To say I have experience in navigating tight quarters is an understatement! Our house is by no means large and at 6 x 4 m our living/ dining room is the average size of a single garage. I’ve been slowly decorating our space for the last year and thought that I could pass on my experience and maybe help someone else along the way. As a caveat, I want to add that I am not a trained decorator (only passionate) and that each room is unique, but I do think these 8 decorating tips for a small living room can be useful to you.
1. Consider the room’s function
Before my husband and I moved into our own spot, one of the things I was most looking forward to was hosting loads of dinner parties with friends. And as our weeknight routine mostly consists of Netflix and chill, a comfortable TV-couch situation also needed to happen.
Taking the time to think about how you want to use a room can really help you narrow down what pieces you need and what you can forgo. We decided to eschew the typical L-shaped couch for a bigger diningroom table that can comfortably seat up to eight people. I think it is important to decorate according to how you plan on using your space 90% of the time and not for the once-a-year family reunions that require ten thousand seats!
2. Consider future uses
This ties in with the first step, but I think it is always worth just quickly envisioning whether a room’s function might change over the next few years. Are you perhaps already planning on expanding the spare bedroom into a dining room? Or would your home office one day have to make way for a nursery? This certainly shouldn’t detract from how you use your space right now, but in the planning (and buying phase) this could inform some decisions.
As smaller spaces are often transitional living spaces, you should also spare a thought as to whether you’ll still want something if your living space increased in size.
3. Start working on your layout
Once you know which pieces you need, it is a good idea to start playing with layout to find the perfect scale. I always like the idea of creating a scaled blueprint and cut outs of the furniture pieces you’d like to add. Remember to draw in your door openings and to indicate windows.
Start with your bigger pieces like dining tables and couches. Try to play around with different layouts, until you find something that works. Try not to arrange everything against one wall and be sure to leave enough space for foot traffic.
Although the most obvious choice in a smaller apartment is to down scale, I have to say this is one rule that really was meant to be broken! Nothing makes a room feel more dated (and in most cases even smaller!) than a tonne of smaller pieces of furniture. I like to make use of a combination of larger/regular scale pieces and smaller ones.
In a living/dining room, I’d say you should use a standard sized couch and dining room table. These will anchor your room and are often also investment pieces, which will move with you to your next home.
I’ll then add smaller coffee tables, side tables and slim chairs to complement you room and to prevent it from feeling like the room shrunk around the furniture.
5. Furniture weight
Don’t confuse a piece’s scale with its visual weight. A regular sofa floating upon dainty legs can take up less visual real estate than a chunky two-seater. Clear pieces (think glass and lucite) are your biggest friend, as are those with dainty frameworks because they won’t add bulk to your room. They’ll also allow more light into your room.
Lower profiles in pieces like couches and dining chairs will also aid your eyes to glide over them.
6. Colour palette
Although I always appreciate a good neutral base, I feel that this can be even more important in a small living space as it is easier on the eye. This doesn’t mean your space has to be boring, accent colours can inject just the right amount of personality and fun. Just be sure not to introduce too many different hues. When in doubt, stick to varying shades of one hue.
Working with lighter colours can also help fake the feeling of airiness.
7. Create a layered look
Minimalism is a great way to make smaller spaces feel more open and spacious, but it certainly isn’t the only answer to make a room feel, well, roomier. Creating a thoughtful, layered look in your home can take years as you collect and combine the things you love and those that have sentimental value but ultimately it is the best way to infuse a home with personality.
Layered doesn’t equate clutter, but rather suggests a thoughtful combination of various elements ranging from the expected to the unexpected.
Finally, it is important to remember that you’re never done decorating a room. Just as you’ll add things and make changes over the years, you should also constantly be editing. Ask yourself whether pieces are still working, whether they still add value to the room and remove those that don’t. Whilst some people find comfort in clutter, it never makes a smaller space feel bigger.