Get inspiration and ideas from our traditional small living room, full of cozy and welcoming details. This is a little bit traditional with a little bit of cottage charm thrown into the mix, and it’s one of my favorite warm spaces.

Find our paint colors, furniture and accessory sources, and all the details to create your own small living room design, oozing with cottage style.

Take a before and after tour of our small living room and learn what works for us!

A sofa in a living room
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Originally published January 22, 2013 and updated June 15, 2021.

I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes, it takes me months to complete a project. Our living room is no exception.

When we first moved into this home, it was a slow and steady process to create a small living room we loved. See the full Home Tour of our Kansas colonial for an incredible before and after!

Pieces trickled in over the months, I’d get inspired to do more, then sidetracked by holidays and even experienced a little mishap. While it’s not yet complete, I wanted to share with you my work in progress. That’s what life is after all, right?

Chris and I have always had very different tastes. He is modern and I’m traditional. I also wanted to keep the space functional for the girls and comfortable for all.

A living room filled with furniture and a fire place. Shelves surround the fire place and a flat screen TV hangs over it as well.

Small Living Room Makeover

Coming from a larger living room in our previous home, but utilizing the same furniture, it has taken some time to adjust, but it’s cozy, and just the right size for a family of five. I’ve learned a little along the way and am excited to share my tips and tricks with you!

First up, you have to check out some before photos:

A living room with a large window

The room was dark and dated. We started by removing the shutters, painting the walls, trim, bookcases and windows. Then we refinished the hardwoods and removed the mantel.

If you’ve been following for a while now, you may recall that we decided to use the smaller of two rooms as the main area for our home. There’s a disconnect between the larger family room and kitchen and with three little girls, I like having them nearby while I cook.

In an ideal situation, the two rooms would be one open space, but, over the years we altered it to function for our family and lifestyle.

A living room filled with furniture and a fire place. Shelves surround the fire place and mirror hangs over it as well.

So it’s not perfect, but we’ve come a long way! One thing I’ve learned in my nearly six years of marriage, is compromise. Yes, I’m referring to that big black tv that is the focal piece of our living room that I never thought would be.

Another item of note: I’m not as perfect as I’d like to be. I ordered cabinet doors to reface those dated 60’s cabinet doors you see below. I mis-measured. I haven’t had the heart to think another minute about it. Maybe in another month or two?

Small Living Room Ideas

(Psst… get my secret for how to disguise your tv with a Frame TV like we did in our new living room – and see the whole Neutral Living Room in our St. Louis Home here!)

One of our biggest priorities included having plenty of seating for guests. We didn’t deviate much from the floor plan I designed. We can easily seat 11, and honestly more if we utilize the “ottoman” and get a little cozy.

Let’s talk about what you do see. To the left, our modern 9′ extra deep sofa slipcovered in Belgian linen from Restoration Hardware. This not only fits Chris, but easily seats five guests.

The fabric spots clean easily and can be removed to be washed or dry cleaned, making it family practical. Straight ahead you’ll see the mantel to hide the tv cords along with two dining chairs in Belgian linen fog.

These can be moved for additional seating in the kitchen or dining room. Between them, is my favorite end table from Anthropologie in brass. I’m still styling the bookcases…more on those in a minute.

A living room filled with gray furniture and a large window

I wanted two cozy English roll arm chairs. While I always thought that they would be upholstered, I found these deconstructed chairs and knew they’d be a great compliment to my traditional taste along with Chris’ modern taste. A hint of each of us, if you will.

Accessorizing a Small Living Room

The chairs are accompanied by oversized cable knit pillows from Pottery Barn. For the window treatments, I kept with traditional brass and hung basket weave linen drapes in fog, leaving an extra foot to drape on the floor for a little added luxe. I didn’t want to block an ounce of light.

A chandelier next to a window

Speaking of light, I couldn’t resist a floor chandelier lamp, but couldn’t afford the one I first spotted at Restoration Hardware. Using one of my favorite tips (don’t miss more of these tips for a Luxury Home for Less), I looked to their sister store, RH Baby & Child and purchased this piece for half the price.

