Small living room ideas for apartments – 12 ways to enhance the feeling of space

Supersize your space with our top tips to make the smallest of rooms feel perfectly proportioned and packed with clever design tricks

If you have ever had to decorate a small living room apartment, then you’ll be more than aware of the tricky task of making it look wider than it actually is, while desperately trying to make every corner look cozy. These small living room ideas for apartments will help you to achieve the space of your dreams.

Though small apartments and studios can present challenges, there are several benefits to compact living. A well-designed scheme can feel just as comfortable as a larger space, with all the coziness and comfort associated with family living. One of the main advantages is the convenient accessibility of everything that’s needed. Easy maintenance is another bonus.

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Davide Lovatti

HOW CAN I DECORATE MY LIVING ROOM IN A SMALL APARTMENT?

Homes that are short on space can still be big on style. A carefully designed studio apartment that incorporates plenty of concealed storage and furniture that is tailored to the space can achieve a sense of comfort and convenience that belies a modest square footage.

Select furniture pieces that are in proportion to the size of your room – oversized cabinets, sofas and chairs can make a small room feel narrow. Furniture that is the same color as your walls tends to blend into the wall, making it look wider and make sure you arrange your furniture at an angle to create a sense of depth to the room.

Consider finishing the walls in polished plaster, a material that reflects light and increases visual perception of space. Any other reflective decorative surfaces, such as patinated mirrors, silver leaf or lacquer will make the space seem bigger too.

When decorating a small room, create a focal point – one area or feature that will draw the eye, so there’s less emphasis on the room’s layout. In the living room, it will most likely be the sofa or coffee table so make sure that focal point is the star of the room.

Photography: Davide Lovatti

For more small space ideas, see: Small living room ideas – 15 ways to plan and decorate a smaller space

SMALL LIVING ROOM IDEAS FOR APARTMENTS

1. DECORATE WITH A MONOCHROMATIC COLOR SCHEME

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Richard Powers

A monochromatic color scheme, using different tones of the same color, will help to make the furniture and other features recede and appear to take up less space. Soften the palette by adding a warm gray blue rather than a harsh black or white.

2. KEEP FLOORING SIMPLE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Brent Darby

Flooring should be unfussy so it blends into the background. Plain neutral carpet works well in a small living room apartment. Going without a rug will also open up the floor space.

3. USE THE SAME COLOR PALETTE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: David Lovatti

Create the illusion of higher ceilings by painting walls and floors, woodwork and even fireplaces all the same color, this provides a seamless space where your eyes are not stopped by a change in color, thus giving the illusion of more space. Paint low ceilings brilliant white or a lighter tone of the same color that’s used on the walls to create the illusion of height. You can add color with soft furnishings and accessories.

4. GO FOR ONE LARGE PIECE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Emma Lewis

Choose one large-scale piece – a large-scale artwork, an oversized lampshade or a wall to ceiling mirror. By choosing carefully these large accessories will draw attention away from the lack of space and focus the eye onto other things.

See: Small living room storage ideas – 16 ways to clear the clutter in a compact space

5. PLAY WITH SCALE

Small living room ideas for studios

Photography: Rachel Smith

Carefully consider which furniture would work best in a small living room apartment. Adding clear, or hi-shine, perspex chairs or a glass coffee table will give the room the feeling of more air and space. Light will bounce around glass furniture and glossy surfaces, so plenty of shiny and mirrored furniture and accessories will make a room feel larger.

6. INVEST IN SPACE-SAVING FURNITURE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Davide Lovatti

Use shelves for items you really want to display, floor to ceiling shelving will make good use of all the space you have at your disposal, and keep everything off the floor.

7. CONSIDER ARMLESS FURNITURE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Jonathan Gooch

Opt for armless chairs and sofas and consider a corner unit sofa to create a more open feel. Not only space-saving, armless pieces will give you the opportunity to reposition your furniture more frequently in a variety of combinations. An arm may not seem bulky, but when it is not there the room appears cleaner, sleeker and less cluttered.

8. UTILISE REFLECTION AND SHINE

Small living room ideas for apartments

Photography: Davide Lovatti

Try using silks, satins and velvets on upholstery and soft furnishings, this soft shimmer and shine will add to the feeling of space, and instil a sense of understated luxury into a small living room apartment.

9. MATCH WOODWORK TO WALLS

Photography: Richard Powers

Make a living room feel larger by painting the walls and woodwork in the same shade. If you’re brave enough, paint the ceiling in a brighter shade as well to make the room feel taller. As long as your ceiling is painted in a paler color than your walls, no matter what the color, your ceilings will feel higher, helping a narrow room feel more spacious

10. HANG A MIRROR

Photography: Davide Lovatti

Not surprisingly, mirrors can make a room look larger. Hang a large mirror on a wall opposite a window or very near one to reflect the outdoors, broadening the feel of your room. Mirrors reflect both natural and artificial light to make a room brighter during the day and night and they bounce light deep into the room, making it appear larger.

11. CLEAR THE CLUTTER

Photography: Davide Lovatti

The key to compact living is to be exceptionally well organized. ‘In my experience, small spaces can actually transform personal habits for the better, as they require careful editing and storage,’ advises Irina Townsend, Keir Townsend. Make sure you keep your room tidy and organized by removing toys, plants, knickknacks and other unnecessary items, and your space will instantly feel bigger and more pleasant to be in.

12. MAKE A STUDIO STAND OUT 

Photography: Richard Powers

Try to create the feel of rooms within a room, by invisibly dividing your living area into key spaces to accommodate separate living, work, and sleeping zones, unified by a consistent color palette and flooring throughout. Consider storage systems with pull down beds in small studios, to make the most of your living space during the day, while larger spaces will benefit from a sliding door system to divide living and sleeping zones.

Be inspired by these small living room ideas, see: Small living room lighting ideas – enhance a compact space with a well-lit plan

HOW DO I ARRANGE LIVING ROOM FURNITURE IN A SMALL APARTMENT?

You’ve probably spent hours rearranging furniture in a frenzied attempt to make your small apartment or studio look larger, but in the back of your mind you know that unless you knock down the walls and rebuild the room from scratch, there’s just nothing you can do.

Furniture can be a cumbersome business, especially in small living rooms so it pays to arrange and buy items correctly. One great way to make the most of a smaller space is by using multi-function furniture, like a chest that can be used as a coffee table, nest of tables, beds with drawers for storage, extendable dining tables, and folding chairs that can be tucked away when you don’t need them. Another important pointer is to place large pieces of furniture against walls so the open space in the middle is not broken up.

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