Yanic Simard, Houzz Contributor
Playing with furniture arrangement can be a decorating fan’s dream. But that’s only if you’ve got the space to play in. If you’ve got a tight living room (say 200 square feet or under), you might find yourself stumped on how to fit in enough furniture to do much living in the room. To help with that design dilemma, here are the top furniture arrangements for compact sitting areas, as well as some general tips you can use to get the most out of any room shape.
1. Large sectional + compact chairs. In a compact space, the No. 1 way to provide maximum flexibility of seating is to use a large sectional sofa and compact, European-sized chairs (such as light and tight midcentury modern seats). The large sofa gives you space to spread out when alone or pack in numerous guests during a gathering. The additional chairs are available if needed without taking up a lot of space, and they add some pleasing visual contrast.
2. Armless sectional. Of course, not every tight living area is conveniently wide open on one or two sides, as in the first example. In an especially tight room, an armless sectional can give you truly maximum seating without looking overstuffed.
Use the largest modern corner unit you can, preferably running wall to wall for an almost built-in look. It’s much sleeker than bumping the arms of a traditional sofa up against the walls, which looks much more cramped.
Rather than including side chairs in the room, choose dining chairs that coordinate with your living room look and pull them in when needed for guests, leaving more free space the rest of the time.
3. Two loveseats. Another option — especially if you don’t have a TV in your living room — is to use two loveseats facing each other, with an extra chair or two next to them if there’s room. This way, two people can be lounging separately (good for couples who don’t always want to cuddle on the couch), or four or more people can have a conversation or play a board game facing each other.
4. Wide sofa + plush ottoman. In a tunnel-shaped room (with circulation down one side of the space), it might be best to forgo using any side chairs opposite the sofa and instead let an ottoman be your entertaining solution.
On movie night, a plush ottoman is a perfect place to set down the popcorn bowl and put up your feet. During a bigger get-together, pull the ottoman out to the wall and suddenly you’ve got seating for as many close friends as can squeeze on.
Choose a tightly upholstered tufted ottoman (rather than a puffy poof) and it can serve as a comfortable seat and a surface firm enough to hold a cocktail tray.
5. Sofa + pair of ottomans. If you choose a pair of ottomans instead of one large one, you’ll have more flexibility in several ways: You can always use one as a seat and one as a table, or you can pull them out in different directions (which can be easier for traffic flow). The tradeoff is that you can’t necessarily fit quite as many people (or as many snacks or games) on the individual cubes as you can on one unbroken surface. If you want maximum extra seating and surface space, go for one ottoman; if you want more circulation, go with two or three.
6. Sofa + stools + tall table. If your compact living room is also your occasional dining room, consider replacing your coffee table with a small dining table (24 to 30 inches in diameter), then tuck a few poofs or stools underneath. The dining table won’t take up the whole width of the sofa, so you won’t feel too boxed in when lounging, but when you do want to grab a meal (with a friend or with the TV), you can eat in total comfort rather than hunched over.
7. Sofa + two chairs. Using a straight sofa with two chairs (rather than a sectional) is a great solution for a conversational sitting room with no TV. It also gives you the chance to mix and match your upholstery fabrics for a little variety in the small space. Try using a different fabric for all three seats. You can always add matching pillows if you want to bring a little more harmony later.
8. Sofa – coffee table. Sometimes a coffee table just isn’t worth the lost space, especially since a deeper TV unit can provide more functional storage, which might be more important in your small space than having lots of room for coffee table books.
A slim side table at either end of a sofa can be more than enough room to set down a drink, or you can float a small stool in front that can tuck away when not needed.
9. Open coffee table. Keep in mind, regardless of the furniture arrangement you choose, that the more space you can leave open for your feet to move in, the more comfortable the space will be. Leggy, open furniture (especially the coffee table) will make it much easier to access the sofa and stretch out your legs once you’re in, so you won’t feel trapped and fidgety on what should be a comfy seat.
10. Wall-mounted furnishings. Where possible, look for ways to eliminate furniture on the floor. Wall-mounted lights can save precious square footage, as can cantilevered side tables and shelves. The cords of plug-in sconces mounted behind a sofa are hidden at the base for a tidy look, without any complicated electrical work.
11. Visual space. Besides the physical space, keep the visual space wide open by using light colors for chunkier units like a TV cabinet or the coffee table top. Introducing white or pale pillows will break up seating as well. This way, when you’re tucked into a seat, the room doesn’t feel like it’s closing in on you.
12. Don’t skimp. The fact that your living space is tight doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the decor. Feel free to include some bold art or use some splashy colors. Making every accessory tiny creates a dollhouse look but doesn’t necessarily make the space look bigger, while large-scale art can actually make the walls seem to float away more.
Plus, the best thing about a small room is that just a few small finishing touches can make it feel ultra-luxe in a snap. Treat yourself to a sculptural side table, a glam accessory or simply a few fresh flowers, and the entire space will feel big-budget.