“There isn’t much of a living room…” is something I hear a lot as a Brooklyn real estate agent. Sometimes that’s true, but there is often hidden potential in small living spaces. An empty living room always seems uninviting and it’s tough to envision your own things in the space, which inevitably makes it hard to imagine the space being a home. Whether you want to use your living room to entertain guests, work from home or just lounge around, there are ways to make the most of your small space.
With help from Jordan Ringdahl, Nooklyn’s Director of Showrooms, I’ve compiled a list of ways to cope with having a small living room.
Figure out your furniture priorities. We are taught that every room of the home has a formula when it comes to furniture. Big couch + coffee table + TV stand = living room. That can be too much for many New York City apartments. Subtracting certain elements and adding alternatives will make the space work for your needs. Jordan suggests “integrating a TV in a way that doesn’t make it the focal point.” Most TVs these days can be wall mounted, so not everyone needs a massive entertainment center. If you want to have people over but don’t have room for a ton of seating, you can always do away with a coffee table and opt for a few ottomans that can double as a place for guests to sit. Figure out if certain pieces are a necessity for you, and if they aren’t, don’t let them take up space.
Think smart (and cute!) about storage. There’s a good chance that if you live in New York City, your closet space is minimal. With limited storage, it can be tough — everything has to go somewhere. The obvious storage hacks include furniture with built in compartments- big trunks make for very worldly coffee tables and couches with built in storage are a smart option. Another option is hiding your things in plain sight. Aesthetically pleasing storage items aren’t hard to come by these days. Inexpensive shelving can hold your knick knacks, and stylish crates or baskets are great for magazines and books. My new favorite trendy storage hack is the blanket ladder, which is exactly what it sounds like, a ladder to lean against a wall and drape throws and snuggies over. The Container Store and Wayfair both have some really great options for keeping a space organized and aesthetically pleasing.
Create the illusion of vertical space with drapery. Buying window treatments seems like a very adult, very intimidating task, but it’s simpler than it seems and can do a lot for your space. To draw the eye up and down and create the illusion of height, drapes should be hung above your windows and extend to the ground. If you mis-measure or want something specific to your taste, Jordan says “tailors will alter drapes for next to nothing.”
Don’t go wall-to-wall with carpeting. Covering the entirety of your floorspace with a bright or dark color may make it seem small, so keep rug placement specific to your seating area. Layering rugs is a great option of you prefer more floor space to be covered. Jordan suggests getting a large neutral floor covering and putting a smaller, statement rug on top. He explains that in addition to making the space seem larger, “it gives a level of comfort, allows you to carpet for less, and doesn’t feel cluttered.”
Think ceiling, not floor. To those of us who rent, actually installing things into our apartment almost never seems worth it. However, mounting and hanging things is worth it if you’re trying to save space. When you have little to no living room space, a floor lamp is an unnecessary use of it. Those of us who have space issues often have light issues as well, and hanging lamps are a great, uncomplicated solution to that. Lights, plants, shelves, and even side tables can be hung from above.
Decorate your walls, not your low surfaces. Minimalism is not my thing. I love tchotchkes. However, too many on visible surfaces looks like clutter, and nothing makes a space feel smaller than clutter. Keep your trinkets on higher shelving or even mount things to your wall. Lower surfaces should stay cleared, and the more clear surfaces, the larger the room appears. Jordan suggests console tables that hug the wall to add extra surface without taking up floorspace. Similarly, when hanging art or photos, there’s no need to cram everything on to a wall side-by-side. Decorate vertically and in clusters, leaving more horizontal space free, which gives the illusion of more wall space.