Image: Alpine Lounge
Image: Alpine Lounge
Image: Alpine Lounge
Image: Alpine Lounge

Many of us are more than familiar with the struggle – trying to cram all our worldly possessions into your tiny living room, resulting in it feeling cramped, claustrophobic and anything but elegant and inviting. 

However, the good news is that successfully transforming this small space into an appealing, multi-functional and utterly chic room is not too difficult. So says Claire Gibson from leading furniture manufacturer, La-Z-Boy: “It all boils down to tricking the eye into perceiving that there is more space than there actually is by employing three simple decorating concepts: scale, light and movement.” 

Here are her top 10 tips on how to achieve this:

1. Keep it compact: Claire advises that you should avoid heavy, weighty styles of furniture in lieu of sleek and elegantly compact pieces: “For small spaces, always opt for pieces that don’t eat up too much usable space. A sleek sofa for example, such as those from La-Z-Boy’s Urban Attitudes Collection, will offer you as much sitting room as its overstuffed cousin, but will take up much less room.”

Image: Mobelli Furniature

2. All in proportion: For any small space, including the living room, it is all about considering scale and proportion. The general rule of thumb is that if a piece touches the boundaries of the room, then it is too large for the space. Claire explains: “In order to create the illusion of spaciousness, it is advisable to always leave a little air between the sides of furniture and the walls.”

3. Show a little leg: Creating a sense of openness and movement will lead to optimising the illusion of extra space, says Claire: “Streamlined furniture allows for a visual flow over, around and under it. For this, it is best to opt for low-slung furniture that is on raised legs, which will create a sense of light and space.”

4. Keeping a low profile: Furniture that is lower to the ground will create the illusion of more space due to the fact that there is more space above it. For this reason, choose furniture that boasts low profiles – think mid-century, or sleek and contemporary styles for example. Says Claire: “La-Z-Boy’s Urban Attitudes range of furniture was specifically designed to compliment smaller spaces in this way – boasting space-efficient proportions, low profiles and purpose-built accents that will help you create the illusion of added space.”

5. On reflection: When it comes to compact spaces – there is arguably no better remedy than the inclusion of mirrors. Claire explains: “Mirrors are a quick, affordable and attractive way to create a greater sense of openness and light – not only do they reflect light, but they also reflect the view, which tricks the eye into thinking that there is more space than there actually is.”

6. Curtain call: If possible, ditch the drapes so that your eye travels through the room, to the windows and to the outdoors beyond. “Drapes and curtains stop the eye from doing this, and they can also clutter up an already small space. If privacy is an issue and some form of window dressing is a necessity, then consider blinds, shutters or pale lightweight curtaining instead,” notes Claire.

7. Find your path: To maximise the space at hand, many homeowners are tempted to push all the various pieces of furniture to the edge of the room. However, this often makes it difficult to manoeuvre within the space – causing you to bump into things and making the room feel claustrophobic. Claire advises: “Find out where the natural flow of traffic will be, and then rather group the furniture on one side of the room, so that people can walk through unhindered.”

8. A lighter shade of pale: White and other very light tones reflect light and help make a room feel airy, serene, and most importantly, bigger. As such, Claire says that smaller living rooms should be painted in white or exceptionally light neutrals: “Painting the walls and the ceiling the same shade of white helps to blur the boundaries between the walls and ceiling, causing your eye to travel upwards – thereby creating the illusion of added height. The same applies to furniture – selecting pieces that are upholstered in light tones, or those that are made of transparent materials, such as Ghost chairs or glass coffee tables for example, will also help blur the lines and make the space seem larger.”

9. Magically multifunctional: Any living room has to be just what its name implies – a room that can be lived in. As such, functionality should reign supreme here. Investing in furniture that serves more than one function is a practical way of keeping the space equally attractive and functional. Says Claire: “Items like an ottoman that doubles as storage – where you can tuck away blankets and books for example, can serve as an extra seat, a foot rest, a side table, as well as added storage to help keep clutter at bay.”

10. Keep it simple: Above all, successfully designed small living rooms are all about editing, notes Claire: “The more pieces, patterns, textures and items you have in a room, the more cluttered it will feel. Clutter is the enemy, so try and avoid including too many knickknacks, artworks, busy patterns or overwhelming colours. To make a small living room feel as airy, spacious and inviting, you have to be very selective about what you include in the space and choose each item very carefully.”