14 Sneaky Styling Tricks for a Small Living Room

Go from a tight squeeze to your favorite hangout.

Living Room Styling

This is the space where you're supposed to unwind in after a long day, but if it's cramped and cluttered you're never going to find that zen. That is, unless you trick your eye into thinking your room is bigger than it appears. These design ideas will help you do just that.

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Christopher Baker
Keep curtains and shades light.

Beige curtains and shades coordinate with the walls in the living room of Lisa McFadden's Hamptons cottage, a trick that helps maximize light.

Get a similar look: beige curtain panels ($20, )

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<p>The living room is anchored by a tall euphorbia plant, which is similar to a cactus but needs less sunlight. The Fable rug is from Blakeney's collection for Loloi, the curtains are from Ikea and the rods are from Lowe's. </p>
David Tsay
Go big on the floor.

In Justina Blakeney's boho-chic "Jungalow" home, bolder is always better. This is especially true in the living room, right down to the brilliant blue rug (part of Blakeney's collection for Loloi). Choosing a larger rug — even in an eye-catching pattern — is a decision that makes a room feel bigger. Unlike smaller rugs, the large size doesn't visually break up the floor.

Get a similar look: distressed blue rug ($130, )

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Small Living Room Styling Ideas
Trevor Tondro
Add a few ottomans.

In a reading nook by Chloe Warner, ottomans were used in place of a traditional coffee table for maximum versatility. You can top them with a tray to hold flowers and books, or call them into use as extra seating.

Shop a similar look: red leather storage ottoman ($118, )

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Ngoc Minh Ngo
Choose seating with storage.

To open up floor space in his New York City living room, designer David Kaihoi built a corner banquette, with hidden storage beneath the seats (shown on the right). "Everything has to have more than one purpose," he says.

Shop a similar look: purple banquette ($170, )

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Victoria Pearson
Rethink the coffee table.

In designer Ken Fulk's Napa Valley cottage, two African drum tables take the place of one big coffee table in front of the Ralph Lauren sofa. "They're better for traffic flow than one of those huge knee-knockers, and easily moved to wherever we need them," says Fulk.

Shop a similar look: loveseat ($10,875 and more, ), black tables ($464 and more, )

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Jim Franco
Hang curtains high.

Curtains hung well above the window impart airiness and height in a New York City studio apartment. Homeowner and designer Andrew Stewart kept the curtain design basic but used extra fabric for fullness. He also mounted the Samsung TV on a swing-arm device, eliminating the need for a bulky media center.

Shop a similar look: rug ($157 and more, ), silver pouf ($119, )

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sisal rug
Maura McEvoy
Bring in dramatic color.

Glossy walls painted in Benjamin Moore Aura in Bittersweet Chocolate create a sophisticated backdrop for simple, clean-lined pieces in a New York City apartment. "It's a small room that doesn't get a lot of light, so we tried to turn a negative into a positive and make it feel like a dark, dramatic jewel box — but not too dark," designer Lilly Bunn says.

Shop a similar look: white coffee table (price upon request, )

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Victoria Pearson
Play with scale.

In a Texas guesthouse, an extra-large club chair is slipcovered in designer Ginger Barber's favorite check, Marvic's Damier in Beige. "I think comfort is about big scale," she says. "Lots of little things in small spaces tighten things up visually. Squeeze as much comfort into a room as possible — that's my motto!"

Shop a similar look: yellow checkered fabric ($52 per meter, )

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Victoria Pearson
Go bold.

"I don't think you should ever restrain yourself!" designer Krista Ewart says. "And big, bright and bold actually makes small spaces seem larger. The more statement pieces, the better." Vibrant colors, a mix of patterns and flowers everywhere make the living room cheerful, bright and playful.

Shop a similar look: rug ($1,195, ), tablecloth (price upon request, )

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striped madeline weinrib rug
Thomas Loof
Opt for double-duty furniture.

When entertaining, this desk becomes a dining table in a Manhattan apartment designed by Ashley Whittaker.

Shop a similar look: rug ($1,000, ), table (price upon request, ), settee ($1,799 and more, ), stool ($159, )

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green trim sofa
Bjorn Wallander
Install smart lighting.

Choose lighting that can be attached to the walls or hung from above to save room on floor space. In this 295-square-foot New York studio designed by Nick Olsen, swingarm lamps from Lamps Plus free up space on the side tables.

Shop a similar look: swingarm lamps ($130, ), pillow ($140, )

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Roger Davies
Float furniture.

In this small guesthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, designers Marshall Watson and Jeffrey Kilmer kept furniture central — not pushed against the walls. "If you create space beyond the furniture, it adds volume to a room," says Kilmer.

Shop a similar look: curtains ($27, )

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Simon Watson
Display artwork strategically.

Bring your artwork up to trick the eye and expand or accentuate the height of the room, like in Bill Brockschmidt and Richard Dragisic's 640-square-foot New York apartment.

Shop a similar look: curtains ($46, )

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Living Room Styling
Peter Murdock
Buy low seating.

In her New York City apartment, designer Kelly Giesen was strategic about her furniture picks. "All the seating is low," she says. "Chairs are off the floor on exposed legs, and the coffee table is made of there-but-not-there Lucite. These pieces keep the space from feeling crowded."

Shop a similar look: blue curtain panels ($56, )

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