Successfully decorating small spaces can be a lot more difficult than decorating large areas and rooms. Decorating a small living room is no exception, especially if you are working on a tight budget or downscaling from a larger house.

Starting from scratch can be intimidating, but a modest, minimal look can grow into whatever takes your fancy. Starting with a mish-mash of collectibles and worn, perhaps unmatched furniture is simply frustrating, and far too many people end up by throwing a room together with whatever they have got.

So whether you are starting afresh or starting from scratch, consider the room the same way. Then make use of what you need and like, and get rid of anything you don’t like.

Since we’re talking about living rooms here, chances are it’ll be a family room of sorts, or even a room where you will entertain informally. Assess who will be using the room and then decide what furniture you need to make it work for everyone. Consider function, for example whether you will eat here and whether it will be used as a television room. Think carefully about colors and both wall surfaces and floor finishes. Consider style and decide whether you will follow a style or theme. Last of all look at ornamentation and items you may want to display. These may range from artworks to treasured knick knacks. These last items are those finishing touches that will give your living room a personal feel.

Most living rooms share a common purpose and so here are some of the most important aspects you will need to consider:

  • theme and color scheme,
  • seating,
  • tables and other furniture,
  • doors and windows,
  • storage,
  • wall and floor finishes, and
  • finishing touches.

Theme and color scheme

For a plan to come together it should have some sort of purpose. Of course since we’re talking about a living room, this in itself is ‘purpose’, but it doesn’t relate directly to décor, so it isn’t enough.

When it comes to decorating a small living room, a well defined style often helps to pull the plan together. Another aspect is color, and having a color theme is always helpful. Your starting point may be the carpet you have chosen or perhaps the upholstery fabric or curtain material. Maybe your choice of color will be dictated by mood. For example yellow is a cheerful, bright color while pale blue is cool and subdued. Wanting a cheerful room you might go out in search of furnishings and accessories that will meet these needs.

So first of all decide on a starting point and have a sense of purpose.

Seating

Every living room needs seating, and it should be both comfortable and versatile. In a small room you won’t have the luxury of creating more than one seating area, and size will dictate on how much seating you can accommodate. Look at what you’ve got and what you want or still need.

A good way to assess layout of existing furniture, including seating, is to measure and draw the room to scale and then make template cut-outs of each item, drawn to the same scale. Be sure to accurately mark the position of windows and doorways – and which way doors open and close. Then position the templates on the plan. You should try to imagine what different layouts will look like. The templates will help to ensure that the furniture will fit – but still use your imagination.

Generally people like to sit in circles, so they can look at one another and talk. If the room is to be used for watching television, don’t let the TV set dominate the room. This can be a particular challenge in a small room, but positioning it to the side of the circle often works well. And think about positioning it in a cupboard of sorts.

Once you know what seating will fit, you can decide whether what you already have needs to be reupholstered or redone in any other way to fit the look or theme – or just to make it look bright and cheerful again.

Tables and other furniture

Tables are always useful in a living room, for drinks, paperwork, books, even for eating on. If you plan to use the room for eating, then a reasonably large table is a good idea, as long as it doesn’t dominate. Aim to separate couches and so-on from a dining (or eating) table. What often happens is that some people will group around the table while others sit more comfortably on couches. That in itself effectively creates two immediate seating areas.

If space really is at a premium, a nest of tables is a good idea. And a coffee table or even a chest that will double for storage purposes, is always useful in front of couches.

There isn’t usually much room for other furniture in small living rooms, but sometimes a decorative sideboard or drinks cabinet can find its place and improve the appeal of the décor as a whole.

Always remember your sense of purpose and make sure that what you choose will fit in and look good.

Doors and windows

Doors and windows improve the quality of light in any living room. If there is a good view from one or more windows, this can become a focal point when you organize the furniture.

But decoratively speaking windows come into their own with window coverings, in particular, curtains and blinds. Consider style as well as pattern and texture when you make your choice.

Storage

Storage space is always useful in the living room, for anything from books to glassware, but it isn’t necessarily essential. Before you consider bringing in cupboards and cabinets, or even hanging shelves, consider what these will look like. If storage space is at a premium in your house or apartment as a whole, you might have to find storage space for books or other items in the living room. If so it often helps to make them a feature, rather than something with no other place to go.

If you are going to incorporate some sort of storage into the living room plan, don’t forget that it can often be used for displaying decorative items in the room. For example, a display cabinet may be used for storing glassware and ornaments, and plain shelves may be used for books and collectibles.

Wall and floor finishes

Both practical and decorative, wall and floor finishes can spell the success or failure of any living room décor. These surfaces really are the shell of the room, but they can do so much to bring it alive or make it feel cool or cosy.

Walls present the simplest way to introduce color to a room, while floor surfaces will sound-proof, insulate and add warmth to the room. Generally neutral colors are easiest to work with on the floor, but rugs can add a welcome splash of color and pattern.

Finishing touches

It is attention to the detail of finishing touches that often makes people feel like decorators. The rest to them is quite mundane. But when it comes to decorating a small living room, if the basics don’t gel, you’re going to find it difficult to successfully complete the decorative process.

Think carefully about what finishing touches mean to you, and remember that they really are those personal touches that only you can make. It might be the addition of a special painting on the wall, or treasured items displayed lovingly on the mantelpiece. Or perhaps you want to spent a little time stenciling a motif around the top of the wall or just add color and sweet smells with freshly picked flowers in a plain glass vase on the coffee table.

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