Small Living Room Ideas
DIY Home Staging Tips
for a faster, more profitable home sale
Apply small living room ideas to your home staging to help a tiny room look more spacious and inviting to potential home buyers.
Pale colors and see-through furniture keep this small room from feeling cluttered
Just because your living room is small doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on style and storage.
For many home buyers, the living room is the most important room to consider when buying a house. This is where family and friends spend a lot of time together, relaxing, visiting and entertaining.
Buyers are looking for a living room that's cozy, yet roomy enough for large gatherings.
Some interior decorators say that the eye travels more quickly through a small space, so it is important to keep it moving as long as possible.
You can accomplish this by eliminating anything that stops the flow of the eye, like clutter, sharp contrasts in color, dark heavy draperies and bulky furniture.
Paint colors for small living rooms
Color is the key to all successful decorating— it can work magic by visually expanding or shrinking space, raising and lowering ceilings, even effecting our dispositions. Color can change our perception of a room’s size.
Pale colors create a sense of spaciousness in this home interior design
Knowing a few basic rules of color theory will help you make good choices with your home decorating ideas.
- Most people respond positively to light, neutral colors. When you are preparing for a home sale, your goal is to make small rooms look more spacious. Using the right paint colors and color combinations can help.
- To create the illusion of spaciousness, use neutral or pastel hues as the main palette of your small living room design. Pale colors reflect and multiply light, and when combined with lots of natural light flowing in, can visually expand a small space.
- Cool whites, creams, soft grays, greens, blues and yellows, pale colors in general, are receding colors that reflect light, creating a feeling of spaciousness. Accent with shades of white or soft cream to unify the space.
- Some small living room ideas call for swathing an entire room in white to create an uninterrupted space. The lack of color contrast keeps the eye from stopping. This small room design tactic tricks you into thinking the space is larger than it is. Abrupt shifts from dark to light will stop the eye.
- Because an all white room can sometimes feel cold and intense, stick to whites with warm undertones, and punctuate the room with spots of color.
Punctuate an all white room with spots of color
- Dark colors absorb and deflect light and can make a small space feel closed in.
- Cool colors appear to retreat, while warm colors seem to advance.
- To create a feeling of maximum space, use the same light color palette on the walls, floors, cabinets, window treatments, and trim work. Add no more than two to three colors in a small space.
- Minimize the length of a long, narrow room by using the following color combinations; paint the long walls in a light color and end walls in a darker warm shade of the same color. Because darker colors advance, this will create the effect of "squaring" the room.
- Monochromatic color schemes are the best room designs for small spaces. Typical colors for home staging are whites, beiges, or greys in varying textures and accessories.
- A small living room will appear larger by painting the walls, trim, doors, and woodwork all in the same light, neutral color. This also makes ugly molding and trimwork appear to blend into the walls, making them less noticeable.
Monochromatic room designs
Monochromatic color schemes create harmony, visual cohesion and a sense of relaxation in any room
Monochromatic, or low-contrast color schemes are the most successful color palettes for small room design, because they visually expand the size of a room. Monochromatic color schemes create harmony, visual cohesion, and a sense of relaxation in any room.
This room design style mixes light and dark variations of one color in different shades, tints, tones and textures, and is usually accented by white, used in the window trim, molding and ceiling.
Any color can be used in monochromatic room design, but typically, whites, beiges, taupes and grays are used for home staging.
Many people may yawn at the idea of a room that is basically designed around one color, but by incorporating variations in tones, textures and accessorizing with glass, objects from nature, greenery, etc., you can create a feeling of spaciousness and sophistication.
Small living room ideas for pattern and texture
Don’t be afraid to incorporate pattern and texture into a small space, just keep them to a minimum. In the absence of wild patterns and bright paint colors, adding textural elements will bring excitement and interest to a small living room.
- Outdated wallpaper should be removed, as most home buyers will hate it. Too much wallpaper can be overwhelming and will send buyers out the door fast! As a rule, wallpaper should be avoided when staging your home for sale, unless it's very neutral, or has a vertical or horizontal element that needs to “elongate” a room.
- Add pattern and texture to your small living room with window treatments, accessories, flooring, area rugs and light fixtures.
- Avoid large or busy patterns that can diminish the scale of the space. If you must use a large pattern, confine it to a small area, like window treatments, accent pillows, or an area rug.
- Vary the textures of things you can touch (tactile) and things you look at (visual).
- Use fabrics with texture rather than pattern so as not to overwhelm a small space. Texture adds interest when light hits the uneven surfaces, bringing varying degrees of lights and darks of the same color.
- Light fixtures can have texture as well. For instance, polished chrome will be smooth, wrought iron will have a rustic feel, etc.
Horizontal stripes on the walls or floor can elongate and bring movement to a small room
- Shiny, satiny fabrics on upholstered furniture, window treatments, and accent pillows will help illuminate a small space.
- Avoid heavy brocaded fabrics, laces, ruffles, and dark colors in small room design.
- Use smaller prints or solid color fabrics for a more unified effect.
