How can you add extra seats to a small living room?

Interior designers reveal how to add extra seats to a small living room to host a crowd in comfort

living room with cream sofa and upholstered coffee table
(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

There are certain fundamentals when it comes to living room ideas. For a start, how you plan to use the space – for example, will it be a cozy snug, a seating area within an open-concept layout, or room for entertaining family and friends?

Whatever the answer, your seating is key. The living room is where we lounge in front of the fireplace, curl up with a book, and chat with our loved ones and guests. If your living room is on the small side, chances are you will have already factored in furniture that makes the best use of the limited space. 

That's fine for everyday living, but what about the occasions when you need to seat more people? This is when you need to get even more creative with your small living room ideas to blend your furniture choices with functionality and style.

How can you add extra seats to a small living room?

Nobody wants their small living room to seem like an obstacle course, with the flow interrupted by furniture blocking the space. But rest assured, there are many ways to add extra seats to a small living room without compromising on style. 

'You can layer ottomans and benches under cocktail tables or console tables to add seating in a small space,' suggests Karen Wolf of Karen B Wolf Interiors in New Jersey. 'Build in window seats if possible. And also consider dividing the room into separate areas to create a more functional use of space. Swivel chairs are a great choice to toggle between seating vignettes, and upholstered cocktail ottomans also add seats.'

Take a look at our ideas for adding extra seats to a small living room, provided by some of our favorite interior designers.

1. Add in multifunctional furniture

two chairs in front of fireplace with small footstool

(Image credit: Design Lines Signature)

We asked the experts how to design a living room when you want additional seats in a compact space.

'We love incorporating multifunctional furniture in a small space for extra seating,' says Catherine Staples, Principal Designer at Aspen & Ivy full service interior design firm in Toronto. 'For example, in one of our projects, a cozy log chalet, our client wanted to max out seating in their small living room. Our solution was to place two swivel stools in front of the fireplace for extra seating. When they weren't in use as seating, these stools could be used as footrests for nearby sofas and chairs.'

In the room above, created by Design Lines Signature for the Beacon Street development in North Carolina, an upholstered footstool can offer service as an impromptu perch in front of the fireplace – a simple but effective living room layout idea.

2. Build in a bench seat

window with bench seat below

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

The space beneath a window, or in the recessed bay of a window, is prime real estate in a small living room.

'Bench seating beneath a window can work really well here,' agrees Louise Wicksteed, Design Director at Sims Hilditch. 'It adds a cosy additional space to sit in a smaller sitting room without taking up valuable floor space.'

Designed well, a bench will provide space beneath the seat for baskets or boxes to enhance your living room storage ideas. Alternatively, a window seat can have storage built-in, hidden beneath the hinged seat, making it the ultimate in multipurpose furniture.

3. Choose an upholstered coffee table

living room with extra seats in front of fire and upholstered coffee table

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Don't forget the comfort factor when it comes to providing extra seats in a small living room – even if they are to be used for only a short time, you want people to feel welcome and at ease.

'In place of a hard surface where a coffee table would sit, one idea is to incorporate an upholstered bench or low stool, which again can duo as additional seating in the room when needed,' explains Catherine Staples from Aspen & Ivy. 'A tray can easily be placed on the bench to allow guest to set their drinks on a hard surface.'

You can go even further by including an ottoman, as this will provide a place to stash magazines and remote controls when not in use.

'Including an upholstered ottoman instead of a coffee table can provide a great place for guests to perch, and has the capacity for extra storage space beneath it,' agrees Louise Wicksteed from Sims Hilditch.

When the coffee table isn't in use, you can use it to create a focal point in a cozy space with some clever coffee table styling ideas.

4. Put a club fender around the fireplace

Pink living room with fireplace and club fender

(Image credit: Salvesen Graham / Simon Brown)

One living room trend that's having a resurgence is the club fender and it makes a great addition to your living room fireplace ideas. An upholstered fender can be somewhere to warm your toes when it's chilly, or a cute perch at a cocktail party when you're hosting friends.

Combined with an upholstered footstool and an occasional chair that can be pulled into the space when extra seats are needed, it's a clever way to incorporate additional seating without it dominating a small space and to maximize your cozy living room ideas.

5. Make the most of an alcove

living room with blue armchairs blue ottoman and white sofa in bay window

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

The main seating area of this living room, designed by Sims Hilditch, is around the fireplace, but it's not the only place to relax in the space. The bay window has been used as a nook to house an additional sofa. This is a great option for a family living room, as it introduces flexibility to the space. You could have some members of the family reading on the couch, while others gather around the fire.

You could take a similar approach to an alcove next to the fireplace, or to your living room corner ideas, to find space for additional seating that doesn't intrude into the main part of the room.

Should furniture be the same height in a small living room?

Not all furniture has to be the same height, even in a small living room where creating a clean and cohesive scheme is key in order not to overwhelm the space.

Karen Wolf of Karen B Wolf Interiors is often asked should living room furniture be the same height. 'You might have the furniture in the middle section of the room at one height, while the perimeter pieces are higher to help frame the central area of the room,' she explains.

'There are no rules to heights of furniture, except that you really do not want a coffee table that is higher than the seat height or a side table extensively higher than the arms of a chair for ease of use. 

Most of the time we are using judgment as to the best scale in a room. Typically, we would use higher chairs to anchor a room (closer to the fireplace) but this is not a given.'

Andrea Childs

Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title