interior design

Ideas and Solutions for a Small Living Space

I was recently visiting with a friend who lives in a fairly typical for Northampton MA, late 1800's farmhouse. She is a master collector of curiosities, used-yet-hip furniture, artwork, tchotchkes, etc. She manages to pack a lot of stuff into her small home - and make it look artful, cozy and inviting. In addition, everything is functional! An antique sink (not attached to a drain) decorates the mud/laundry room, and also serves as place to stack clean laundry for her children to collect and put away. Each room has a it's own color palette, giving it a separate feel to the adjoining room. Handmade plywood painted bookcases are arranged according to color family, creating an attractive backdrop to a beloved collection of Snoopy paraphernalia, etc. I immediately thought of her while reading the following article from Apartment Therapy, which is chock full of great ideas about how to create a beautiful and functional space in a small or challenging living room. It's interesting to think about the many ways we have to recreate our spaces as we live in them. Enjoy!

30 Absolutely Brilliant Ideas & Solutions for Your Small Living Room

by Cara Gibbs

Jan 17, 2018

 

Tour: A NYC Couple's Minimalist Retreat from Hectic City Life

(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

Those pesky small living rooms always have us stumbling and second guessing what we should do to make the most of the floor plan. If you've ever struggled with how to arrange your furniture, how to fit in more seating, how to get in more light and beyond, here are 30 rooms—from genius teeny spaces full of inspiration to larger living rooms with plenty of ideas to borrow—showcasing the best ways to expand your square footage without any demolition.
 

(Image credit: West Elm)

Get your reflection on

Mirrors are one of the best ways to make your tiny space feel open and airy. This space from West Elm shows off the dramatic impact multiple mirrors can play, plus they reflect any and all light available in the room.

 
(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Fill 'er up

In a tiny space, you might be afraid of overwhelming things with too-large furniture, but oftentimes, if you go full throttle with a large sectional that hugs the walls, you'll get a room that #1 seats a ton of people and #2 feels super welcoming and cozy. Take notes from this home we toured in the UK that fits a family of four.

 

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Go for the wow factor

Sometimes the best way to visually increase the square footage in a space is to keep the eye constantly in motion (so you don't notice how small it is). Take a cue from entertaining expert Lulu Powers in her LA bungalow seen on One Kings Lane: pattern on pattern, bold color next to bold color—cozy perfection!

(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

Keep things linear

Try implementing varying geometric and linear prints, as seen on Design*Sponge. This gives a small space a sense of structure while also providing the illusion of additional length and width.

 

(Image credit: Livet Hemma)

Lose the legs

If you're looking to add storage/display surfaces to your living room, consider going leg-free and attaching units directly to the wall (like this Besta unit from IKEA in a room via Livet Hemma). Floating large pieces like this tricks the eye into thinking less space has been taken up because the floor area is still free (plus, you can use that newly found space for even more storage should you feel the need).

(Image credit: Alvhem)

Make the best of strange angles

A feature wall is a great way to properly weigh and focus a room with awkward angles, like in this room from Alvhem, that uses a bold floral wallpaper to pull the attention to the seating area.

(Image credit: Domino)

Invite tiny keepsakes & treasures into your space

In this charming living room via Domino, your attention is occupied and delighted by all the personal accents and accessories that draw you into each area of the little space.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

A wall of books

To turn a small, sort of sad living space into your favorite room, consider taking an empty wall and turning it into a top-to-bottom mini library. It'll provide plenty of storage opportunities, but also makes such a statement and gives a luxe built-in effect. For an even more stylish push, pick a rich color, like the hunter green of this room, and add molding to polish off the custom look.

(Image credit: Josh Gruetzmacher for Style Me Pretty Living )

The power of the tuck

The main goal of any small living space is always to use every area as efficiently as possible. So that area under the coffee table (considering yours doesn't have shelving) can often feel a bit wasted, unless you mimic this clever space from Style Me Pretty Living that tucks additional poufs under for more usage.

(Image credit: House Beautiful)

Keep your space alive

It's no secret that plants add so much value to any room in the home, but you can really get creative with them in your living area. In a tour of her home via House Beautiful, Justina Blakeney shows off just that in her compact living room, and is smart about hanging greenery as to not take up any precious floor space.

(Image credit: The Apartment St. Kilda via Instagram)

Keep things monochromatic

In this space by The Apartment St Kilda via Instagram, the crisp white walls serve as the perfect canvas for the oversize jet black lighting fixture and delightfully worn-in furnishings and accents—you hardly notice the room's tiny footprint amidst the cohesive palette.

