For many, a dream living room would no doubt be an expansive and light space with big sash windows, an inglenook fireplace and floor-to-ceiling French doors at one end. Unfortunately, this dreamy depiction is not always indicative of common reality as we find ourselves restrained to rented properties with green carpets, shared housing with less-than-appealing living rooms or small first home buys – where the living room often doubles up as a dining room when friends and family come to visit. Even beautiful thatched cottages – although wonderfully adorned with irreplaceable traditional character – are not known to boast large and airy rooms.

But, despite common misconceptions, a small living room does not have to result in a cramped, cluttered and unwelcoming space. It should be a room to relax in, catch up on the latest Netflix series, listen to the radio, read the Sunday papers, talk with friends and play board games. So, in a bid to maximise space and light, we’ve devised a list of tips and tricks to help ensure your living room – whatever its size – becomes a bright and inviting one!

subtle storage solutions

Perhaps you’ve downsized, or you’ve moved into a new house that is lacking essential cupboard space. Having a tidy and clutter-free living room will play a huge part in how big it feels, so ample storage space is essential. Opt for storage solutions that serve a double purpose – cushioned seating with handy baskets for storing kids’ toys and shoes,  can also be used as a comfy perch for visiting guests. If you have high ceilings or an awkward wall space, utilise this by fitting a series of floating shelves. Be careful not to let these get too cluttered though (not always easy!) – read our top tips for styling shelves.

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lighter furniture

It’s important to really think about the furniture you’re using in your living room if it’s a bit on the small side. Lighter furniture – both in weight and colour – will help to open out your space and ensure it feels less cluttered, cramped and constricted. Although a 3-piece sofa set is comfy, it’s not always practical, or indeed necessary. Think about your table selection too. A nest of tables offers a wonderful alternative to one big coffee table if you’re really struggling for space.

Lighter fabrics can make a big difference when creating a brighter space too – which, coincidentally, feeds nicely into the next point: colour.

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light & bright

If you’re looking to redecorate a smaller living space, colour will help to set an important precedent for the whole room. We’re frequently told that white helps to deceive the eye and will make a room feel bigger, and yet too much of it can reduce it to feeling much more clinical and stark. Using subtler and more neutral tones – creams, warm greens and blues, and blush pinks –  will all help to add softness and warmth.

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tactile textures

Similar to a neutral colour palette, opting for natural and lighter textures will help to add a warm and welcoming ambience. While long curtains will help to elevate your living space by drawing the eye upwards, cushions, throws and rugs will help to create a feeling of cosiness. Make the most of traditional features – a bay window presents a wonderful window seat (and a great spot for reading!), while an open staircase offers the perfect nook for a cosy home office or modest library.

characterful coffee tables

  If you have a handy spot in front of the sofa for a coffee table – opt for one with plentiful storage. Drawers and shelving present a wonderful opportunity to store those tangled media wires, homework books and interiors magazines, without cluttering up your living space.

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maximising light

Of course, making your living space feel and appear brighter is key to making it seem bigger – and more inviting too. Large mirrors present an affordable and simple deception – place above the fireplace or on the opposite wall to a big window to reflect plenty of natural sunlight. While you don’t want your guests to feel as though they’re sitting uncomfortably in a dentist’s chair, you want to give the illusion of a bigger space so good lighting will help to assure this. If you’re tight on floor space, replace floor-standing lamps with table lamps or wall and ceiling fittings.

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Taking time to think and carefully plan out your small living space will help to ensure it doesn’t become overly dark or cramped. Hone in on its best bits – the high ceilings, if it’s south-facing or has bay windows – as these can all be monopolised to your advantage. Concentrate on light and bright textures and fabrics, and neutral colour palettes which will help to reflect more sunlight – making the room appear deceptively bigger than it really is.

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Subtle storage solutions will help to keep your living room organised, tidy and clutter-free, so utilise those awkward and small spaces.

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