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Q & A–Decorating Ideas For This Small Living Room?

Denise is looking for some help with her living room…

reader question - living room ideas

Here’s what she says:

I have a very small living room and I’ve been thinking of ways to make it functional. I’m not sure what colors to choose or decor that would fit great in the space . Any tips would be very helpful.

Kristi’s suggestions:

First, it looks like you already have dark plum/burgundy, orange, and green in the room.  I happen to love these colors together, and I think you could really play up this color palette.  In fact, take a look at the cover of the January 2014 Better Homes and Garden magazine:

better homes and gardens 2014

The green on the BH&G cover is lighter and brighter, where yours looks darker and earthier, but it’s still the same idea.  And the items in the room pictured on the cover also add pink and blue, which isn’t needed, but shows just how you could change up and add to the colors you already have.

But before you start playing up these accent colors, I think you need a good “backdrop” color on the wall.  I’m going to go against my nature and actually recommend a neutral color for your walls, such as this Accessible Beige from Sherwin Williams shown on the walls of this entryway.

wall color - accessible beige from sherwin williams

That Accessible Beige is a beautiful neutral color that gives a bit of warmth to the room, and contrasts nicely with clean white trim.  So of course, I would recommend adding/painting the trim in the room.  Add some beefy baseboards, crown moulding, etc., and paint those things a clean and bright (but not too stark) white.  The white shown in the picture just above is Sherwin Williams Alabaster, which is a perfect white for trim.

Next, the window treatments…

I don’t think that the window scarves you currently have are accentuating your windows like they should be.  I would suggest using full length drapery panels instead, hung high and wide so that they don’t block out the light.  You could make your own, which would widen your options as far as fabric goes.  And you could use whatever you like.  If you could find a pattern like a floral or stripe that had all of the colors in it, that would be awesome…but probably quite a challenge.  So you could even use a solid color, like a solid green.

Furniture arrangement:

It looks like your large, overstuffed furniture might be a bit much for this small room.  I would suggest keeping the sofa, but see about replacing the loveseat with two chairs that will take up less space (both literally and visually) to open the room up a bit.  In addition, I would also mount the t.v. on the wall to the right of the window, and then find an interesting piece of furniture (like a vintage/antique dresser), paint it in an accent color, and then use it below the t.v. to “ground” the television.  That would give you the opportunity to add a bit more style and color to the room than the current black t.v stand allows.


The last thing I would suggest is removing the current “boob light” and replacing it with something that will give you a bit more style.  Since it looks like you have an eight-foot ceiling, you’ll need to find something that is either a flush mount or semi-flush mount.  Depending on the style that you like, you could add a bit of a modern touch like this Modern Matrix ceiling light from Shades of Light…

modern matrix ceiling light from shades of light

…or if you prefer a traditional look, you could go with something like this Smokebell Semi-Flush Ceiling Lantern from Shades of Light.

semi-flush ceiling lantern from shades of light

Really, the possibilities are endless, and there are flush and semi-flush lighting options available to fit just about any and every style, and they will add much more interest to your room than the builder-grade boob light.  😉

Once you get those foundational things in place, of course you can start adding accessories and artwork to complete the room.

Those are my suggestions for Denise’s living room.  What would you suggest?



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    1. Sheila, I did that because our dining table did not fit in the dining room and it worked well for me. I had a chandelier hung to center over the table about 36″ above the table.

  1. I think lightening up the paint as recommended, and then remove one of the sofas, get 2 chairs that are lighter neutrals with a couple of colored pillows to go with the curtains you choose. Don’t do kittie corner with ANYTHING and allow some room off the walls with your furniture if possible and add a neutral rug. Keep the colors going on your less expensive items like accessories and pillows. Good luck!

  2. She needs to find a nice area rug to pull the “living room” together and maybe the same rug pattern for the dining area to separate the two. Without knowing the size of the 2 areas together, its hard to visualize. She could also not have a formal dining area and combine the 2 areas in to a comfy cozy great room if she needs space for more than 4 people. Just my thoughts….

  3. Good ideas except one. If they move the tv to the left of the window they won’t be able to watch it from the furniture, I also have a small living room and the tv in a corner is the only thing that works if more than one will be watching it. I actually have the same arrangement with two chairs and a love seat. We thought wall mounting would be a good idea too but it didn’t work.

