Just like the diner booth that everyone piles into, small living rooms can be magnetic social spaces. Here's how to squeeze in more entertaining comfort and decorating panache.
Expand on the Architecture
Small living rooms offer clues about ways to expand their function and style. For example, if you have a nook or cranny that is underutilized, tuck in a bench or desk. If you have an interesting feature, such as a coffered ceiling or a fireplace, make the most of it with decorative treatments. Hang a chandelier to draw the eye to the ceiling. Place eye-catching artwork above the mantel to make the fireplace stand out. Or, play up the windows with elegant curtains that highlight their shape and size.
Work Your Way Up
When you emphasize its height, a small room feels bigger. Don't overlook the wall space just below the ceiling as potential for decorative attention. Mount the window treatments at that height to make the window appear grand. Create a grouping of art or photographs that reaches up to the ceiling. Or attach picture-rail molding around the room about 18 inches down from the ceiling and paint the wall space above it a coordinating color.
Snug rooms are a chance to get cozy. To seat a crowd, ditch the sectional sofa (no one wants to sit in the corner anyway) in favor of small seats packed closely together. A love seat and two chairs add up to more cushions than a three-seater sofa, for example. Keep the profiles of the pieces trim and tight: no beefy arms or hefty wing chairs. Look for chairs with straight sides -- armless slipper chairs are even better -- that can be placed hip to hip.
Nudging one piece of furniture in front of another is a way to build necessary function or storage into a tiny living room. Place a console table or low dresser against the back of sofa to add table surface for lighting, as well as a place to put drinks. Tuck poufs or floor pillows under the coffee table so you have extra seating. A bookcase arranged with books and collectibles can be an elegant backdrop for a desk or sofa.
Tie It All Together
Often, the living room serves also as the entry, home office, or dining space. To smoothly incorporate these other functions, keep the overall color palette (including wood tones) similar. Also carry through any decorative touches: Does the entry rug coordinate with the living area rug? Do the seat cushions on the dining table work with the sofa and pillow upholstery? When the areas work as a unit, the space will feel comfortably cohesive.