Small Living Room Decorating Ideas

Stuck with a small living room? Turn it into a family room, lounge, dining room and office with these multipurpose decorating ideas.

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Beautiful Family Room This tiny apartment layout does it all! Read on to learn the space-maximizing tricks you can try at home.

A 160-square-foot living space may seem like an average, decent size  until you realize it must function as a family room, lounge, dining room and home office. Creating a design that's as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing can be a major challenge. In the case of a spatially-challenged, open concept great room, a few design elements are essential to maximize space: multi-purposing, playing with scale and proportion, installing proper lighting, defining the space plan, and delineating several zones within one area. When it comes to living large in cramped quarters, the vintage modern New York City great room of Matt and Jodi Arden showcases small space decorating at its best.

When the couple, both TV executives, relocated to New York's East Village neighborhood from Atlanta, they decided to leave most of their living room and office furniture behind. Only their dining table and chairs made the trip. Jodi comments, "Spatially, we couldn't see any of our old stuff working in the apartment. Why bother schlepping sofas, chairs, area rugs and desks up 10 stories if it may not even fit?" Instead, the Ardens enlisted the help of a designer friend to guide them in a direction that worked with their personal style and their functional needs.

First up was creating the right space plan. The L-shaped space presented several challenges. To access the living room, the open area just off the apartment's entrance needed a clear path down its center. A corner that would eventually become a dining area lacked lighting. The space intended for seating had only 8-feet of wall space, yet needed to be a comfortable place for Jodi, Matt and their two large dogs. The two busy professionals also needed a place for working from home. In order for all of these areas to function, the space was broken down into three zones: one for lounging, snacking and watching TV, another dedicated to formal dining, and one focused on work, storage and organization.

With the space plan in place, choosing pieces with the proper scale, proportion and dimensions became the focus. The Ardens accompanied their designer friend to a handful of New York retail chains in search of affordable, readily-available pieces for each of the three zones. Matt recalls, "One of the most important things we learned from our design pro is that you've got to bring a tape measure with you when shopping for furniture to fit a small space. Every inch counts. Our rule was that anything which measured over 92 inches wouldn't even get a second look." In addition to keeping dimensions in check with each of the apartment's interior zones, having the tape measure on hand was essential to ensuring that any potential purchase would also fit through the 100-year-old building's interior and exterior doors, hallways, stairwells and elevators.

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