The living room is a central gathering place in the home where we relax, entertain and spend long periods of time with friends and family. In order to make the best out of your small living room, your small living room storage ideas need to be clever and well thought out.
A compact room has to provide a place for your small living room ideas as well as have the same range of items as one with more generous proportions. There is a long list of things to make a home for, books, music, decorative pieces and perhaps kids toys and more - all need to be stored and displayed without creating a crowded and cluttered space or compromising the room’s style.
When planning a compact space, storage ideas should be a top priority. Whether you create built-in solutions or source freestanding designs, to help with your selection, we’ve gathered our top small living room storage ideas and asked the experts to share their insight, too.
Small living room storage ideas
These are the very best small living room storage ideas. They will make your space feel neat and help you organize a living room, but still keep it warm, welcoming and elegant.
1. Combine storage and seating
For many, seating in a living room takes up the majority of space. By combining your main seating furniture pieces with innovative storage elements you can create practical, multipurpose designs that are perfect for small living rooms.
In this living room by Kimberley Harrison Interiors (opens in new tab), the inviting sofa has a beautiful wooden frame that houses a range of draws and units for storage. The frame also creates a platform, much like a shelf, to rest and display items such as books, magazines and throws. The sofa becomes a central feature in this living room space, offering a versatile design with multiple uses.
2. Choose floor to ceiling storage units
Whether you make the most out of alcove ideas in your small living room and create custom shelving designs, or buy free-standing units, using floor to ceiling shelving systems can create a practical storage area that maximizes space.
'By using full height shelving systems instead of multiple cabinets you can free up floor space for seating elements and tables in your living room,' says Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief Lucy Searle.
Whether you want to use shelving systems to display books, or use designs with doors to conceal objects away, there are an array of options to choose from to suit your small living room space.
3. Zone the space
Simple but highly effective if you want to get the most out of your small living room, cleverly zoning the space and having designated areas for storage and seating can make the room feel organized, streamlined and more spacious.
In this living space, the cozy seating area is separate to the high shelving units and low storage cabinets, creating a distinct, zoned layout that cleverly embraces the irregular shape of this living room.
Looking to living room layout ideas and keeping certain storage units and furniture pieces away from your central seat space can create clever zones that make the room feel spacious and relaxed.
4. Use paint to elevate your storage designs
If you want to add an element of color and artistic design to your small living room space but have limited areas to hang artwork and wall décor, choosing colorful storage pieces can add both style and practicality to your small living room space.
'Whether you use paint ideas to elevate built in storage designs, or opt for a colorful sideboard or shelving unit, don’t be afraid of embracing color and pattern in your small living room,' says Jennifer Ebert, Homes & Gardens' Digital Editor.
Embracing color and character with your storage designs can effortlessly add personality to your small living room space without it feeling cluttered and overwhelming.
5. Create sleek alcove storage to correct a small room's proportions
By lifting these alcove storage cabinets off the floor in this small yet formal living room, the narrow proportions of the alcoves are somewhat mitigated. What's more, the proportions of the focal wall itself are corrected – had they been lined up with the top of the fire surround as is traditional, the room would have felt much taller and therefore narrower.
6. Pick a stand-out piece from your favorite era
Mid-century modern living room furniture is a design classic and will look stunning whether your home is period or more modern living room. The shape of a mid-century buffet lends itself well to small living room storage – they always have a mixture of drawers and cupboards – and of course the large top can be utilized well too.
What we love about this room is the juxtaposition of the glass and metal coffee table with the sideboard – two different eras and two different looks but they both work so well together.
7. Place mirrors behind storage to enhance space
This clever living room mirror trick is a really useful apartment living room idea for making small living room storage appear less bulky. Putting the mirrors behind the shelves enhances the light in the room, makes the alcoves seem wider and brighter, and also reflects the display on the shelves beautifully.
8. Use small living room storage to go broken-plan
We often mention utilizing the space each side of your fireplace and this is how you do it when it’s the main feature of a long living room or open plan space, as interior architect and furniture designer, Alison Henry (opens in new tab), explains:
‘In this mews project, the idea was to allow you to see the space architecturally – the full length, width and height – and to maximize the natural light living room ideas available. We managed to achieve this with the use of sliding pocket doors to give privacy when required, as well as bespoke shelving and storage either side of the chimney breast. The feature living room fireplace visually divides the space, conceals the AV requirements, and creates enough shelving for personal items such as photos, books, and decorative pieces.’
9. Build bespoke cabinetry to fit storage in a small living room
Bespoke cabinetry is brilliant for creating storage that is specifically tailored to your needs. Think about adding a full wall of large units in your living room.
