How to Arrange Furniture in a Small Living Room

Working with small spaces can be challenging, especially if you go into it without a fully-formed approach. But, there are a few tricks to making a tiny room work, and armed with the right knowledge, you’ll be ready to tackle those tight squeezes and space savers.

On one hand, because your room is smaller, filling it might feel simpler – fewer furniture pieces, and fewer elements to coordinate as a result. However, with less in your room, your furniture has to work harder. This is particularly tough in a living room, which can serve so many purposes on a weekly, or even daily basis.

We’ve got a few handy hints and principles to keep in mind that’ll make arranging and styling a small living room a much more manageable task. Here are a few things you should consider before you overstuff what’s arguably one of the most important rooms in your home…

General Guidelines for Small Living Rooms

If you’re looking at an empty room thinking “where do I begin?”, let’s get one thing straight. The way you arrange your living room is totally up to you and your individual tastes. But, there are a few things that’ll help you prioritise what’s important to you and reflect it in the room’s design.

1. Purpose

Palermo Armchair styled in coastal living room

Palermo Armchair | Shop all armchairs

Your living room is your unique space, and each and every one suits a different life. So, be sure that yours is designed to perfectly accommodate your family’s needs and day-to-day activities.

Are you big TV watchers? Well, your living room, however small it is, will likely need to squeeze in a television and entertainment unit. If reading’s your thing, a bookshelf and cosy armchair are likely non-negotiable. For big entertainers, the list of things to consider might include small side tables and additional seating options like ottomans.

Before you take the leap and purchase your furniture pieces, truly think about the main purpose of your living room and any functional aspects that should be pinned down ahead of time. Note these down and make them central to your entire selection process.

2. Entertainment

Brosa Mia Large Entertainment Unit styled in modern contemporary living room

Mia Large Entertainment Unit | Shop all entertainment units

Some of us are tethered to our phones and tablets, but others love to kick back and relax in front of the box. If you’re a TV kind of family, then making room for a big screen is likely quite high on your list of priorities! However, it’s not an easy feat in a small space when entertainment units can be large and bulky.

If you use your television very regularly, place it in a prominent location – the centre of the room is usually the most accessible. Select a smaller entertainment unit, or alternatively, find something with tons of storage space that you can use to your advantage. If you’re occasional watchers, you might be able to get away with something smaller, and a corner of the room placement. If you own your home, and space saving is a big priority, consider mounting your TV to the wall – that way, you can watch to your heart’s content on the big screen without sacrificing your fave furniture pieces.

3. Conversation

Brosa Mitch 2 Seater Sofa styled in Scandinavian living room

Mitch 2 Seater Sofa | Shop all sofas

For the conversationalists amongst us, the way a room is arranged could make or break the next get-together on the calendar. You’ll want to create a conversation space in your living room while still making the most of what little square footage is available.

Select an area of the room that feels good – perhaps it has nice lighting, is close to a window, or just feels like a cosy corner. This is where you’ll place your seating to create a hub for chit-chat. A few armchairs is likely the way to go, but space becomes an issue once again, as these items can be oversized or chunky. If you can’t squeeze in multiple armchairs, consider a loveseat with an armchair, or even an armchair and some ottomans. Arrange them in a loose circle with ample room to move around in between, and a coffee table – maybe something compact and circular – in the centre.

4. Relaxation

Brosa Monroe Daybed styled in new Art Deco living room

Monroe Daybed | Shop all daybeds

When we unwind at the end of a long day, many of us flock to the living room – that beautiful, comfortable paradise where it’s acceptable to prop up your feet and pour a remarkably large glass of wine. So, if relaxation’s your game, there are a few things to think about that should be reflected in the room’s design and flow.

Be sure just to have the essentials in the living room if you want the space to feel tranquil. There’s nothing that puts the mind on edge more than clutter! You’ll always want to feel as if you have ‘breathing room’ and can easily, languidly navigate the space when you’re in total relaxation mode.

Create a lovely place to take a load off by adding in a daybed. This adds an extra seating option, and inherently encourages relaxation. Pop a standing lamp nearby and you’ve got a great spot to read a book. Small side tables also do the trick here, especially if you love a coffee or tea while you unwind.

