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How to Make a Small Living Room Look Bigger – 8 Simple Tips

September 21, 2020
Open Up Your Living Room (Source: Shutterstock / Interior Design)

Open Up Your Living Room (Source: Shutterstock / Interior Design)

We’ve all faced it – a living room that at best seems cozy but at worst just feels cramped. So cramped, in fact, that you never want to invite anyone over. And sure, you probably can’t do much to physically enlarge the room, but there are things you can do to make it look bigger – and more inviting. That’s why we’ve assembled this guide with tips from experts on how to make a small living room look bigger. Ready, set, feng shui.

1: Get a lamp-side table combo.

We know – these seem like relics of the ’60s, but they’re actually quite useful. Instead of buying separate side tables that clutter your living room – and give you yet another place to collect junk – go with a sleek side table-and-lamp that gives you light while holding your drink. Simple but oh-so-chic, these anchors of the living room are beautifully utilitarian.


2: Swap a chair for an ottoman.

Custom has it that a living room should have a couch and at least one chair. That way, a guest can face you as you talk. That’s all well and good, but why not get a larger ottoman with hidden storage (read: trunk) that can double as a chair and a coffee table? You get storage, seating for guests, and a table – all in one.

Ottomans with built-in storage are the perfect way to de-clutter your living area. (Source: Pixabay / ErikaWittlieb)

Ottomans with built-in storage are the perfect way to de-clutter your living area. (Source: Pixabay / ErikaWittlieb)

3: Pick light-colored fabrics for furniture.

While darker colors can make a room feel cozy, they’re often just suffocating. If you’re going for a “big room” feel, then lighten things up with less claustrophobia-inducing colors – like subtle Maya blue, for instance (here’s a full-color guide to help). Accent with white, but don’t swath the room in it – too much of that and the room begins to feel clinical.

4: Add a mirror.

This is an old trick, often used by restaurants and offices. If you’re aiming to give a sense of spaciousness, hang a framed mirror on one of your living room walls. It offers a little bit of character and color in the frame without shouting at you. Something simple, like a beveled square mirror with a rustic wooden frame, is a good choice.

 

Create the feel of a larger space with a framed mirror. (Source: Shutterstock / David Papazian)

Create the feel of a larger space with a framed mirror. (Source: Shutterstock / David Papazian)


5: Light the ceiling – not the floor.

Most lighting points down, not up. In some respects, that makes sense – if you’re sitting on a couch reading, you want light on the book you’re enjoying. The problem is, this design MO also concentrates light on spots on the floor or furniture when you’re not around while leaving shadows on the ceiling. To open up the room, diffuse the light by using conical lighting pointed at the upper wall and ceiling. Just make sure the lamp isn’t too close to either one; intense spotlighting of your wallpaper will make guests think your lighting has gone haywire.

6: Get rid of ceiling-height bookshelves and entertainment centers.

The less vertical space you consume with tall furniture, the more open your living room will feel. Do you really need to store all of your books in a mammoth bookcase, or can you spread some out to other rooms in the house? Do you need a towering entertainment center for your TV, receiver, gaming console, and the like, or can you use a shorter one with a few drawers to house everything you use on a regular basis? Remember: Simple is better.

7: Buy lightweight furniture with legs.                                                                                                                    

If you’re in the market for some new furniture, consider pieces that are raised off the floor with minimalist legs. The more air and light you allow to move around the living room – including underneath furniture – the more open it will feel. Take mid-century-style couches, for example. The fabric is usually light, while the frame is simple and raised. Also, if you have a contrast in color between the frame and fabric (white vs. black, for example), you can add additional character to the room without it being busy.

Light fabric furniture that's raised off the ground will help create flow in an otherwise stagnant room. (Source: Shutterstock / David Papazian)

Light fabric furniture that’s raised off the ground will help create flow in an otherwise stagnant room. (Source: Shutterstock / David Papazian)


8: User sheer curtains on living room windows – not opaque, dark-colored ones.

Carrying forward the light fabric theme from #3, be sure you use lighter colors for outer drapes and sheer curtains underneath – or go sheer all the way. This lets light shine through while also giving you a measure of privacy. Also, avoid full-length drapes and curtains if you can; the extra fabric may seem like it stretches the height of the room, but it really just fills it with, well, more fabric.

Need more inspiration? Check out our Home & Décor category for incredible offers from top design brands.