A living room TV in the middle surrounded by storage is a practical solution and can be softened with the addition of books and favorite pieces. Put some storage, such as DVDs, paperwork and books, behind doors. When planning lighting for a small living room, try lighting open shelves and niches for more decorative items.
'A fitted unit will provide 30 to 40 per cent more storage than a comparable free-standing piece, but the size of the units you choose should depend entirely on the space. Avoid anything too bulky in a small room,’ says Barbara Genda, founder, Barbara Genda Bespoke Furniture (opens in new tab).
10. Color coordinate your display
Clever living room paint ideas are a great way to make a small space feel much larger. Help shelves to recede back into the wall by painting them the same shade as the wall behind. When decorating small spaces, group similar items together in categories or you risk the shelves looking too busy in the room. Only display things that you find attractive to look at.
11. Make the most of existing features
If your property is old it will no doubt have characterful nooks and crannies for storage. They may be strange spaces with wonky shelving and awkward living room corners inside, but use them nonetheless.
You can give them a new lease of life by covering the panelling in fabric or living room wallpaper, or put in glass so you can see your wares through it.
12. Choose slimline small living room storage to enhance space
The design of a classic lamp table is important in a small living room. If you want to create a spacious feel then choose a design that doesn't have a solid body – if you can see through it, it won’t take up space visually and will help to make that corner feel bigger. It’s all about tricking the eye.
13. Use a niche corner
Converting an awkward alcove into a storage or reading nook idea can transform dead space into a bijou library. Add a door if you are looking for a more streamlined effect or simply enjoy the colorful interest that the spines of the books provide. Any carpenter should be able to fit shelves in this style.
14. Introduce symmetry for neatness
Using symmetry in interior design is guaranteed to create a feeling of balance and harmony. Embracing symmetrical storage designs in your small living room can enhance the feeling of space and make the room feel organized and tidy.
The two shelving units in this living room elegantly frame the beautiful bay window and create a practical storage and display area for books and ornaments. The units are further complemented by the matching side tables and table lamp designs either side of the sofa, creating a sophisticated and cohesive look.
15. Create the perfect fit
Bespoke bookshelves and cupboards neatly fill the space around a chimney. But custom furniture can also work around more awkward architectural features such as sloping ceilings, says Philipp Nagel, director of Neatsmith (opens in new tab). ‘Choosing bespoke not only creates furniture that completely fits the space in your home but it also maximizes all the available storage opportunities,’ he explains.
This neutral living room color scheme has been brought to life by the display of books, while the concealed storage at the lower level is practical.
16. Create a one-off look with modular living room storage
A free-standing unit doubles as a room divider, creating a discreet office in this living area – its open design allows light to flow freely through the space. The beauty of this type of small living room storage idea is that it offers a tailor-made solution without the price tag of a bespoke design. Not only can it be put together to fit any size of room, but a statement piece can also act as a work of art.
17. Add an ornate cabinet
An elegant dresser brings a boldly decorative silhouette to any room. It complements furniture with clean, modern lines to give an on-trend, old-meets-new feel. Glass-fronted display storage requires an ordered approach; use the visible shelves for accessories and conceal practical pieces in the drawers.
18. Go for dramatic accents
Small living rooms need not shy away from bold colors. Dark living room ideas and shades add flair and provide instant impact. Opting for wall-to-wall shelving in a strong color will provide a focal point for the whole room. Use a soft backdrop of taupe to keep the scheme understated while allowing furniture to sing out.
19. Have furniture made to fit
Make use of the width of a whole wall with bespoke shelves, which mixes display shelves with closed cubbies, so you can show off decorative items and hide away everyday mess, too.
Plus, with a bespoke design, it’s easy to coordinate it to the style of the room with small details such as wood coving or trims, or help it blend into the wall by using a uniform color.
20. Elevate your shelving
If living room floor space is at a premium, a wall-hung shelf could be the answer. Utilize the space above the couch to hang a single floating shelf or a gallery wall. This is a great option for displaying your favorite artwork or objects, and it is a real feature in itself.
21. Install a window seat – with storage
Window seats are a brilliant small living room storage solution.
Tara Benet (opens in new tab), a New York-based interior designer, explains their best asset: 'Window seats are an attractive way to integrate hidden storage. This is especially true for certain spaces that double up as playrooms or home offices, where there is lots of clutter that needs to be stowed away.'
For quick, regular access, have doors built into the front of the window seat; for storage that's hidden, design in a lift-up lid beneath cushions. In both cases, dividers or shelves within the window seat will help make the storage truly versatile.
22. Hideaway a home office in small living room storage
With the doors shut on this home office unit it looks like a normal cabinet, perfectly at home in a living space; open them and you have a fully-functioning home office.