- Horizontal stripes on the walls or floor can elongate and bring movement to a small room. We’ve all heard that saying about wearing horizontal stripes…that they make you look wider. It's true! This applies to home design as well. If you are staging your home for sale, use subtle, neutral colors together for stripes.
- Vertical stripes on the walls can visually add height and seemingly raise a low ceiling. Use wide stripes, as thin ones can make a room feel smaller.
Small living room ideas for ceilings and floors
Apply a wide vertical pattern or stripes on the wall, to visually "raise" a low ceiling. Don't "stripe" every wall, though, as the effect can shrink a room.
A dark wall against a white ceiling can make a small space feel too enclosed.
By uniting the walls and ceiling in the same light color, it's harder for your eye to tell where the walls and ceiling meet, so the room will feel larger. Continue the light tones onto the floor by using a light-colored tile or light hardwood flooring.
Make a low ceiling appear higher by painting it a cool light receding color, like white or a pale blue.
A ceiling that's too high can be “lowered” by painting it a darker color than the walls.
For low ceilings, mount curtain rods higher than the window frame, even up to the ceiling. Hanging long window curtains to the floor will create a strong vertical line that draws the eye upward.
The more flooring that is exposed, the bigger a small space will seem. Keep floors clear to maximize the square footage of the living room.
Light-colored tiles or pale hardwood flooring will make a small living room appear feel more open.
A floor with wide stripes will make your room appear longer (or wider) than it is. If you are trying to sell your home, I don’t recommend painting your wood flooring with stripes unless they’re very subtle, because it’s too “taste specific.” Instead, use a large area rug with wide stripes to visually lengthen the room.
Avoid scattering too many small rugs in a tiny living room— this will create a cluttered, postage stamp effect.
TASTE SPECIFIC: Your specific taste may not appeal to a very large number of people. When selling your home, your goal is to target as many home buyers possible.
Small living room renovation ideas
A living room renovation can really pay off in the end, but, realistically, most people just can’t afford to do this. If you're planning to do a living room remodel before selling your home, here are a few small living room design ideas:
- Steal some space from an adjoining room to expand the living room. Taking down a wall can be very expensive, though, especially if it’s a load-bearing wall.
- Open up a wall and gain extra storage by building recessed shelving or cabinets between the studs in a wall.
- Enlarge a doorway going into the living room. Doing so will make the area feel more open and spacious.
- Replace small windows with larger ones to bring in more natural light.
Small living room ideas for lighting
Lots of natural light flooding into a small room will give a feeling of greater spaciousness.
- Maximize the natural light that you have by keeping window treatments minimal or simply going without. Remove dark, heavy, or oppressive window treatments that block natural light.
- If your small living room lacks natural lighting, consider installing a larger window, skylight, solar, or sola tube. A solar tube will brighten the room without sacrificing wall space. They aren't very expensive, ranging from $140 to $300. Solar tubes can be found at Lowes, Home Depot, or www.solatube.com.
Clear light fixtures will increase visual space in a small room
The lighting in a living room must function well, because of the nature of activities that we do there. A living room typically needs three types of lighting; ambient, task, and accent lighting.
- One glaring overhead light fixture can dominate a room, drawing the eye to that one spot. Use more than one source of light in the space to keep the eye from fixating.
- Recessed lighting is a great choice for small rooms and low ceilings. Because recessed lighting fixtures are inserted into the ceiling, they don’t take up any space by protruding into the room.
- Recessed lighting also creates a lovely ambience and will light up dark corners of a small space, making it appear larger then it really is.
- Avoid large, obstructive light fixtures like drum pendants and chandeliers, which can overpower a small space. A small chandelier can be quite charming in a little room, though.
- Use clear light fixtures and table lamps instead of opaque to extend sight lines.
Furniture for a small living room
Revealing more floor space will make a small space appear larger.
Lucite furniture extends the sight lines in this small living room
- Use open-leg furniture that allows you to see deeper into the room. Open design furniture, like a chair or coffee table with a metal frame, will create a sense of light and space.
- Use fewer pieces of furniture instead of a lot of small pieces that make a room feel crowded. The farther the eye can see into a room without stopping, the better.
- Keep upholstered furniture light and neutral in color. Cover tired and outdated furniture with contemporary slipcovers for a fresh look. See staging your furniture.
- One of the best small room design ideas is to use furniture with glass see-through tops, or clear lucite pieces that extend sight lines.
Small living room ideas for storage
Add depth by using glass-face cabinets and open shelving. By replacing cabinet door fronts with glass, you will be lightening up the look and creating extra depth in the living room.
Avoid using dark, or opaque glass for cabinet doors, and keep the interiors uncluttered.
Floating shelves give a sense of spaciousness in this dining/living room
Hang floating shelves rather than those with heavy corbels or ugly bracketing. Open shelving reduces visual weight and adds extra depth by allowing your eye to travel all the way to the wall. Keep the shelving narrow so that it doesn’t protrude too far into the room.
Glass shelves increase a room's sense of space because they can appear invisible. Items placed on them seem to float in space.
