A small living room can feel terribly cramped. But with the price of properties at all-time highs, and many house builders making homes smaller every year, more and more people have to make do with a tiny space. How can you turn a little room into a desirable space?
Lighten it up
First of all, lighten it up. Heavy curtains and drapes stop the light getting in. Take them down and replace them with thinner fabric, like muslin, or with blinds. Use light colors on the walls, and use matte paint, not gloss: it diffuses the light, instead of reflecting it. Furniture, too, should be light in color; white painted surfaces, rather than wood, are best for tables and shelves, while upholstery should be in pastels, white, or beige and other light natural hues.
Chairs & Sofas
Use chairs and sofas that have clearly defined legs, and don’t go all the way to the floor. Armchairs hog space, so choose chairs without arms that don’t assert themselves so dominantly, to give a more spacious effect. Tables with slim metal legs won’t clutter the space like solid refectory tables. Buy furniture that’s in keeping with small rooms – trim outlines and small footprints – rather than big pieces that are probably designed for much larger spaces.
Secondly, think about the different purposes of the room, and how to divide it up. Even the smallest room will feel livelier with different areas defined, for instance, by a set of open shelves, or a short bookshelf or cabinet. Rugs can also be used to define areas; putting two chairs and a table on a round rug is a simple way to give definition to a small dining area and separate it from the rest of the room.
It can be tempting to respond to a small space by only buying small things. But a small room can be improved by one really big statement piece – a single huge canvas on the wall or a big rug. It will pull attention away from the walls and give the space a focus. If you like strong color, this is where you should put it – vibrant pink or bright orange can really pop in a mainly white interior.
Making a small space practical demands tidiness, and not everyone is tidy by nature. Finding the right storage solutions is key to living with a stylish small space, so put some effort into the job. Using a narrow, tall cabinet rather than a long range of shelves can open up the space; another strategy is to use wall-mounted shelves on a diagonal, rather than in a vertical run. Glass shelves can help keep the light look of the room, and rather than using furniture with drawers, think about using baskets or glass jars on open shelves to organize smaller objects.
The key to making the best of a small room is to ignore the walls; think from the center out, rather than from the walls in. Use every tactic you can to take attention away from the walls, and focus it on art, or on what’s outside the window, or on your table centerpiece, and you’ll soon forget the size of the room and start seeing it as a vibrant, lived-in space.