more interesting.

  13. Guest Says:

    i guess u have a good idea.decorating is not really simple,especially for the beginners like me.but it would be more better if you can post some pics to look at.Fr.Butuan

  14. Guest Says:

    yawn!!

  15. Guest Says:

    Very handy, thank you.

  16. Guest Says:

    Decorating a small apartment, there are often two major concerns. The primary focus is almost always to give the impression that the room is larger than it actually is. Secondly, because you are renting, to be careful of any changes you are making.

  17. Guest Says:

    i just brought an apartment but no idea how to deco.
    finally this website will help. thank to you. can show some photos for referance?

    issac
    mas, kuala lumpur

  18. Guest Says:

    aren’t there any photos in hir???

  19. Guest Says:

    Site is somewhat informative- BUT- pictures would be nice

    MVD

  20. Guest Says:

    too much blah blahs…pics would be best. we’re talking design here!

  21. Guest Says:

    where is the beef? some pics would be nice

  22. Guest Says:

    i can appreciate more if you put some pictures on your site..

  23. Guest Says:

    ok i need help i have a one bedroom apartment and now i have a daughter and she’ll be one and i need so help on how should a decorate our bedroom without it being to overwhelming or child like hellllppp ideas please

  24. Sonia Says:

    AOA,

    i saw your tips for decoration but i am still confuse coz i have a living room middium size and haveing 3 windows in one wall have two doors one for outside and one for inside in which i have 2 sofa sets and one wood tables two corner tables one computer in it and one music system in it have off-white color of wall. will u plzzzzzzzzzz guide me how i can manage my setting of drawing room with less spending will u plz give me sm ideas as soon as possible coz m going to set it in two days.plzzzzzzzzzzzz help me out.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    i agree with all the above!!!

  26. Sylvia Says:

    Thank you for your excellent ideas. They were helpful to me. Now I have a better understanding on how to decorate my small living room.

  27. dustin Says:

    any good web sites with decorating ideas and examples?

  28. JG Says:

    I have a 17 x 13 room directly open off of the kitchen with an off centered fireplace. Beautiful molding all over the room and on ceileing in a linen white. Walls are painted carrington beige to keep it light and bright but still offer a slight contrast in color. TV has been installed above the fireplace. Great light but I am having difficulty finding the correct scaled furniture and arrangement. Suggestions????

  29. graceG Says:

    These are extremely useful ideas, it’ll be much better if there were photos of the ideas you’ve suggested. Anyways, what you said was right – don’t be afraid to make a change, if there’s something you don’t want in your living room.

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