    1. Kristi said what I was thinking, keeping the tv where it was, to the RIGHT of the window, but mounting it with a nicer piece of furniture under it. I personally got a road side found dresser for free, fixed it up, took out the three top drawers, put in shelves, some baskets, and I get lotsa compliments. I have artwork around it in a gallery type setting so the tv isn’t the full focal point.

  4. The tv certainly overwhelms the space. Perhaps add two smaller armless chairs. Find a nice end table and lamp that is in scale. The current one is too small. Add an area rug to define the space and add visual interest at the floor.

  5. If I see the area correctly, you have two windows in the corner together – one on the back wall and one on the left wall. The drapery is setting the corner too tightly. Consider using a corner rod that extends a minimum of 3 inches past each outside edge of the window, then arrange the drapery to meet at the corner (leaving the outside of the window exposed – like in the 3rd picture here http://garrisonhullinger.com/2012/03/03/ask-ghid-what-window-treatments-are-best-for-corner-windows/

    Kristi’s color choices are perfection – go with it.

    Wall mount the tele where the ornamental iron decor is now, coupled with Kristi’s idea about using a cabinet underneath it, as well as her idea to eliminate one couch.

    Ditch the ficus and replace it with smaller tufts of light green ferns, hibiscus, orchids, etc. (keep the greenery light, small and billowy)

    Lighting in a room this size is key. You’ll want to balance that burning daylight that’s shining through the corner with a large mirror on an opposing wall (Behind where you can see the person’s elbow, maybe).

    Unless you love the door color, I’d consider changing it the same color as the wall (or lightest trim color) to help it disappear and make the room appear larger. (Sometimes doors are not good focal points).

    Keep the center of the floor clear, and if you must use a rug, use one just large enough to cover the area in front of the couch and under the chairs Kristi suggested.

    Small rectangular or round side tables will soften the feel and add angular dimension to the already boxy room.

    A collection of empty, painted frames on the left wall will give it dimension without detracting from the color of the wall.

    1. I love these suggestions! I think these ideas hit the nail on the head! And so inexpensive to do! Some paint, a few lights, a couple chairs, a TV mount and that’s it! I can’t wait to see the transformation!!!

  6. It looks like you have it in the best way now. If you do wall mount TV, put it on a mounting arm that can angle the TV when needed. If you can’t afford smaller scale furniture, put rags under your couch feet and move furniture around til you find a new way, keeping in mind, the TV can be moved. Have fun trying new things!

  7. If I am viewing the picture correctly, the front door of the house does not open into the living room, but into some other room or foyer, but can be seen from through the living room doorway. There is a piece of furniture in that room or foyer which is blocking both the exterior door, and the doorway into the living room. If that is correct, that piece of furniture should really be moved. As the room is so very small, I agree 100% with Kristi on the colors. And the scarfs on the windows are also wrong. A single curtain panel on each wall, while not even covering the window, could still be pulled back by a holder to give the idea of more charm. For myself, I feel the wrought arm scrollings over the footstool appear too heavy for such a small room. While I feel the tv is much too large for such a small room, it does appear to me that this is truly a tv room rather than a living room. It appears to be set up to allow three people to view tv in great comfort, but not in any way welcoming to guests. I don’t believe I see a love seat in the room, but instead a pair of connect recliners, with an individual recliner with it’s back toward the dining area. My first question is: is there another room, such as a bedroom which could serve as the tv viewing room, while leaving this room to welcome guests? And if not, could you trade for smaller, but still comfortable seating? If this room is used singularly for tv viewing, then I see why you have the tv in the corner, because it could not be viewed comfortably from the double recliner if placed on the wall beside the window, and tv viewing seems to be the sole purpose of this room. The footstool, while offering extra seating in a pinch, is much too large for the room. Couldn’t extra seating be drawn from the dining area instead of having the large footstool? While the light fixture does need to be changed, I might also think about changing the ceiling from a gloss to either an eggshell finish for texture. The opportunity is there to make this a very charming living room. Good luck, and I hope you will eventually show us your choices. Please note that I am not, and have never been, a professional decorator. I just have fun making rooms look warm and welcoming. Your own choices are not wrong, unless they do not feel warm and welcoming to you. But as you have asked Kristi for help, it seems you truly want to make it more welcoming. Kristi IS a professional and I hope you ill take her advice. More carefully chosen artwork is the key to this room.