(Image credit: Suzy Hoodless)

Floor to ceiling draperies

Draperies are the quickest way to add instant height to any space. The trick is to hang them from right around where your wall meets your ceiling and let them slightly puddle on the ground, as seen in this Notting Hill townhouse via Suzy Hoodless.

(Image credit: SFGirlbyBay)

Behold the power of threes

Grouping items into threes like in this space on SFGirlbyBay is a great way to make a living room feel a bit bigger by adding more pieces to a space without taking up more real estate. (Not to mention you can move smaller furnishings like these around as needed.)

(Image credit: House Beautiful)

K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, sweetie! When you don't have a ton of room to play with but you want to inject some color, it's best to keep it simple if you're a newbie. Start with a foundation of neutrals and add in one feature color and one metallic and run with it, like this space via House Beautiful which invites varying textures and finishes to add depth while remaining light and airy on the eyes.

(Image credit: Homepolish)

Fit it all in

Packing your teeny space with lots of purpose is another way to trick yourself into thinking things are bigger than they appear. In this apartment on Homepolish, the living room seamlessly connects to an office area, feeling cohesive and interesting.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Layer your lighting

This living room feels big and spacious due in large part to tall ceilings and big windows, but also of note is the layered lighting. Keeping light at multiple levels (via floor lamps, chandeliers, and task lights) creates a moody yet well-lit room.

An Industrial-Modern Apartment in Brooklyn

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Don't overlook underused spots

If you have some windows in your tiny living room, put those window sills to work holding books, plants and other decorative objects.

(Image credit: VT Wonen)

Opt for floating shelves

When floor space is at a premium but you've got tons of books and whatsits to store, you'll want to consider floating shelves. Keep them the same color as your wall for an even sleeker look (and don't be afraid to get creative with sizes, like these scattered smaller shelves in a room from VT Wonen).

(Image credit: Sherrie and Oliver )

Go big

With a rug that is. A large rug like this one in the West Village apartment of Lee Lenox makes a tiny space feel much bigger than it actually is.

 

(Image credit: Architectural Digest)

Go bold (but neutral!)

Designers Cloth & Kind opted for an impressive statement wall when it came to this petite space featured on Architectural Digest, and the mix of patterns is fresh and lively, while a subtle, neutral palette keeps things from feeling overdone. This is a genius way to inject serious personality into a small space.

(Image credit: Marie Claire Maison)

Stack storage

Spotted on Marie Claire Maison, this non-traditional "sofa" is perched atop vintage storage bins—chic and smart!

(Image credit: IKEA via Domino)

Forego traditional pieces

We're so conditioned by the living room formula sofa + coffee table, but what if you focused on doing what works for you and how you live instead? In this space from IKEA via Domino, a quarter of slipper chairs sit where a sofa might be (how modular!) while a coffee table is absent in place of a rolling cart off to the side and cushy floor rugs.

(Image credit: Domino)

Design on a tilt

The best way to shake up a space is to give it a fresh furniture layout. If you're bored of your little living room, consider angling a few key pieces to keep things interesting like this room on Domino (via Airbnb).

(Image credit: Sigmar)

Get creative with storage

Okay, so this one is reserved for homeowners who can invest in custom solutions, but how enviable is this media center designed by London-based firm Sigmar?

(Image credit: New Darlings)

Go vertical

Blankets are a must for a cozy living room experience but when you're short on space to store said blankets, you don't have many options. Sure, you can stash them in a basket, but that takes but valuable floor space. A better option? The leading ladder (as seen here in the home of shelter bloggers New Darlings).

(Image credit: Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo)

Skip the coffee table in place of an ottoman or pouf

This space from Cup of Jo is by no means a small living room, but let's pretend for a second that it is to learn a thing or two from it. See those two poufs on the other side of the coffee table? Those could easily swap in for the actual coffee table itself in a tighter space, which gives the room's user flexibility in surfaces. Opting for ottomans or poufs over larger furnishings is a smart way to still have a spot to place a drink or remote, but be able to move things easily around as you please (and even maybe create more seating).

 

Heart & Soul in a Jewelry Designer's Providence Condo

(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

Thinking clearly

Acrylic or glass furniture has long been a designer trick for small spaces. They serve a purpose (i.e., holding drinks, etc.) while basically disappearing into the space. The result is a room with all the function you need, but without all the visual clutter.

