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Nov 24, 2023

Discover the 5 must-have buys for a small living room according to organizing experts

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The living room is a hard-working space within any home. It’s used every day, shared by all members of the household, and it’s the venue for welcoming and entertaining friends and family.

With so many demands placed on the space – including that it looks good – being in the know about space-saving organizing for a small living room is vital.

And what’s also crucial to an ordered and aesthetically pleasing small living room are clever buys that help keep it neat, uncluttered and smart – and these are what professional organizers recommend.

When it comes to organizing a living room that’s small, these are the items the experts call on to make the very most of the space.

A living room may need to accommodate less of the household’s belongings than a family room if your home has both and the former is used for guests rather than family TV viewing. But a small living room always presents a challenge when it comes to keeping it clutter-free and orderly.

‘For a more formal space, I encourage less stuff to have to store, for sure,’ says Caroline Roberts, professional home organizer and Homes & Gardens’ contributing expert.

‘More formal spaces tend to have chests and storage furniture, so drawer organizers are a must-have. I like to use more elevated ones like these Marie Kondo organizers from the Container Store for special spaces.’

Caroline Roberts is a KonMari consultant and founder of the home organization company The Simplified Island. She and her team help clients declutter their belongings. Then they find the best places for your items so that their family members can find things and put them away. She is also a contributing expert at Homes & Gardens.

It’s not just a matter of having excellent storage in a small living room. ‘Storage interiors count,’ says H&G’s Solved editor, Millie Hurst. ‘That means thinking about how you find items within the storage when they’re needed, and how easy they are to get out to use.

‘I use storage cubes like these Folding Bins from Amazon in my living room. They corral items inside cabinets, but they’re easy to get hold of and slide out, so I'm not hunting around in a dark recess.’

Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York.

Shelving is a feature in many small living rooms but, as with cabinets, may need something extra so the room can be kept elegant and ordered.

That’s because not everything you want to keep on the shelving in a small living room is fit for display. The necessity that’ll avoid a less-than-lovely look? ‘For bookshelves in living rooms, I love storing things in boxes with nice textures, such as linen or natural woven materials from the Container Store,’ says pro organizer Caroline Roberts.

The must-avoid of small living rooms? So much furniture that walkways through the room are blocked and it feels full before anyone is in there. The must-have that swerves the trap? Shelving that goes up to ceiling height.

‘It reduces the number of pieces of furniture you need in the room, boosting the floor area for a more spacious feel,’ says Millie Hurst.

‘When you’re planning, think about shelving depth,’ she adds. ‘If you want to put books on the shelves along with decorative accessories, you likely won’t need shelves as deep as you do when they have to fit shelf boxes, for instance.’

A trunk is a brilliantly versatile choice for a small living room, which is why it’s a favorite of organizing experts. ‘It has generous storage inside, and looks stylish: what‘s not to love?’ says H&G’s Millie Hurst.

‘Use it in place of a coffee table. It’s ideal for stashing the pillows you use in winter when summer comes around. If your small living room is the kids’ playroom, too, a trunk can function as toy storage. Locate it against one wall and scoop the toys into it when the kids have gone to bed to tidy the room so you can relax in the evening.

‘Or set it under a window and use an upholstered seat pad to create extra seating.’

Make a small living room welcoming with organizing strategies that avoid clutter. A room that feels overstuffed is never going to feel inviting. Make sure walkways around the room are unimpeded and choose dual-purpose or even multifunction furniture to cut down on the total number of pieces without compromising on utility. Don’t skimp on decorative accessories as these are what make the space feel personal and homely, but do edit collections so the room isn’t overfilled. Rotating items in and out of storage will keep the look fresh and the living room uncluttered.

With the right organizing strategies, a small living room can be as chic as a more generously sized room. A great focal point is a must and the right couch for a small living room can take on that role, introducing beautiful color, texture, and comfort that makes it a worthy centerpiece to an ordered room.

Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.

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