5. Other functions

Brosa Huber Side Table styled in modern contemporary living room

Huber Side Table | Shop all side tables

Accommodating multiple purposes in a small living room might sound really difficult, but it’s actually quite doable if you know how to approach it. A key way is to sacrifice a furniture item, which might sound daunting, but can make way for additional space and a more adaptable living space.

For instance, rather than having a large and bulky coffee table, opt for two smaller side tables that can be moved around when entertaining or using the living room for different purposes. The same goes for chairs – instead of a big modular sofa, try out a few armchairs that can be adjusted in the space to your heart’s content. Instead of floor lamps, use your side tables (or other surfaces like bookshelves, the entertainment unit or a mantelpiece) to house table lamps.

Suiting multiple needs can be tricky, but if you keep purpose at the forefront of your decorating efforts, it can be done in a practical and chic way.

6. Storage

Brosa Marlon Sideboard styled in modern contemporary living room

Marlon Sideboard | Shop all sideboards

Storage is another must-have in a small space, especially if you’re relocating from something bigger, or just love your bits and bobs. You’ll need a place to put everything away, which is where storage pieces, built-in storage and storage containers come in handy!

Like any other room, you might already have a few existing storage options. Most coffee tables have drawers or shelves, so use these to your advantage by maximising the space with storage aids like boxes or trays. If you’ve identified reading as one of your main uses for the living room, you’ll likely have a bookshelf, which can also act as a fantastic storage spot if used correctly.

In a tiny space, another lifesaver is ‘secret storage’. There are a few sneaky furniture items that might have additional storage tucked away. For instance, many ottomans have a lift-up lid that can be used to hold blankets and cushions. Using items like this will ensure your living room feels clear and spacious, but that you’re still able to keep those important items near.

7. Lighting

Brosa Kio Table Lamp styled in new Art Deco living room

Kio Table Lamp | Shop all lighting

Every room needs good lighting, not just to save your eyes, but to help you navigate the space at all times of day and get the best use of your room. As well as overhead lighting from a built-in source, lamps give your space a glow and allow you to play with temperatures and levels of light to adjust the ambience.

To avoid too much of a tight squeeze, try to use any space other than the floor. As we’ve already mentioned, tables, bookshelves, mantelpieces and other surfaces make the perfect place to prop up a gorgeous table lamp in your favourite style. Another option is using wall lighting such as sconces to brighten up the space and keep clutter off precious floor space.

8. Rugs

Brosa Lana Sofa Bed styled in new Art Deco living room

Lana Sofa Bed | Shop all sofa beds

Although it might not seem suited to a small space, your little living room will actually benefit from a rug! They look beautiful, but more importantly, in the right style and placed correctly can actually make the space seem bigger. Select something that takes up roughly two-thirds of the area covered by your couch and coffee table, and place it underneath to give the area dimension and make it seem larger. Any pattern and colour can work, but neutrals work best if you are trying to give the illusion of more space.

9. Walkability

Brosa Oslo 2 Seater Sofa styled in modern living room

Oslo 2 Seater Sofa | Shop all sofas

‘Walkability’ might sound a bit confusing, but in short, it refers to how easy your living room is to navigate and walk around comfortably. One of the biggest dangers when decorating a small living room is overcrowding the space and limiting how many people can be in it at one time. Be sure to leave enough room to enter, leave and comfortably walk around. Check all of your seating options, too – there’s nothing worse than sinking down into a couch only for your knees to crack uncomfortably against a too-close coffee table!

10. Furniture weight

Brosa Olsen Coffee Table with Shelf styled in Scandinavian living room

Olsen Coffee Table with Shelf | Shop all coffee tables

No, we’re not talking about whether you can pick it up – the ‘weight’ you should be limiting in a small living room is the overall style and heaviness of your furniture pieces. Compare the pair – a bulky traditional buffet with a straight, blocky silhouette that sits flat against the ground, versus a lighter, thinner piece with legs that creates air and space around it. Which one of these two do you think will help the space to feel less crowded and overwhelmed? Lighter furniture pieces permit other elements of the room to be visible at all times, and ensure that the room feels airy and not weighed down.

