Home -> Coffee Tables -> Coffee Tables Buying Guide
Coffee Tables Buying Guide
Living Room Furniture for Small Living Spaces
You are excited about moving into your new home and eager to buy furniture to celebrate another new beginning. You have a vague idea of how you want the room to look when completed. But after moving in, and ready to begin your decorating project, you realize that the space is smaller than you thought. Don’t be discouraged. Just because space is at a premium, you don’t have to sacrifice style to make everything fit. One magic key to decorating smaller rooms is to choose multi-functional pieces whenever possible. To help you to decide how to plan your perfect living room and create an inviting place for yourself and your visitors, whether or not there is space to spare, here are few basic suggestions.
Before You Begin
Take measurements and write them down. Include window and door widths and architectural details that can’t or shouldn’t be removed, such as a structural wall, fireplace, or closet.
Make a budget. This can be a useful tool to keep you focused and your project on track.
Do you want to have someplace to relax and watch TV? Do you plan to entertain often? Will the space be occupied by adults only or do you have children? Decide what the main purpose and focus of your living room will be, and who will be using the room regularly.
Make a list of the furnishings you would like to include. Rough sketch or draw where the pieces will go to give you a better idea of how it will look when completed.
Appearances are everything—if possible repaint the room. Painting the room with a lighter color will make it appear larger. If you have a little extra time and money, plan on repainting the ceiling in one or two shades lighter than the color you selected for the walls—this will make the ceiling appear higher.
Choose a Style
Style is a matter of personal taste and choice. Even if you don’t have a label for it, you probably have a general idea of whether or not you prefer contemporary furniture over traditional or vice versa.
A reflection of historical periods and past trends, traditional furniture possesses a formal and stately air. Characterized by elaborate detail such as moldings, turned spindles, cabriole legs and intricate brass drawer pulls, a traditional living room will have a sense of classic grandeur. Since this style is also largely associated with rich woods such mahogany and walnut, choose traditional furnishings in lighter finishes to avoid making your room appear even smaller.
Contemporary style focuses on function and form rather than ornamentation. Detailing is simplified and pared down; geometric forms are softened by curved corners. This style utilizes a variety of finishes, palettes and materials to create textural and visual interest. Contemporary furniture is commonly constructed of lighter woods, exposed woods, rubber or plastic. A sub style of contemporary, urban furniture is minimalist in feel and smaller in scale. Designed specifically for apartment living, this style would be perfect for smaller sized living rooms.
Modern design emerged in the second half of the 20th century. Reflecting new technologies, materials and philosophies of the Machine Age, furniture is geometric or asymmetrical. Again, as in contemporary, the emphasis is on form and function. Surfaces are sleek and polished; chrome and glass are common construction materials. As design forms, Contemporary and Modern are often used interchangeably, but they are two distinctive styles. While both Contemporary and Modern emphasize geometric form and minimal detail, Contemporary furnishings tend to incorporate detailing and color whereas Modern furniture uses neutral palettes with minimal detail.
Transitional blends elements of Traditional and Contemporary styles. This style of furniture has a less formal appearance than more classic furnishings, while retaining the comfortable feel of contemporary pieces. Lines and forms tend to be simple yet sophisticated. Furniture is of a moderate scale, but upholstered pieces like sofas or armchairs can be overstuffed. Emphasis is on uncluttered detail. Transitional style makes use of texture rather than color so palettes tend to be muted or earth-toned. As demonstrated by the typical use of straight lines with tapered legs, transitional style uses contrast to create designs that are both functional and comfortable. Woods are lustrous with medium to dark finishes.
Country furniture reflects the social customs of its region of origin. Old-style Country furniture tends to be heavy and constructed of wood in darker finishes. It is typically busy, with lots of detailing and flourishes, and can be as stately and elaborate as Traditional style furnishings. Largely due to European influences and the adaptation of Colonial furniture by pioneers from drastically different regional areas, later trends of Country style furniture used lighter finishes and simpler detail. They were also smaller in scale. Casual Country furniture style is usually constructed of wood, with milk-painted or natural wood finishes. Furnishings often include whimsical details such as hand-painted stenciling, hand-carved insets and gentle curves.
What Will I Need?
Someplace to Sit
While a sectional might be out of the question, there are still several fashionable seating options available to you when decorating a small living area.
Look for sofas that are shorter in length. If you are unable to find one that will work in your space, select a love seat. Since love seats are designed for two people, they are smaller than a regular sofa and just as comfortable, while using less floor space.
When decorating a small living room, planning for expected and unexpected guests might be a factor in the kind of couch you select for your living room. Sofa beds, also called sleeper sofas or hide-a-beds, are sofas with a bed frame and bed built into the unit. As needed, it can be unfolded from inside the couch and then retracted when not being used as a bed. Due to the bed mechanism, sofa beds tend to be heavier than regular sofas of the same size.
Because of their dual nature—a sofa by day, a bed at night—futons are ideal for small living rooms. Once used to decorate dorm rooms and basement bedrooms, today the futon is a popular, stylish choice for the living room, family room, den or guest bedroom. Since the mattress sits directly on top of the futon frame, it is lighter and more user-friendly than a sofa bed.
Choosing seating for a small room might be challenging, especially if your idea of relaxing is defined by a recliner or if you enjoy entertaining and want to have enough chairs for everyone. You might have to forgo the recliner due to the amount of room they need for clearance, but there are other options. Emphasize comfort and select accent chairs and armchairs that are not “overstuffed,” which sometimes can make the room feel cramped. By carefully choosing “tables” that can be used as seating, such as ottomans, storage cubes, trunks and chests, you will be able increase the room’s seating potential without sacrificing function or space.
