Modern life requires that the main room of the home fulfill a multitude or functions – from offering somewhere to relax and dine to office space – so well-planned storage is the key to a practical and stylish scheme, especially if your living room is small.
Whether you opt for streamlined built-in cabinets or striking free-standing designs, our inspiring small living room storage ideas will help ensure this room meets every need.
For more small space ideas, see: Small living room ideas – clever ways to plan and decorate a smaller space
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 suggests opting for coffee tables and ottomans with plenty of space beneath or inside to help you declutter, while sofa beds 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 furniture is 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 maximise your home’s efficiency. Natalia Miyar, Design Director at Helen Green, 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 shelves can also inject a sense of spaciousness in compact rooms.
Small living room storage ideas
These are the very best small living room storage ideas. They will make your space feel neat and organized – but still warm, welcoming and elegant.
1. Keep clutter hidden behind closed doors
The ultimate fuss-free option, a wall of concealed storage is the perfect solution for those who don’t like clutter. Including an area of open shelving will prevent cupboards from overpowering a room. The space between the upper and lower sections of the cabinetry also makes an excellent spot for displaying occasional objects or framed photographs. Make the most of the ceiling height by fitting extra-tall cupboards and storing rarely needed items at the top.
2. 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 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, books, behind doors and 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.
3. Color coordinate
Paint is 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. 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.
See: Living room paint ideas – pretty ways with paint, and your questions answered
4. Put it on display
Shallow shelves, painted in the same shade as the walls appear to recede into the background so are ideal for exhibiting art. ‘Floating shelves have a contemporary look,’ says designer, Emma Sims Hilditch, which creates fitted living room storage.
‘Lighting concealed in the shelving can add focus, drawing attention to the treasures on display.’ Place small items in storage baskets or boxes that will fit on the shelves. This replaces clutter with points of calm on the shelves to give the eye a place to rest.
5. Use a niche corner
Converting an awkward alcove into a storage nook 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.
6. Create the perfect fit
Bespoke bookshelves and cupboards neatly fill the space around a chimney breast. This neutral living room scheme has been brought to life by the display of books, while the concealed storage at the lower level is practical.
7. 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, it’s open design allows light to flow freely through the space. The beauty of this type of storage is 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.
‘The modular concept means that the furniture can be adjusted to suit all circumstances and combined in a variety of ways,’ says Ian Weddell, chief executive officer of USM Modular Furniture. Make sure you room dividers are positioned in an area where they are not likely to get knocked, particularly with children around, and look for ones that can be connected to the ceiling to provide more support.
See: Grey living room ideas – for gorgeous and inspiring neutral schemes
8. 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.
9. Hide messy cables with a wall unit
Technology is an important factor in most living rooms, from Wi-Fi access to background music, and the trend is towards totally concealed solutions. Although many modern systems claim to be wireless, there’s no getting away from charging docks, routers and aerials, all of which require cables. To keep these hidden, incorporate dedicated spaces for all the media you use within your storage, specifying small insets in the backs of shelves and cupboards to allow cables to run behind fittings.
If you are fitting a wall of storage that incorporates a space for your television, allowing sufficient room should you decide to invest in a larger modern. Try not to create too big a gap, as your television will look awkwardly small.
10. Go for dramatic accents
Small living rooms need not shy away from bold colors. Dark 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.
11. 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.
12. Use small living room storage to add interest to an unused corner
A bookcase or storage unit can now come in an assortment of sizes, materials and colors or even be customized to fit with your own decoration. It is an invaluable piece of furniture and it can be used in any room of the house.
To create a little more interest on your wall look for asymmetrical designs and for trickier spaces there are many narrower options available, perfect for popping between two windows. Don’t feel compelled to just use them for books, they make the perfect display cabinet too.
13. Elevate your shelving
If floor space is at a premium, a wall-hung shelf could be the answer. Utilize the space above the couch to hand a single floating shelf. This is a great option for displaying your favorite artwork or objects, and it is a real feature in itself.
14. Keep clutter at bay with a trunk
With your living room acting as the heart of your home, it’s no wonder it can quickly become full of everyone’s bits and bobs. If you’re looking for a clever storage solution without compromising on style, consider choosing a trunk-style coffee table for the best of both worlds. Perfect for hiding everything from throws and blankets, to magazines and books, this multi-tasking table can hide away unsightly mess and act as a feature of your room.
15. Build storage into seating in small living rooms
Storage couches and benches have come a long way, with many designs today certainly not compromising good looks for the sake of extra stowaway spots. They can be particularly useful for keeping throws close to hand, or a quick place to tidy toys away into. If you’re not in the market for a new couch but your current model has legs, consider placing some low storage boxes underneath it in the same color or material, for a close-to-seamless look.
16. Invest in practical furniture
Make living room furniture work harder by choosing items that include storage. A coffee table with a shelf beneath will create an extra surface for stashing newspapers and remote controls out of the way. You can also create extra space on your coffee table for hot mugs of tea by relocating books and magazines to a shelf or cabinet.