I pulled this photo from a local active real estate listing. It caught my eye because of the sheer volume of furniture stuffed into this small space. The floor is barely visible. I can’t help but wonder how one would navigate to the desk or the far end of the sofa. If you did manage to sit yourself down, what would you do with your legs?
This house happens to be in the same subdivision as one I decorated recently for a new home owner. Same floor plan. Same square footage. What a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the difference some basic design principles and creativity can make in a room’s virtual size and appearance.
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Design experts will tell you that placing only a few large pieces of furniture in a small room can have a dramatic impact. That theory may work well in a bedroom, where a king size bed, a dresser and mirror are all you need. However, decorating a small living room is not the time supersize anything.
In this ‘rabbit hole’ house, the living room is the only area for entertaining, so adequate seating and wiggle room for family and guests are essential. I opted for furniture scaled proportionately to the room’s dimensions – a slender sofa, two accent chairs (one not shown), and an ottoman tucked underneath the narrow TV table as a portable seating option. In a pinch, the coffee table could be used as temporary seating as well.
A pine cabinet (formerly known as an entertainment center) faces the sofa diagonally from the corner of the room. This placement engages the corner and makes optimal use of available space. In comparison, the ‘rabbit hole’ layout renders that same corner unusable space blockaded by the large cabinet and the desk.
The corner windows are framed with floor length curtains, which create a niche for an end table and a tiered collection of houseplants. Highlighting the windows transforms these structural elements into an attractive and functional focal point of the room.
Notice the area rug on the floor! Not only does it add color and texture, but it also defines open space in the room.
Another perspective -
The placement of the dark love seat essentially creates a partition that condenses the functional seating area in the room and isolates a significant percentage of valuable floor space.
In contrast, a low profile 5′ long bench topped with comfy pillows provides additional seating without consuming physical or visual space. A shallow shelf unit mounted above the bench displays books, photos and collectibles. A floor length curtain to match the windows and a neutral liner replace the original vertical blinds on the patio door.
Small rooms are not destined to be cramped and uncomfortable. Attention to the details – furniture size, color and arrangement – will result in a more spacious and inviting living area. Just add a few more plants, and let the sun shine in!