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Be delicate

Similar to the above trick, choosing accent furniture with delicate frames is another way to keep down the visual noise. This tiny seating living room (the home of content strategist Cole Wilson via One Kings Lane) feels full sized thanks to the delicate gold base and glass top coffee table, thin framed accent chairs and floor lamp.

(Image credit: Better Homes & Gardens)

Be matchy-matchy

While some might tell you that all-white rooms are the key to stretching a small space, we're here to tell you that no matter what paint you go with, the effect of color is a lot more nuanced than that. A trick that always works, though, no matter what's on your wall? Matching your drapes (bonus points if they're a sheer material) to your wall. Here, from Better Homes & Gardens, off-white walls seem to go on forever as the visual line is not interrupted by different colored curtains. If you flip this and decide to go dark and moody, stick to draperies in equally dramatic tones for a super cohesive, polished look perfect for a small living room.

(Image credit: Domino)

Trompe l'oeil, FTW

Featured in Domino, the home of denim darling Nicole Najafi (founder of Industry Standard) showcases many talents, but the biggest takeaway here was her tip on a trick every small space needs to follow: "My apartment is full of eye tricks to make it look larger than it actually is. The shades, for example, are mounted a few feet above the windows to make them look taller. There's actually just wall behind them."

Design Elements for Modern Homebuyers

As realtors, we are first-hand witnesses to the changing tides of desirable home design elements for home buyers. Seven years ago, when I became a realtor: granite and poured concrete were all the rage for kitchen counters, everyone seemed to be looking for an open concept living space, flat yards bested yards with any slope, and stainless appliances were a must-have. It's interesting to see preferences for certain types of layouts, paint colors, building materials, design elements and landscaping choices ebb and flow over time. I even notice that my personal preferences change, depending upon what I'm seeing more of. I've grown to love marble in kitchens and baths, but I can imagine that, over time, I might tire of their stark whiteness and required maintenance.

The following article from my favorite home and design blog, Apartment Therapy, talks about *modern* homebuyer preferences. While the Northampton area isn't overflowing with Sub Zero or Viking appliances, per se, I agree that the other elements of this article hold true.

 

What Modern Homebuyers Are Looking For (Hint: It's NOT Granite Countertops)

Brittney Morgan
Oct 25, 2017
 
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)
 
When looking at homes, we all have our own preferences for different home features—one person might want a huge, modern kitchen and another might not care about the kitchen as much as they care about having walk-in closets. But which features are most commonly used as selling points for homes?

Trulia pulled data from homes for sale on the site over the past year to see what design features are most popular for listers, pitting different features against each other. While some trends and design staples unsurprisingly won out—looking at you, subway tile and hardwood floors—others didn't necessarily come out on top, and some were just plain missing (seriously, no mention of granite countertops? I'm shocked!).

Here's how the most popular design features fared against each other.

Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

The Winner: Quartz countertops—they're more expensive up front, but marble countertops require more maintenance by comparison, which can add up.

Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

The Winner: Soaking tubs. Claw foot tubs may seem more luxurious, but soaking tubs were far more popular according to the data.

Hardwood Floors vs. Carpet

The Winner: Hardwood floors. According to Trulia, real estate agents frequently see a strong preference for hardwood floors from clients, because they're easier to clean and long-lasting.

Basketweave Tile vs. Subway Tile

The Winner: Subway tile—although Trulia admits the numbers for each were so close, it's nearly a toss-up.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

The Winner: White cabinets, and real estate agents point out that lighter, brighter cabinets can make a kitchen look bigger.

Sub-Zero Appliances vs. Viking Appliances

The Winner: Sub-Zero appliances—although, like the tile style toss-up, Viking appliances were just barely behind.

Bay Windows vs. Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

The Winner: Bay windows. Another close call, but bay windows were still the more popular selling point.

Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

The Winner: Gas stoves—while they're more expensive initially, they save money in the long run as gas in general is less expensive than electricity. Gas stoves were far more popular than electric stoves among listings.

 

 

Expert Advice about Room Arrangement

As a realtor, I see many houses throughout the course of my work days. I always know when a design element, or room configuration, appeals to me. I don't, however, always know how to put together a space on my own, in a way that feels beautiful, functional, and/or satisfying. Thankfully, rarely does a day go by where great ideas from sites such as Apartment Therapy don't pop into my inbox. The following article from does just that, providing great ideas about room arrangement.