A style that particularly lends itself to small living rooms is Scandinavian. With light-toned woods, a minimalist focus and a style that is less heavy overall, Scandi pieces give the room lots of ‘flow’ and contribute to a relaxed, breezy feeling that’s not cramped or cluttered. Try out a Scandi-style coffee table like the Olsen Coffee Table with Shelf in Scandi Oak to see this concept in action.

11. Colour

Brosa Notting Hill Velvet Chesterfield 2 Seater Sofa styled in classic traditional living room

Notting Hill Velvet Chesterfield 2 Seater Sofa | Shop all sofas

Another key design element that plays a huge role in small spaces is colour. A room with four black walls is going to feel enclosed, claustrophobic and possibly a little too gothy for our tastes! On the other hand, bright white walls will open up the space and ensure that it feels as big as it possibly can. See what we mean?

Consider the colours you allow into your small space very carefully. Whites and neutrals are always your best pick, as they blend into one another and create an easy harmony that will give the space a bright and uncluttered feel. If you love colour, you don’t have to sacrifice it, though – pick an accent colour or two and incorporate this in select elements, such as homewares items. A yellow cushion or a royal blue ottoman won’t stop your living room from feeling spacious, and it’ll inject a little of your personality in a subtle way.

12. Glass textures

Brosa Kipling Glass Top Coffee Table styled in modern contemporary living room

Kipling Glass Top Coffee Table | Shop all coffee tables

A hot tip for styling a small space is to, if your style permits, use some glass elements. In particular, glass surfaces can really open up a room. Opt for a coffee table, side tables or even an entertainment unit in chic glass to give the illusion of tons more space than you actually have. Just be sure to keep your glass clean by giving it a wipe over every week or so – dirty glass doesn’t have the same effect.

13. Levels and layers

Brosa Dominic Narrow Bookshelf styled in mid century modern living room

Dominic Narrow Bookshelf | Shop all bookcases and shelves

When you’re selecting furniture pieces for a small living room, something to keep in mind is height. There are traditional heights for most pieces, but in terms of homewares especially, you can mix it up – and using levels as such can create space in the room, both physically and aesthetically.

For instance, try to elevate pieces where you can to make use of otherwise untouched wall space. A slightly higher entertainment unit, or a lower buffet with wall shelving above it, could mean the difference between a room that feels a little cramped and one that is a bastion of peace and tranquillity. Employ the same principles when it comes to decor items – instead of keeping everything at the same height, mix it up and create layers.

14. Mirrors and artwork

Brosa The Eucalyptus Triptych Set of 3 styled in classic traditional living room

The Eucalyptus Triptych Set of 3 | Shop all wall art

While you might be a little short on floor space, what about the walls? Artwork is an amazing way to give your living room lots of personality and charm without actually crowding the space or affecting its ‘walkability’. Hang up your favourite pieces, whether they’re prints, photography or perhaps even your own paintings, to impart a unique mix of the things that inspire you on your very own walls. Chances are, you’ll take a look at those beautiful artworks and feel happy and energised every time you’re in your living room.

Another way to utilise the walls – or even the floor space – in your small living room is by adding mirrors. You may have heard this design tip before, but mirrors can create the illusion of more space than is actually there through their reflective nature. Tack one up on your walls, or if you have the room, place a large floor mirror on one side of your space to open it right up.

15. Simplicity

Brosa Kaneko Entertainment Unit styled in Scandinavian living room

Kaneko Entertainment Unit | Shop all entertainment units

Finally, when all else fails, keep it simple! Simplicity is key in any small space, whether that’s your living room, bedroom, bathroom or dining room. Employ minimalist tactics and ensure all those bits and tchotchkes have their own space to avoid unnecessary clutter day to day. Keep your furniture pieces simple, without any overly aggrandizing features, and use multipurpose options where possible. At the end of the day, we can all live with less, and sometimes in a small space that’s the best tactic.

Are you feeling empowered and ready to style up your small living space? We hope so – with these tips in your arsenal, you’ll be ready to create something that’s pretty and practical, and doesn’t feel like an overwhelming place to be when you’re trying to wind down.

Shop everything from living room furniture to homewares, storage and more with Brosa. We offer Australia-wide delivery with a number of service options, as well as flexible payments through AfterPay and ZipMoney. Use our virtual styling services and cutting-edge digital styling technology to ensure your new furniture pieces are right for your space. We wish you all the best on your styling mission!