  8. One other thing I would consider is painting the ceiling in a flat or eggshell paint. In the picture it looks very high gloss. Also I would consider what Kristi mentioned and have grommet or pinch pleated drapes on each window one hanging to the right and one to the left and one in the center on a bent rod to fill out and balance that space. Good luck :0)

    1. The ceiling was one of the first things I noticed. I really think a flat white would make the ceiling feel taller and the room more open.

  9. After viewing the picture more thoroughly, I see that Kristi is correct in that the piece of seating with it’s back toward the dining area is indeed a love seat and not another oversized recliner. I also now see that the ceiling is 7 1/2′ (by judging the distance over the living room doorway). Therefore, the ceiling fixture will have to be a flush fixture because it is in the direct walkway through the room. However, it can be something much nicer than the builders grade there now. And apparantly, the room has been decorated with the man of the house in mind. I do understand that way of thinking, but am extremely proud my husband is wise enough to not want a large tv, taking into consideration the amount of energy it uses. I do hope yours is an LED lit tv, to cut down on energy usage. However, it has occurred to me how to hang the tv on the wall to the right of the window in order to place a piece of decorative and useful furniture underneath it. Some of the tv wall mounts allow for a large amount of swivel with an extension arm, thereby turning it slanted while viewing, and pushing it back against the wall when it is not on. I would coax the man of the house to consider moving down to a 32″ tv instead of the current one. The room is so small that no one can be far from the tv anyway, doing away with the need for a large tv. The change to a 32″ would more than pay in energy savings if you change to an LED. The striped woven cover on the footstool would be perfect for the curtain panels if you keep the dark furniture. Like someone else said, nix the ficus plant which is taking up very valuable floor space. Instead, if you choose, you could hang an airy plant from the ceiling, but not too low. Making your own slender end table for that corner of the windows would allow for a slender reading lamp in that corner. I always say that lamps are the jewels of the home. If you do keep the dark brown furniture, throw in some color with a throw that matches the green cushions, but make sure they have some texture, as that seems to be greatly missing in your room. I’m very excited for you, that you are seeking opportunities to change and improve. Love your Duncan Phyfe dining set.

  10. I do agree with Kristi’s ideas. I would go with one leggy side chair (Cornered where the love seat is now. I would add a small side table between the chair and the wall with a floor lamp. (to free up space on the table). It would allow 3 people to view the tv. Then if you are having company perhaps a pouffe tucked away somewhere for extra seating. I my mind this opens the living room to the dining room and helps it look bigger. Good luck! And please show us what you do!

  11. depending on your electrical skills – it would be nice to have a combination of a hanging pendant light and a standing floor lamp instead of the table and lamp. I agree with Kristy that the boob light has to go, but I would rather see it capped and have a pendant off to the side above either seating piece – rather than a light directly in the middle of the room. I also think the floor looks to be in great shape, but the brown furniture and dark orange floor tones are bleeding together. A light natural colored rug would add warmth and texture. Wondering… what could be done to make the room feel taller and more spacious? Maybe that would come in the form of tall accessories that drew your eye up…shelving, vases, etc..

  12. I thinking mounting the tv on the wall where the scrolls things are would be great, with a swivel arm. It would free up some floor space. Have you considered getting less “bulky” furniture? I have bulky couches and always wonder if more stream limed furniture would give the illusion of bigger space…

