So you've finally moved into a condo of your own. Congratulations on adulting! And your new pad is perfect except for one little thing: the living room is so itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, it may as well be the size of a freaking yellow polka dot bikini. And now you're left wondering if there is an-y-thing you can do to transform the small space besides fill it with equally small house plants and hope your friends don't notice the square footage the next time they come over. That gorgeous over-sized L-shaped couch you've had your eye on certainly is not going to work.
Well, not to brag, but I've rented apartments with living rooms so small that even a survivalist holed up in a bunker would agree it's kinda cramped. And while the lack of extra lounge space majorly sucked at the time, the experiences made me become somewhat of a ~connoisseur~ of small living room decorating ideas, which I've laid out for you below.
In order to make your small living room look and feel bigger, you just need to choose the right colors for your walls, play around with the height and material of your furniture, hang a couple strategically-placed mirrors and light fixtures, and in no time, your space will feel as cavernous as Versailles. Okay, fair, maybe comparing your rental apartment to a French palace is a bit of a stretch. What’s not an overstatement is how much room you’ll feel like you have after you adopt a couple of these space-maximizing decorating ideas.
Paint your walls white.
Look, I get that having white walls might seem a bit boring or expected, but trust when I say that the color will help make your space look much lighter, brighter, and bigger. Decorators recommend opting for an eggshell or satin finish, which will reflect light, making the room look even larger.
Open up the room with see-through furniture.
Lucite or glass furniture is going to trick your eyes into thinking the room is much more spacious than it really is. Silly eyes. Bless you for being so easy to fool.
Raise your couch off the floor.
Like the Victoria's Secret fashion show (R.I.P.), you're going to want your couch to have legs on legs on legs. Lifting it up half a foot or so off the floor will give the illusion of more space.
Your furniture *needs* to be multifunctional.
When you've got limited space, you have to rely on furniture that works double time. As in, don't let an ottoman just be an ottoman when it can also store items inside and display a pretty pile of books on top!
Choose tables that layer.
Instead of one single coffee table, pick a set of smaller tables that overlap in some places. (In the furniture world, this is often called "nesting" tables.) There's two reasons to buy this style: 1. The layers give the room more depth and 2. They're easier to maneuver (and rearrange) around in a little space.
Hang mirrors everywhere.
Mirrors are great, and not just because they enable you to glance at your reflection every chance you get. A well-placed mirror reflects light and will make the room look more open and more spacious than it actually is. If you've got an extra wall that you're not sure what to do with, hang up a large mirror and call it a day.
Go to the trouble of hanging up your light fixtures.
Rather than relying on table lamps or floor lamps (those guys are just taking up precious real estate where a multifunctional ottoman could be!), illuminate your living room exclusively with wall-mounted light fixtures. You don't have to be a fancy electrician to make this happen, as they are plenty of options with minimalist cords you can run along the floor to an outlet or power cord.
Yep, get the statement rug.
You might worry that a large area rug would overwhelm your itty-bitty space, but au contraire, my friend. A big area rug makes the room feel all warm and cozy and it can help section off the space from the rest of your home, in case you live in one of those apartments where your living room and kitchen are right next to each other. There *is* a bit of science to picking out the right size rug for your room, the concern being that if you go too small, the space will look disjointed and haphazard. The rule of thumb is that ideally all your furniture fits on your area rug.
Okay, so, technically, any shelves would work, they don't have to be floating—the style is dealer's choice. And I'm not saying that you have to use the shelves to make a home bar, but I certainly approve of the idea. Hanging shelves will not only provide extra storage space, but it will also draw your eye up the wall, which will make your room feel grander.
Choose a couple statement décor pieces, and make 'em bold.
Look, if you're scared of putting anything too big or too bold into a small space, I get it, and I'm here for you—but you have no reason to be concerned. One or two strategically-placed statement pieces (like that beaut of a chair, pictured here) will actually add richness and dimension to your room.
Got a plant? Hang her up!
House plants will pull a room together, it's just science. But why take up space on what's probably the only table in your small living room when you could hang the plant from the ceiling in a super cute hanging pot?! If you can't keep a plant alive no matter how hard you try (trust me, I've been there), I am now giving you permission to get a fake one. No one will be able to tell the difference when it's hanging above their heads!
Hang your curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible.
This is quite possibly my favorite decorating trick of all time. If you have a small window in your living room, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) simply hang up a curtain that fits the exact shape of the window. Instead, pick a curtain rod that is a longer than the width of the window (long enough so that when the curtains are pulled to each side, they cover the wall rather than any of the window) and hang it up just a couple inches below the ceiling. This hack will not only draw your eye upwards, but it will also make the window appear much bigger than it actually is.
Settle on one cohesive look.
I get that sometimes you've inherited mis-matched hand-me-down furniture (S.O. to the dining table that all three of my older siblings had before me!) but the more you can stick to one style, the less cramped the room will feel. Picking one color to help maintain your aesthetic throughout a room is a reliable way to do it—e.g. a red picture frame connects to a red pillow on the couch, etc.
Float some furniture.
In design-speak, "floating" furniture just means placing it away from the wall. When you're dealing with a small space, it's more tempting than a 2-for-1 happy hour deal to shove every piece of furniture up against the wall, so that you can maximize floor space, natch. But while, yes, that may technically give you more space to walk around, it's actually going to look a heck of a lot better if you have a couple pieces of furniture (like arm chairs) floating off the walls. Everything will look a bit more intentional.
Create crowded corners.
This is the one decorating trick I was most scared to try because it seems to defy logic. But trust me. Filling up your space with, well, stuff can give your room an eclectic and lived-in feel. Just make sure to leave a little white space here and there to break up all the décor elements. A gallery wall that goes right up to the ceiling is a good example of how maximizing space, adding dimension, and drawing your eye up the wall will make the room feel bigger.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.