When accessorizing open shelves, keep plenty of space around objects. This will create breathing room, which translates to that open, airy feeling. Focus on using just a few standout accessories instead of a collection of small objects, which can look cluttered.
Take advantage of unused vertical space by replacing low storage cabinets with taller ones that go all the way to the ceiling. Using vertical lines will seemingly “raise” the ceiling.
Open shelving that goes all the way to the ceiling will also give the effect of raising the ceiling.
Decorate with mirrors and reflective surfaces
- Mirrors are one of a home stager’s favorite interior decorating tricks, because they can visually enlarge a small room by adding depth and light. Mirrors give the impression of extending space by duplicating it.
Mirrors and reflective surfaces extend and illuminate small spaces
- Hang a mirror opposite a window with a good view, or a light fixture to scatter and bounce light around the room. Or position two mirrors opposite each other— this will make it look like another room exists in the small space.
- Hanging a collage of too many small mirrors or pictures can look cluttered.
- Avoid creating an entire wall of glued-on mirrors. While this is a really effective way to make a room look larger, most home buyers don’t like them and will be thinking of all the work it will take to get rid of them.
- Another home staging tip is to lean an oversized floor mirror against a wall. Do this only if room permits, as you don't want to be tripping over it.
- Reflective surfaces like sleek cabinets and shiny hardwood floors will illuminate your small living room by amplifying the natural and artificial light.
- Choose shiny metals for their reflective qualities. Make sure they all match—stick to one type of metal finish throughout the room for consistancy.
- Decorate with glass or reflective accessories, like vases and canisters—they will look light and airy.
Small living room ideas for awkward spaces
If your living room walls are broken up by doorways, poorly placed windows, nooks, or a slanted ceiling, make them less conspicuous by painting them the same color as the walls.
Electrical outlets and switch plates are also a distraction to the eye if they contrast too much with the wall color. Making them the same color as the walls will allow them to blend in and won’t interrupt the flow of the eye.
Make unwanted features, such as an ugly radiator or unremarkable moldings less noticeable by painting them the same color as the walls.
Window treatments for small spaces
Window treatments the same color as the wall increases the sense of space
- No matter their size or style, windows enlarge the feel of a room if natural light is allowed to flow in. If privacy is not an issue, simply leave windows unadorned.
- Avoid complicated details such as ruffles and bows for window treatments. A lot of frou frou fussiness can make a small space feel even more closed-in.
- Use simple valances, blinds or shades—aim for a clean contemporary look. Sheer curtains are another alternative.
- One of the best small living room design ideas for low ceilings is to install curtain rods higher than the window frame, even up to the ceiling. Hanging long window curtains to the floor will create a strong vertical line that draws the eye upward.
- Create the illusion of wider windows by extending the curtain rods well beyond the width of the window, wide enough so that curtain panels don't cover any glass when fully opened. This will also allow more natural light into the room.
Eliminate all clutter
A clean, tidy room always looks larger and more spacious than a cluttered, dirty one.
Simply removing half of the furniture will instantly make your living room look larger!
Home buyers don’t want to see other people’s personal items strewn all over. It makes it hard for them to visualize themselves in your home. See depersonalizing your home and declutter your home for home staging tips about what needs to go.
Small living room design ideas
Clear table lamp and open leg furniture extends sight lines in this room
This is the last phase in home staging your small bathroom— the fun part! This is where you can apply color and accessories if you want.
Hang crisp contemporary window panels to give the space a fresh modern look.
Stage the living room with objects from nature, candles, window treatments, mirrors and artwork.
If you have a natural focal point, like a great view from a window, or a fireplace, arrange your furniture around them. Create a focal point if you don’t have one. It’s okay to have at least one element that is somewhat bold in a small space. It could be a piece of artwork, a mirror, or maybe a stunning light fixture.
When accessorizing a small space, keep the decorations to a minimum.
Arrange accessories in odd numbers, as this creates a more relaxed, unstudied feeling.
Group smaller pieces of artwork together so they read as “one” piece, or a unit, as in a vignette. Not too many pieces, though, or they will be viewed as clutter.
Limit collectibles to one or two favorite pieces, or allow one outstanding accessory to become a focal point.
See-through accessories give a sense of more space
Instead of an arrangement of flowers, display a single elegant bloom, like an orchid.
A good home staging diy tip to keep the eye moving is to decorate the shelves with objects the same color as the wall behind them.
Create more height by accessorizing shelves with tall objects.
Use accessories with reflective or see-through qualities that will blend into the background, like glass jars and canisters.
Avoid hanging artwork with heavy ornamental frames, as they can overpower a small room. Large artwork is fine, just make sure picture frames aren’t bulky. A large frameless painting with canvas wrapped edges is ideal.
Small living room design ideas that really work-- hang framed pictures of landscapes, or art that makes you feel like you're looking through a window. Any kind of artwork that has visual perspective will seemingly add depth to the room.
If your small space has shelving, don’t cram them completely full. Allow breathing space between objects to create an open look.
All metal finishes, chair legs, lamp bases, etc., should match. Keep light fixtures in the same metal tones as well.
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