  13. I have to say Denise I literally have this EXACT set up in my home. I have a large family room on the other side of the house off the kitchen, but the front entrance opens into the entry with stairs to the left and a small living room like yours to the right which opens to the dining room (which yours seems to do and my TV actually is in the same spot and I have leather furniture too! lol crazy -it works best with dogs!)
    I would say first off…just go ahead and love your space! Small spaces can be made just as beautiful and cozy and inviting as big spaces. Don’t try to “make” it look larger- embrace the cozy feel of the room. I think people should come in and go “wow, I love your room!” with the size issue being secondary. Google small living spaces and you will see beautiful ones!
    And I am going to assume like most of us…your house is real and lives “real” meaning your TV whether we think it fits or not, needs to be there. And I am going to assume you like your furniture and want it to stay whether others think it fits or not lol….so…
    Your room has great potential and please know that you can do this…big or small! I would definitely go with the Tan Kristi talks of. I am in the midst of re-doing this space in my own home too. Right now I have Tumbleweed Tan on the walls and I am painting them Whisper by Porter Paints which is slightly brighter with a little less beige and slightly grey based. I have ceiling crown and I am going to add more AND an electric fireplace to my room- small or not! It may be a small room but you can give it big personality!!
    I personally use and would suggest for you bold bright drapes (my window is a double) and keep them to the outside with a panel on each side, so all the light comes in. I also suggest a light colored/tan Sisal rug to brighten up the space. I got rid of the sofa, kept the loveseat and chair. I’m not a fan of mounted TV’s but I might agree with Kristi here to mount it and then turn the sofa or loveseat (I’d keep one) towards it and possibly a chair in the corner too.
    Look at the picture Kristi posted for the beige wall color. Now actually picture that crown, the look of that entrance room in your room. It would be amazing and no one would ever think about the size of it, only the beauty! Good things come in small packages! 😉
    And I painted my front door Valspar Yachtman too so it pulls it into the room. Since I am in the midst of doing my same room -. I love to see your finished project——- that’s if that’s cool with Kristi. I don’t know all the blog etiquette yet really, so……….?????
    Check out these little rooms with leather. Different styles but still little and say wow!

  14. Would agree with most of what you said, I would change the curtins to Roman blinds or perhaps venetian purely so the room has a more open larger feel to it. If able to, I would pass on the furniture and obtain a lounge suite that was more simple in style, where you can see the legs so it is up off the ground and again creates a sense of more space.

  15. What about mounting the tv to the right of the window where the wrought iron decorations are currently and then floating the couch or love seat directly across creating a natural separation of space from the dining room? I would then find a buffet of dresser like Kristi suggested that could reside under the tv. Then put a couple smaller chairs with a side table and lamp to occupy the wall the couch currently resides on? I am in the camp that says you don’t have to keep a room neutral just because it’s small. How about a beautiful apple green or a lovely pale gray blue that would compliment the orange undertones of your hardwood. A graphic floor rug to anchor the space and you should be good to go! Good luck!

  16. I would add possibly taking the three rectangular art pieces down (maybe put across the room on the wall in the dining area or another place?) and raise the piece of ‘vase and florals’ art a bit higher on the wall where the sofa currently is. I agree with putting the tv on a piece of furniture, and put it on the wall where the metal art is currently. I would move the large sofa to the approximate position of the loveseat, but all the way to the left side of the picture, leaving space to the right side to enter the dining area. I would move the smaller seat to another room and put a club chair of moderate size where the sofa currently is. I find people (in my house) rarely choose to sit in a small chair, they gravitate to the bigger, cushier ones. I like the color Kristi mentioned and think raising the curtains is a great idea, and adding moulding too. She has some awesome ideas. I would put some pillows with a pop of color on the furniture to unite the scheme.

  17. My two cents: Assuming they don’t want to do a total re-make of the furniture and decor I would keep the two brown sofa’s and TV where they are (the function of the room appears to be a family friendly room that needs to be beautiful and comfortable and not just a show piece room). I would remove the vase and flowers metal decor and leave the three piece metal art, just moved lower on the same wall but not centered with the TV and remove the ottoman and pillows (if you have guests and need extra seating you could always pull in a chair from the dining room for that event). I like the teal and green pillows the homeowner choose. I would suggest adding a cream and teal geometric rug in the center of the room (ie. something from West Elm, Joss and Main, Crate and Barrel) and a piece of artwork with the same teal that is in the pillows above the sofa pictured in the left side of the picture (Pier 1 had a lot in the beautiful teal color their pillows are). I like Kristi’s ideas of the Sherwin Williams tan and changing out the light fixture for a something with a non-shiny gold finish. I would also add a slightly larger end table and a slightly larger lamp (I like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Kirkland’s for nice mid-priced lamps) and remove the fabric to the right of the sofa. If there is room add another end table to the left of the sofa with a matching lamp. For my tastes I would change out the sheer curtains to a teal similar to the pillows (solid teal or another idea would be cream 2/3 and the bottom 1/3 teal of each panel). If you find the right piece of furniture to re-do for the TV stand and do a swivel mount like other suggested, just so the furniture piece isn’t too big or bulky.The TV doesn’t bother me in the room. I would also change the high gloss ceiling paint to eggshell of matte. I’m curious too to see what you end up doing. Best of luck.

