Compact living spaces are a challenge to design, but the smallest considerations and adjustments can make both the process and the outcome wholly satisfying. It’s important to think outside the box (room).
Below are our top 5 tips for seating and styling small living spaces.
Consider light and function
Before you open that web browser to begin shopping for furniture and fittings, or spend any time looking at other homes on Pinterest, get to know your own space. Light equals space, so it’s important to ascertain the light you have available in the space and either use it to your advantage or enhance it with the pieces you acquire. While at first a modestly sized room with small windows may seem an impossible project, what it really provides is an interesting design opportunity. How large is the scope for playing with finishes and textures? How can I use visual illusions to enhance this room? Then, decide how you envisage the space being used; chances are, this will be a blend of functions from cosy family nights in, to drinks with friends (pandemic allowing, of course). Pinning down a desired end mood will help inform your choices and make purchases which, through versatility, will stand the test of time.
Floor planning for small spaces
Small rooms require smart furniture layouts. While in larger spaces you can afford to have pieces jutting out into the middle of a space, or traversing corners placed diagonally (à la Feng Shui), small spaces require making as much use of wall space as possible. Open and unused floor space is what makes a room feel spacious despite the confines of low square meterage, so opt to have furniture around the perimeter of the room, allowing the full unobstructed height of the space to lift the interior centrally.
When it comes to selecting seating small living rooms, it seems counterintuitive to choose larger items of furniture. It can be tempting to choose a pair of armchairs as opposed to one sofa, for instance. However, breaking up the room with too many seating options can make the space seem cluttered and claustrophobic. When selecting soft seating for a small room, the less furniture the better, and a two-seater sofa is often an underrated solution (despite usually being seen in tandem with a longer sofa as part of a suite). Also known as loveseats, two-seater sofas were originally designed to comfortably seat women in centuries gone by who donned extensive skirting, petticoats, and hoops beneath their dresses, and subsequently required a wider seat to accommodate the extra layers of fabric. While many of us haven’t had an occasion to dress up to that extent over the last year, the loveseat is still nevertheless a valid option. A wildcard to consider may be a corner sofa, which could also be an option for maximising seating options in the corner of a space. Our Ruben L Shaped Chaise Sofa would be a luxurious focal point.
A small yet perfectly formed sofa will ground a small room, creating a tactile and inviting focal point without overcrowding the layout. This grounding effect is heightened when the piece is low to the ground, like our Sofia 2-seater sofa. Conversely, sofas which are ‘open’ underneath (that is, raised up on longer legs with a considerable void of space below) such as our Adam 2-seater can help free up the floor, making the space feel airy and lighter – unless you have the means to suspend a sofa from the ceiling, 1970’s patio style.
Once the type of sofa is selected, the finish must be considered. Velvet for everyday luxury, perhaps? Or a neutral, timeless matte fabric? Colour for the sake of spaciousness and also practicality is a tricky decision. The darker colour of our Olivia sofa, for example, will enhance cosiness, and is practical for a home with children or pets who may want to cosy up with muddy feet or food remnants. Lighter coloured upholstery has a brightening effect and can make the space feel fresher if natural light is scarce, so opt for an inviting neutral tone as seen in our George 2-seater, or a refreshing pastel green like our Jessica 2-seater.
Because the sofa will probably serve as the largest item in the room, it’s important to consider the footprint of any accent furniture you accompany it with. Tall, narrow bookcases like our Phantom Oak storage cabinet will work better than a lower, longer piece that serves the same purpose. Closed storage will also help to lower visual clutter caused by open units, where stored away items are on display for all to see. Taller, static items make use of the height of the space, while lower moveable pieces can be brought out and stowed back when needed; a set of nest tables such as our Nostro side tables might be a better option than a static, central coffee table, which will dramatically reduce the amount of floor space available for movement around the interior. Another option is to consider wall mounted shelving solutions, which don’t take up any floor space at all, and can help elongate the vertical space in the room, provided they’re not too heavily laden with objects or allowed to get too cluttered.
Make accents work
As we’ve explored, in compact spaces function is just as important as form. This extends beyond furniture into the choices of soft furnishings and decorative pieces. A large mirror either hung on the wall or leaning against it can help give the illusion of a larger room while taking up only minimal space itself, and can help bounce light around if positioned adjacent to a natural light source. Consider switching heavy curtains out for gauzy, thinner drapes to diffuse light. Alternatively, replace curtains entirely with streamlined semi-transparent blinds, to make use of that tiny gap between wall and window and minimise the potentially fusty swathes of extra fabric.