It feels so glamorous when I turn it on in the evenings to read a magazine… almost like I’m in a hotel.

A living room filled with furniture and a large window

I found this foot stool that doubles as a great side table, for just $25. It’s also one of Adalyn’s favorite seats! I love anything that can multi-task. On it, you’ll see a favorite read of mine – New York Times 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA and Canada.

To the right, the MacAusland blanket I adore that my in-laws gave me last Christmas. You may have seen it before, showing you just how versatile it is!

Shelves filled with flowers and other knick knacks.

Small Space Inspiration

In our book cases, I displayed several favorite books, like those you see below. We also used family photos and unique pieces, like my Grandma’s family bible collection-some dating back to the 1800’s.

Above is my wedding bouquet, dried, along with the music to our song. Get more Bookshelf Decor Ideas here.

Shelves filled with books and other knick knacks.

The rug was a steal {click here for my tips for purchasing a rug} and I love that I can adapt the room with the seasons with its color scheme. The coffee table is actually a tufted bench on wheels.

Its wheels allow it to move freely around the room, depending on what we’re using the space for. I can move it easily to give the girls extra room to play, or move it in front of the sofa. The lack of sharp corners makes it safe for the kiddos as well.

A sofa in a living room

The accordion side table is a knock off of the $1,000 version I fell in love with. At just $50, I can use it in a number of ways or spaces throughout our home.

For now, it takes the place of any additional end tables. I’ve had three sets delivered, and haven’t loved any of them! I’ll blame my pregnancy.

A living room filled with furniture and a large window

Small Living Room Ideas to Maximize Space and Make it Feel Larger:

  1. Use a large rug to define the space. Standard rule of thumb is that the front legs of furniture should be on the rug and it be no further than 2′ in from any wall. A light colored rug will also contribute to a more open feeling. Get more tips for rugs, including The BEST Custom Sisal Rugs and Indoor Outdoor Rugs.
  2. Select a light paint color in eggshell sheen or above to reflect light.
  3. Allow natural light to shine in.
  4. Use both overhead lighting and lamps. Again, light makes a room appear larger.
  5. Open it up to other rooms. We removed the foyer closet and wet bar to allow for an improved traffic flow, light to pass through and so that you can see into the kitchen, breakfast nook, mudroom, foyer, office and family room, giving the illusion of more space.
  6. Utilize built in furniture like bookcases to create functional storage. I converted one side of our bookcase into a functional bar.
  7. Incorporate baskets into the decor for additional storage space. DVD’s, remotes, the rarely used DVD player, batteries, card games and more are stored in the baskets nestled into the built-ins.
  8. Choose a focal point that will detract from the room’s size. Our tv in our new living room doubles as art, so not only does it multi-task, making the most of the space, but it draws your eye across the room from the moment you walk in the door.
  9. Incorporate a coffee table on wheels. Our coffee table can easily be moved for impromptu dance parties.
  10. Use furniture to scale. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate a full size sofa in our small living room, but our extra deep {because it was purchased for our prior home} love seat is the perfect spot to snuggle up. Anything larger would feel oversized and accentuate the small space.
  11. Use furniture that multi-tasks. We have a wood stool to set drinks on, but can also be used as an additional seat. The ottoman serves as a coffee table, foot rest and again, additional bench seating if needed.
Shelves filled with books and other knick knacks.

Read more about Unconventional End Tables and furniture that multi-tasks.

Inspiration for Small Living Rooms

I hope you enjoyed these small living room ideas…this room has been a great reminder for me that it’s not the size of the space that counts, but who you share it with.

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  1. I’m so glad I found and apartment that’s as neat and bright as your house. Thanks for your pictures! You inspired me to clean more and open my windows during daytime!

  2. Your living room’s so lovely! My friend moved in next to my apartment unit, and she did that to the living room. But she used a bit darker shade.

  3. The room reminds me of condominiums in Manila for some reason. I prefer dark colors for the bedroom but I think I might renovate my room and paint the walls with white color for a change.