Design Master Class: 6 Pro Tricks to Know When Arranging Your Room

by Danielle Blundell for Apartment Therapy

Oct 23, 2017

One-click online shopping and free shipping has made the whole furniture buying process seem super easy and accessible. But what happens when you start unboxing pieces and realize you have absolutely no idea where to put them—or worse, whether they'll even work with the rest of what's in your room? Arranging furniture is really an art form, but the good news is there are several guidelines you can follow to help you figure out the process. Let these six expert tips be your starting point in setting up your ideal space, whether you're working with hand-me-downs or starting from scratch.

(Image credit: Christine Markatos Design)

Identify the functionality of your space and the focal point

For Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design, furniture planning starts with setting expectations for how you want to use a room and what feature, architectural or otherwise, you want to highlight. So basically, figure out what you're working with and try not to go against the architecture in your space. "Things like entertaining, TV watching or a great view all dictate the design and layout of a room in order to best serve those needs," says Markatos. Generally speaking, you want to arrange a room so that all occupants can sit down and see the focal point, whatever it may be, and be close enough to a hard surface (a coffee table, an end table) for setting down a drink.

 

For example, if there's a fireplace in a room, furniture should be arranged around it so that people can see the fire and feel its warmth. That usually means a sectional facing the fire, or two sofas facing each other in close proximity to the fire, which makes for easy conversation between the seated. Additional chairs or benches in the area should capitalize on whatever the focal point offers. If a room doesn't have a natural focal point, make one with a large piece of art, a media cabinet with your TV (plus art!) or a big shelving unit. If your focal point is on the diagonal, try orienting furniture that way.

You'll also want to consider how many people you need to comfortably accommodate, which will influence the kinds of, sizes and number of seating options you need. You may also want multiple seating areas to anchor a really large room.

In social spaces, move furniture away from the walls

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more breathing room your furniture has from the walls, the cozier your home will feel. Yes, you need to have the space to float pieces, says Donna Mondi of Donna Mondi Interior Design, but even a few inches can make a room feel more intimate.

Keep traffic flow in mind, however, when setting up your layout. You can angle furniture and cheat if off the wall but only if people can move around freely in the space.

(Image credit: Style by Emily Henderson)
 

Don't be afraid to break the rules a bit in private spaces

Generally, Mondi advises against putting furniture taller than the window sill in front of windows because this awkwardly cuts off a room in a weird way and obstructs the view. But often in bedrooms, particularly when there isn't a designated bed wall because there are lot of windows, it's okay to get creative.

"Sometimes the best solution is to have the window act as a feature wall and put the furniture against it," says Birgit Klein of Birgit Klein Interiors. "When dressed with a great curtain and a tailored bed, the furniture placement becomes intentional." Case in point, Emily Henderson's own master bedroom is anchored around a gorgeous set of inset windows, framed by draperies.

(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

When picking a piece of furniture, factor in finish, shape and how it will relate to the rest of the room

Look at all your furniture pieces together to make sure they complement each other yet the silhouettes and finishes are varied. "You can find the perfect sofa, end tables and cocktail table, but if they all are a bit leggy, it will look awkward," says Mondi. Same is true if you have a room full of just wood or just upholstered items. That's why this dining room from Design*Sponge works so well. You have the white built-in playing off the dark table, another wood tone for the bentwood dining chairs and the Eames-style end chair that introduces yet another finish and material to the space while visually referencing the white of the built-in. Of course, there are exceptions to this breadth of variety, but if your intent isn't to be purposefully matching, then don't go there.

(Image credit: 2LG Studio)
 

Scale is everything

According to Markatos, furniture should ideally be the right proportion for a room, in terms of length, width and ceiling height (if you have a long room, a long casegood—like this extended console seen in a room by 2LG Studio—works beautifully, for example). That said, she will always skew towards fewer over-scaled pieces rather than overcrowding a room with smaller furnishings. "Another trick is to have pieces of varying heights as it creates a much more interesting visual," says Markatos.

Plan out placement before you buy pieces, if possible

When shopping for furniture in stores or online, designers never leave home without a tape measure, and they always reference measurements when considering a space. Most also use CAD programs to completely diagram out the rooms they're creating, though most laypeople don't have access to these types of resources.

If you don't have access to fancy software, there are several apps that you can use for spatial planning instead. Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design likes SketchUpbecause it's intuitive. You could even create a paper drawing as long as it is to scale. Then you can start "dropping" items in to see if they'll work together. Adams also likes to take pictures in a space—even selfies against the walls—so you can reference the walls (and scale) when you are out shopping.