  18. I like Kristi’s color suggestions a lot. As for window treatments, I think draperies might darken the room too much. Consider some kind of shade (Roman?) or Plantation shutters for the windows. I would also mount the television on the wall to the right of the window. I might put some kind of movable bench under the television to use as extra seating in a ‘guest’ situation. As for furniture placement, would there be room to rotate the sofa 90 degrees to the right? You could put a comfy chair where the sofa was and maybe another small one in the corner near the doorway. A small coffee table would complete all the furniture that room could hold.

    Alternate furniture plan: wall mount television with a small console or table beneath it. Rotate sofa 90 degrees to the right and place two small chairs where sofa was. A small bench in front of the window(s) could double as a window seat/extra seating. Use colorful pillows and artwork to liven the room up. (Gee, I hope nobody is laughing at my suggestions. Sometimes I think I can see how the room should look and then the reality is a ‘hot mess’.)

  19. I think an area rug might be good to have & I agree that the curtains you have are not doing much for you. If you don’t like curtains,and that is why you have those long scarf things, I would get the kind that look like a valance and then look flat when pulled down or roller shades. I think you could try just moving what you have around before ridding yourself of it. Shuffle it around until you have a layout that works. Not sure that the bench is worth having in there, at least as a bench up against the wall. It might be more useful as a coffee table or ottoman in front of the couch. Then, you would have room to put the tv on the window wall and have shelves and a storage thing under the TV. The wall decor could be moved over the couch. And track lighting may be the way to go, instead of the big light in the middle, once you figure out your layout of the furniture pendant lights on tracks over the furniture might help free up floor space while still allowing you to read. If you go with getting an area rug, be sure to wait to pick out anything else before you get that & then get whatever window treatment & wall paint with that in mind.

  20. If she would like to keep the furniture she has I would recommend putting the love seat on the wall which currently has the TV and hanging the TV on the wall to the right of the entrance from the foyer. The couches forming an L shape would be more natural in this space. I would then remove the ficus tree and replace it with a large round side table by the window, which is an excellent spot for real plants and a table lamp and accessories. She would possibly need to add blinds or light blocking curtains if they watch TV during the day. There are so many cute styles to choose from and this would help update the room. Adding a rug would give it a conversational space and moving that ottoman to the center with a tray on it would be nice. She may want to look for some sort of sofa table or cabinet to go under the hanging TV and then rearrange the art as it sits a little high and could be spread out. Adding some artwork with a little color would look nice too.

  21. Denise, I love the lighter paint colors Kristie has suggested. I also believe the “boob” light needs to be replaced. Home Depot and Lowes both have some nice, inexpensive replacement fixtures. I think I would get rid of the tiny table holding the lamp at the end of the couch and then slide the couch on down where you now have the tiny table. I would then put a floor lamp there for extra lighting. This would open up more room at the window end. If you have room, you could put the tree at the end of the couch with the floor lamp. I would use two curtain panels, one on each side of the window mounted where they do not cover the window at all. Make sure you mount the curtain rod as high as possible! Maybe put a table with lamp in front of the window! I think using the bench as a coffee table might work. If you don’t want to mount the tv, I would find a taller piece of furniture just wide enough to hold the tv. You can purchase swivel bases at all electronic stores or just turn the tv by hand if you don’t want a swivel base. Put your art work over the couch now that you have moved it down on the main wall. I don’t know what that is in front of front door but it looks out of place from this side of the room. If you can, slide the love-seat back a little. Ideally, if you could store the love seat or use it in another room it would be great. If you have 6-8 chairs around your dining table, I would suggest removing 2 of them to open the feel of the room. Your home is lovely! Just a little cramped. I can’t wait to see what you do. If you live in Lousiana, I would love to help!

  22. What an innovative ideas. Your color choice is amazing. I love these suggestions! Moreover, these ideas hit the pin on the head! I like the color, which you have mentioned and think raising the curtains is a great idea. Good luck.