A small living room calls for simple, cozy decor.

How to Make a Small Living Room Look Cozy and Not Cluttered

by Kristine Lofgren

No doubt about it, a small living room is a decorating challenge. Add in a few kids and a pet or two, and you may be looking at a cluttered nightmare. Don't give up hope, though. A small living room has the advantage of being cozy and intimate. With a few design tricks, you can make it a space the whole family can enjoy.

Space Considerations

Before you can arrange your furniture and add in accessories, there are a few space rules you need to consider. If walkways are too small, you will find yourself stepping over kids and bumping into furniture as you move. Anything that opens, such as a credenza, entertainment center or cabinet, should have 3 feet of space in front of it. Walkways around furniture should give you at least 18 inches of space, while main thoroughfares require 3 feet. Seating should be arranged so that no one is closer than 3 1/2 feet when seated, except on the sofa, of course.


One of the key techniques for making a small room look cozy rather than cluttered is to use a few pieces of medium-sized furniture. You may be tempted to buy lots of small pieces of delicate-looking furniture to match the scale of the room, but don't give in to this temptation. Stick to fewer but larger pieces of furniture. A three-person sofa or sectional, an overstuffed chair or chair-and-a-half, an ottoman, and a credenza, entertainment center or bookshelf are all you need. When you need seating for the entire family, use a few Moroccan poufs or footrests, which can double as end tables when not in use.


When it comes to creating a clean, cozy space, less is always more. Keep the space as simple as you can. Put a tray on the ottoman so it can function as either a coffee table or seating as needed; put kid-friendly, easily moved things on the tray, including books and puzzles. Shelf or desk items should be kept to a minimum -- a few knick-knacks, a stack of books and a candle or two. On the walls, hang a large piece of art or two rather than creating a photo-collage wall. Regardless of what you use, keep in mind that a few large items are always better than lots of small items.

Rugs and Curtains

Don't underestimate the effect that rugs and curtains have on a space. A rug ties the furniture together and makes a space feel cozier. Use a rug that is large enough to allow all of the furniture to sit on it while leaving a foot or so of space between the rug and the wall. Select curtains that hit the floor without puddling to make the room look simple and clean. Avoid patterns that are small or complicated.

About the Author

Kristine Lofgren specializes in interior design, Web design, photography and gardening. She owns an interior design business in Salt Lake City. A graduate of Salt Lake Community College's interior design program, Lofgren is pursuing a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Utah.

Photo Credits

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