23. Pick a color theme in an open-plan space
If your living space is open-plan and compact, it's really important to keep a theme running between the spaces. The easiest way to do this is to pick the best living room color schemes, materials or even furniture eras with which to furnish your space, as in the room above.
Doing so will create cohesion and blur the divisions between the zones, creating the feeling of an overall, much larger space.
24. Plan storage for kids’ toys
In a home with young kids, it’s imperative that small living room storage ideas include solutions that suit their belongings. Shelves that accommodate boxes and baskets can be a sound option, allowing you to take these containers down to tidy what’s strewn across the floor and furniture when little ones have gone to bed then slide their belongings back out of the way over night.
Emma Deterding, founder and creative director of Kelling Designs (opens in new tab), recommends custom floor-to-ceiling storage for any compact living room. ‘It will add a sense of grandeur and height, whilst allowing you to display personal touches, decorative items and even plants,’ she says.
You could also opt for a stylish storage basket to hold their toys, and no one would even know that they're there once cleared away from the floor.
25. Swerve hefty storage furniture
Pay attention to the design of freestanding storage furniture for a small living room. On legs, this sideboard allows views from wall to wall, helping to keep the family room feeling open and airy. Its curvaceous design has a further benefit, creating welcome additional space for passage through a small room.
If you’re opting for tall cabinets instead of a buffet, think glass-fronted versions to make the room visually wider; furniture with open shelving has the same benefit.
286Swap a coffee table for a trunk
While a coffee table with a shelf below will provide storage for a small living room, to size up stash space, go for a trunk. With lots of room inside, it can swallow up a whole lot of living room essentials, while its top offers an area for display as well as setting down glasses and cups.
‘Be mindful that one of these is a better option for storing items you don’t need access to daily – for example, you might keep summer pillows there during the winter months,’ says Lucy Searle, Global Editor in Chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘For frequently used pieces, a coffee table with a shelf is more convenient.’
27. Combine open and closed storage
For most of us, small living room storage ideas should include cabinets and open options such as shelves and cubbyholes.
‘Think carefully about what you want to store or display and the ease of access,’ when planning suggests Rachal Hutcheson, national retail manager of Sharps (opens in new tab). ‘For instance, if you wanted to build a cupboard for book storage or music it would be prudent to think about the heights of the objects and if you need to create pull-outs in order to access each layer.’
28. Select versatile storage furniture
Bear in mind the temporary storage needs as well as the permanent ones when planning small living room storage. A coffee table usually fills some of this role, providing a place to conveniently set down glasses, cups, books, tablets, and cell phones, for example, but it can prove difficult to fit into a small living room, reducing circulation space.
Instead, why not go for a nest of tables? It will have a smaller footprint and individual tables can be moved alongside seating as required.
How do I create storage in my small living room?
Whether you crave a more clutter-free, minimal interior or simply want some extra spots to stash away occasional items or everyday detritus, it can sometimes be hard to work out where to store the seemingly never-ending accumulation of household items.
And if your living space is small, or you have little in the way of built-in storage, it can sometimes be hard to see how to improve things without spending some serious money
Take time to plan your furniture, considering the functions you need and use the most. Going bespoke will allow for a totally tailored finish, but you’ll also find stylish options on the high street.
In living spaces, opt for pieces that can double up as a discreet study area with a pull-out desk. Mila Podiablonska of Absolute Interior Décor (opens in new tab) suggests opting for coffee tables and ottomans with plenty of space beneath or inside to help you declutter, while the best sleeper sofas are great multi-functional pieces.
Try to avoid over-cluttering an area – if a modest unit is all that will fit, don’t try to put too much in and make the most of it as a feature without filling the wall space above or to the side. The aim is to make the best of the space available to you, adding maximum storage but without eating into your room too much.
With that in mind, take stock of what items need to be stored and have a ruthless clear out. Bear in mind your budget as well, as you might not want to invest in beautiful built-in shelving if you are not planning to stay in your present home long-term.
Be realistic about what will suit the room and your purse and make it a worthwhile investment.
What storage should every small living room have?
In small living rooms, hard-working living room furniture ideas are a must. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that combine practicality with aesthetic appeal, from concealed storage to streamlined shelving.
Don’t shy away from making a big statement in a small space. Striking furniture will make an impact and hard-working pieces that conceal storage or double up on function will maximize your home’s efficiency. Interior designer Natalia Miyar (opens in new tab) suggests a bold approach. ‘Proportion is so important; I like to use large-scale furniture as it makes a space seem bigger and more luxurious,’ she says.
‘The key is to choose carefully. Buy a few large, impactful pieces rather than cluttering a space with lots of small items.’ Bespoke or standalone shelving is a simple way of creating storage, as well as acting a room divider. Open living room shelving ideas can also inject a sense of spaciousness in compact rooms.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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