With large living rooms becoming a thing of the past and smaller areas ubiquitous in most new build houses or apartments, we thought it may be time to explore space. Or more accurately, space-saving and eye-cheating living room ideas to help you make the most of it.
There’s a law that says the amount of clutter you have will expand to fill the space given to it. And nowhere is this demonstrated better than in our living rooms.
Magazines, books, kids’ toys, shoes, homework and a myriad of other items appear to conspire to fill what should be an airy, relaxing space that’s one of your home’s most sacred sanctuaries.
And with the floor space of the average new UK home measuring up at just 76m2,[i] most of us don’t enjoy a palatial space to fill with furniture and all the necessities of modern living we can’t seem to do without.
But without developing TARDIS-style technology or knocking down a few walls here and there, what does the homeowner need to do to make the most of the space in their living room?
Whether it’s creating the impression of a bigger area or making more square feet on the floor, these small living room ideas for space saving should give you the inside track you need to ace the space race.
In the battle for space, storage is often the thing that causes the most casualties. As mentioned earlier, nowhere does the detritus of modern life seem more apparent than in the living room. And nothing makes a room look small and uninviting like clutter.
So, for our first of many living room ideas, it’s time to hide, box, cover and stow if you’d like to live a life less littered.
For modular shelves that can be expanded and adapted to suit lots of different storage purposes, IKEA wrote the book. One that you can comfortably store alongside the rest of your library on one of their affordable, attractive and almost obligatory systems that range from the classic Billy to the cuboidKALLAX and many other styles in between. These provide easy ways to create a storage wall that can also be a feature, especially if you get creative and add your own touch with a bold, bright background colour to create a focal point.
A term that’s often applied in interior design circles and a technique that’s really rather useful when space is at a premium. Simply put, it’s a quick and easy way to cheat the eye into ignoring the small stuff going on in the room and drawing it through the space without encouraging it to linger on furnishings and/or clutter. A focal point can be any striking feature that shouts out above all the rest through colour or presence. In a living room, fire surrounds or the hearth make natural focal points that can be bigged up with bold, bright colour or wall coverings. Log burners and traditional fireplaces are a great way of creating an effective focal point, just speak to a local fireplace specialist to see if your living room fits the bill. In modern properties that don’t include these features, an oversized canvas print or piece of visual art are definitely worth considering.
Smoke and mirrors
One of our favourite living room ideas is to embrace the mirror, giving the illusion of space that is actually not there. Not only do they reflect natural and artificial light to instantly make any space look larger, but also do a great job of making a flat wall look like another room. Angled towards our old friend the focal point and depth is instantly conjured up. For a fresh approach, place a mirror by the window to bring the outdoors inside.
Here’s a radical thought for your rads. Why go horizontal when vertical can create a large area of space that gives the impression of more room? Tall column radiators are available in a range of styles and colours that keep things just as warm while helping to give your living room a far roomier look. Even better, they’ve come down in price a lot in the last few years so you could be looking at the stylish lines of this neat 6 column traditional radiator from soak.com for around £120. Don’t forget to find a local heating/boiler engineer to fit these for you!
The folding stuff
No, we’re not for a minute suggesting that you throw money at the problem. Not lots, anyway. What we mean here are the cleverly-designed items of furniture that give you extra space when not in use by folding down. Things like the classic folding table and chairs that have been a part of smaller urban flats and houses since our parents’ days have now inspired a whole culture of foldism that certainly puts the fun in functional. Collapsible creations that are beautifully designed and will fold away when not in use to be stored for later. For an incredible example of organisational origami, check out this amazing folding furniture from designer Nils-Frederking.
Using colour is one of the most effective living room ideas when it comes to creating space (or an illusion of it, at the very least). Smart use of the correct tones and hues can make a small space seem lots bigger by adding light or drawing the eye to certain areas. We could write a whole blog on this subject alone, so the condensed version will have to suffice for now. Just remember the basics:
Light colours will make a room look bigger and brighter. Use them on walls and their reflective powers will help make spaces feel more light and as a result, more spacious.
Dark colours (as you may have guessed) will do the opposite and suck the light from the room as they are less reflective. This will consequently make your space look smaller.
Using soft tones of colours like blue, green and off-white is a good way to go if you want to maximise a room using just your paintbrush and a splash of imagination.
A white ceiling with cold bright shades on the wall, or a wallpaper of the same shade with patterns of small size can also give an expanded look to the room.
Our final note on colour. Ever wondered why skirting boards and picture rails are nearly always lighter than the walls they frame? It’s because this time-honoured technique makes the walls look like they’re further back.
Choosing furniture with a split personality is another way to get the most from your living room. Convertible pieces are a brilliant solution that gets two functions from one piece and the design world is producing some stunning examples that combine form and function beautifully. The sofa bed’s a veritable example and one that’s enabled an overnight stay for many a friend or relative. But how about a comfy armchair that’s also a library? Or one that can also turn its talents to being a shelf? Or why just settle for a mirror when in a few seconds it fold down to become a dinner table? (You can even try making this last one yourself with a few easy-to-find items and a smattering of DIY skill).
There are lots of examples of furniture that can be one thing one minute and something completely different the next. You could even say they save you money as well as cash as you’re getting two items for the price of one.
High ceiling? Use it
If your floor space is cramping your style, it could be time to look up. If your property is older, chances are the ceilings are high. So if you can’t spread out, spread up with decor that draws the eye skywards and creates a wonderful impression of wide open space in even the most Lilliputian living room. Geometric patterned or vertically-striped wall coverings are a great way to do this and there are some very cool designs available to help you move up in the world space-wise. If you’re not a master of wallpapering or painting for that matter, you can always call on a local handyman to help you reach those hard to reach corners!
Ditch the three piece
For some reason, many of us are still stuck in the three-piece mindset. Break free of this traditional triad and you’ll be amazed at how much space can be comfortably reclaimed. The cosy armchair and not-for-sharing chaise lounge can still be incorporated into your overall design, but without the encumbrance of two other smaller siblings to free up more square footage. With upcycling and shabby chic big news on the high street, it’s easy to pick up some stylish reupholstered and reimagined items for less than you think and make a statement that won’t break the bank.
Let there be light to bring your living room ideas to life
Use light to create ‘zones’ in your living room. Mark out these spaces with like large overhanging pendant lights and you can divide the area into smaller spaces, using light that instantly makes the room look bigger. A good idea is to give your seating area – perhaps a coffee table and two armchairs – its own light which leaves the walls darker. These can be lit with uplighters or lamps to identify the central chill-out zone.
When the sun’s out, a time-honoured technique is to simply allow the maximum amount of natural light to flood into the room. This could be as simple as ensuring blinds or curtains don’t cover windows when they’re open, or as expensive as installing larger windows, skylights or bi-fold doors where you can.
Any space-saving living room ideas of your own?
Share them with the Smoove Move community. Watch this space.