Someplace to Put Things
Accent and accessory furniture increases the functionality of the room, improving its design and appeal. While you won’t want the room to look cramped, perhaps you still want some place to put a coffee cup, a magazine or the remote control. When deciding what other additional pieces to include, such as a coffee table, end table or TV armoire, take into account the focus or purpose of the room—relaxing, entertaining and multi-purpose. But keep in mind, too many small pieces of furniture will create the look you wanted to avoid in the first place. Don’t be afraid to purchase large pieces of furniture, such as an entertainment center, but balance them with smaller items and sensible accessorizing.
Entertainment centers combine a number of features and components in one unit so that they can accommodate an assortment of multi-media equipment, including your television. Most types come with adjustable shelving and can be adapted to your existing or future entertainment needs. While they are available in a variety of sizes and configurations, they will take up a large percentage of your available space. However, it might be space well spent, since it is not only convenient to be able to store all of your entertainment devices in one place, but it will also help you to declutter the room.
If you are having difficulty finding an entertainment centre that will fit, consider purchasing a TV armoire. TV armoires tend to be more compact than other types of entertainment centers, yet offer similar features. Most kinds of TV armoires will include space for one or two other components, as well as storage options for DVDs, etc. Their distinguishing characteristic is the folding or retractable doors that allow you to hide the television out of sight when it’s not in use.
Coffee tables, end tables and console tables accent any décor, while giving you a place to park a bowl of popcorn, stash away the newspaper and put a lamp. However, depending on how much space you have to work with, they can disrupt the flow of the room or make the room appear crowded. A coffee table, for example, commonly is placed off-center in the living room, in front of the couch. If you want the functionality of a coffee table, but would like to open up the room, use nesting tables instead. They generally come in a set of two or three varying, corresponding sizes. They are versatile and can be moved around a room wherever they are needed, or they can be conveniently stacked together when not in use.
If you have room for only a few items of furniture, a bookshelf might seem like a low priority. But like an entertainment center, bookcases use wall rather than floor space. They will give you somewhere to put reading materials, plants and pictures, and to display those other little touches that personalize your home. A shelving unit of some kind, in addition to or instead of an entertainment center will also increase your storage options, helping you to cut down on clutter.
Something to See By
Lighting a room correctly is important—not too dim, not too bright. Floor and table lamps are the most common choices for illuminating a living room, although both floor lamps and the end tables used to house table lamps can eat up valuable space in a small room. An unused corner might be the ideal place to put a floor lamp. If you can’t do without at least one end table, selecting table lamps that do not have shades will make the area seem less crowded.
However, if there really is no room for floor or table lamps, consider wall-mounted lighting such as sconces or lighting strips. Wall-mounted fixtures with extendable arms are also a practical choice. Keep lighting fixture details basic or minimal, as this will make the room less “busy.”
Avoid ceiling fixtures, if at all possible. Overhead lighting, especially hanging ones, can make the ceiling appear lower and make the room feel less spacious.
Maximize the natural light in the room with careful furniture placement and choice of window treatments. Stay away from bulky curtains: they will decrease the amount of available natural light and tend to make a small living room feel cramped. Choose instead a combination of blinds or shades with sheers; this will open the room up. For the same reason, keep away from valances; they will also make the ceiling appear lower. If you do select curtains and it is an option, plan to move the rods up to the ceiling; this will give the impression of extra height.
Something to Look At
You might have to be selective in the furnishings you choose when decorating a small living area, but accessorizing can fill in the blanks and make the room warm, inviting and personal. Again, as with your furniture layout, you don’t want to display oversized or “loud” pictures on the walls that might overpower your small room.
- Dress up the walls with artwork. Select colors that will be complementary to your décor; avoid dark palettes.
- Perhaps you would prefer several framed posters with a similar theme or a grouping of black and white photographs.
- Add a wall mounted shadow box frame or two for displaying postcards, small pictures or memorabilia. A shadow box is a shallow, rectangular case with a glass front used to display small items and/or pictures—they have the added benefit of allowing you to change the display according to the season or your mood.
- Include a mirror. Mirrors are a perfect choice for decorating small rooms since they will make the space appear larger by reflecting light, both natural and artificial, around the room, which creates a sense of depth.
Making It Work
After deciding what furniture pieces will fit your space, determine where they will go. You want to be able to place all the pieces you have chosen in the room without blocking exits, windows and traffic flow. Take into account furniture that will need to be near power sources such as an entertainment unit or an end table where you plan to put a lamp.
If the entertainment unit or TV armoire will look better on a wall not near a power source, see if there are alternatives, such as running an extension cord from the unit to the power bar.
Arrange the larger items against the walls. This will leave the middle of the room open, giving the illusion of more space. Don’t catty-corner furnishings: while placing furniture pieces on a diagonal can fill up larger spaces, in a small room it will have the same effect, making the room look cramped.
Wherever possible, use open slat or lattice back occasional chairs—this will let light in and the furniture won’t appear so “solid.” Along similar lines, when selecting units with doors, choose ones with glass fronts or mirrors to make the room feel larger and uncluttered.
If you have chosen to include a television armoire or a wall unit with hinged doors in your floor plan, ensure that there will be enough clearance to open the doors easily.
Choosing items with added storage and dual functionality will give you more places to put things. Being able to hide things away, especially in a room where extra space is an issue, will allow you to keep the room neater. And nothing can make a room feel cramped and small faster than clutter.
If furniture pieces with added storage or dual functionality aren’t an option for your small living room, place baskets or storage trays in a section of a bookcase or shelving unit. Use them to store items you would like close at hand but don’t want to leave lying around.
When arranging knickknacks, collectibles, photos, etc., display them in groups in one main place or a couple of selected areas. Spreading them out around the room can make the room appear small and even untidy.