Shea McGee swears by this piece of furniture as a small space must-have

Plus, Shea shares how she makes kid-friendly choices when accessorizing an ottoman

A side by side of a living room with an ottoman and Shea McGee's headshot
(Image credit: Studio McGee / Getty Images)

Arranging furniture in a small space can prove quite the challenge – it's easy to overfill a cramped living room, but access to ample seating and storage is nevertheless a must. If you're struggling with how to keep your space compact yet chic, no matter the size, you're certainly not alone.

Luckily, interior designer Shea McGee just shared how she maximizes space (and style) in small rooms and awkward corners – and the secret is quite simple. In a recent YouTube video, Shea shows off just how much an ottoman can add to a space, plus how to style one for a kid-friendly home. Here's why the designer thinks adding an ottoman is one of the best space-saving tricks out there, plus how to make one work in any room of the house.

Ottomans serve so many functions, making for stylish seating and accessory storage both. Easily customizable to your unique design aesthetic, an ottoman can add a stunning pop of color or pattern, or blend in with the rest of the room. 

Shea says these pieces are great for small spaces because they cater to so many needs at once, and can be easily rearranged on a whim. You can quickly add extra seats to a small living room or maximize storage with a relatively small purchase.

'I love an ottoman in small spaces because it's really, really easy to change up the function. One, they're comfortable to put your feet on, you can add a little pattern. But also, if you put a tray on the top, you can add a surface for placing drinks and accessories,' she says.

White living room with darker accents

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

Placing a tray atop an ottoman makes for easy accessorizing, and ensures any decorative items, books and magazines, or drinks you decide to display stay put. But Shea says a tray is a practical addition to an ottoman or small table as well – especially for those with small children (or pets).

'I'm often asked how to take an ottoman and make the styling more kid-friendly. I always start with a tray. Here, for a photo shoot, we have the glass vase and flowers, but if you have toddlers like I do, I'd probably remove the glass vase. I'd put a stack of coffee table books, and then I'd put a dish or something that has more of a metal surface so that when Margot goes up and rings the bell, it's going to be OK,' she says.

How you style your ottoman is completely up to you – whether you prefer a clean slate, or like to layer on the decorative accessories, the surface will serve an important purpose. Small enough to be tucked away when not needed and light enough to be rearranged by nearly anyone, an ottoman proves a mainstay in any kid-friendly living room.

Although a classic in any living room, ottomans are clearly a good call if you're finding it difficult to arrange items in a smaller space. Pick out your favorite decorations or kick back and relax – there's no wrong way to make one work in your home.

Abby Wilson
News Writer

I am a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, with a focus on interior design. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.