Many of us, whether we’re renting or homeowners, have spaces in their home or apartment that feel small. Until recently, most living spaces didn’t feature an open concept design. Rooms were defined by walls and doors. If you aren’t planning a remodeling project anytime soon, you can still make your small living room feel bigger. Houzz has some ideas that can help you.
How to Make a Small Living Room Look Bigger
A design pro shows how to use light, color, layers and focal points to make a compact room look and feel more expansive.
Wish your living room were 50 percent bigger than it is? With a few design tricks, you can make it feel like it is. And you don’t even have to take down a wall. Try these tips for tweaking your colors, furniture, window treatments and more to make your living room look and feel bigger.
- Use plenty of light colors. You’ve probably read that painting your walls white or another light shade (like soft gray or subtle taupe) can help a room look bigger, and that’s definitely true. But you can make this effect even more powerful by using similarly airy shades for other furnishings as well.
The living room shown here includes a white rug, white sofa, white media unit and white coffee table (among other things), which together help create a seamless and breezy look.
This method doesn’t have to be as impractical as it might sound. Seating with removable covers, hard surfaces in white (such as white laminate media units or marble-topped tables) and hardy natural fiber rugs in pale shades will give you a light color scheme that doesn’t feel impossible to keep clean.
In general, choosing some major furnishings in a pale shade similar to the wall will help avoid breaking up the living room, but you don’t have to choose everything in white to benefit from this effect.
Don’t think you can live with a white sofa? A midtone gray is an excellent shade for hiding all types of blemishes because it won’t immediately show light or dark flecks (like stray hairs or lint).
- Include hits of dramatic black. Just because you’re using a lot of light colors doesn’t mean you can’t add a little drama. Introduce small elements of black to give your living room a strong sense of contrast and therefore interest. Black-and-white patterns especially add just the right hint of black to energize a small room without shrinking it, as do black-and-white photos or art pieces.
Adding some contrast actually creates an interplay of depths, with different pieces advancing and receding, and this can trick your eye into seeing the room as a bit bigger.
- Layer a feature wall. Speaking of playing with depth, if you want to add an interesting feature wall, consider doing it on a wall with a window and layering the dramatic treatment behind a light curtain. The wallpaper feature in this room looks a bit farther away because it’s tucked behind the simple white drapes, and that makes the room seem deeper. It also gives a visual break that keeps the paper from appearing too busy.
- Use soft sheers. For window treatments in the living room, soft sheers are often a great pick, assuming you don’t need absolute privacy. Curtains that aren’t completely opaque let your eye take in a hint of the view beyond, which makes the room feel less closed in when the curtains are drawn.
If you want total privacy sometimes, or to be able to shut out the outside light, you can also layer sheers behind opaque panels to have both options. Choosing similar shades for the two will help them visually blend together for a seamless effect that feels big and not busy.
- Uncover your windows altogether. Privacy not a concern in your living room? Consider leaving the windows uncovered. It removes one more element that breaks up the room, saving a precious inch or three of space and leaving the outside view fully exposed, which draws the eye outward.
- Include lots of lighting. Natural light goes a long way toward making a living room look bigger, but artificial lighting helps too. Include plenty of light sources to create a big and bright look during the day and a more selective and cozy glow at night. Include lights with dimmers when possible, and try to use lighting from at least three categories (such as floor and table lamps, hanging fixtures, recessed ceiling fixtures or wall sconces).
- Draw the eye. Here’s a clever trick: Sometimes the best way to make a room seem deeper is by drawing the eye completely outside of it. This living room doesn’t include any feature wall treatments, but the eye can’t help but land on the fun wallpaper print in the adjacent bedroom. Placing that feature wall where it could be seen from the living room cleverly adds some interest to both rooms while making the living space feel less confined.
- Use a generous area rug. Area rugs can be great for defining a specific zone as separate from its surroundings, such as anchoring a seating group in an open-concept space. However, to make a small living room look bigger, you don’t want to break it up but rather highlight a long stretch of floor.
Use a generous rug that comes close to the borders of the room to add richness and draw the eye in different directions.
- Make use of large mirrors. Adding mirrors can seriously fool the eye into thinking the room is twice as large, especially if you use one big enough to appear almost like a door or window into another space. Look to floor mirrors, oversize wall mirrors or even stretches of mirror tile to create the illusion to maximum effect.
- Use barely there tables. In a small space you can only eliminate so much furniture. After all, what use is a living room with nowhere to sit?
But one place you can reduce your bulky furniture is the coffee table. Use a leggy table to make the living room look bigger and allow you to stretch your legs a bit more, which help the room feel bigger too.
This trick doesn’t just apply to your coffee table. Use a sofa, chairs and side tables with long legs and a less bulky silhouette to create longer sight lines and give you more leg room.
- Skip the coffee table entirely. Want to be truly bold? Skip the coffee table and rely on side tables and ledges for setting down drinks and other items. Leaving out the table in the center of a seating group instantly makes a living room look and feel much more spacious. Besides, often all you really need is one good footstool anyway.
- Use open shelves. While living with less is always a great goal, sometimes you just need some extra storage. Include some open shelving without closed-in sides to stash visually interesting pieces without boxing in the room, so you don’t feel like you’ve lost 10 or 20 inches of space.
You can make your living room storage do double duty by turning drawer units or a chest into a bench. Just make sure your storage piece is sturdy enough to hold a person’s weight.
Include multiple focal points. Ultimately, you shouldn’t be scared to include some pieces that add drama and personality to your living room, even if they break up the walls and don’t create a perfectly seamless and minimalist optical illusion. Including multiple medium-strength focal points instead of just one singular feature (or none at all) encourages the eye to move around the room so you take it in completely.
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