How can you add extra seating to a small living room? This may not sound like a puzzling question. After all, ‘just buy more chairs’ might seem like the obvious answer. In a small living room, however, too many chairs can crowd the space and make it feel cramped—or worse, look like a doctor’s waiting room.
Fortunately, interior designers have a wealth of subtle and stylish ways to add extra seating to small living rooms. These clever tricks ensure that there is room for guests to sit when they arrive, without excess seating when they leave.
An ottoman that has the same height and color as your sofa will easily fit in as a piece of small living room furniture. This unobtrusive piece not only provides a place to kick back and relax once your shoes are off, but can double as extra seating when needed.
“Adding textured footstools to a small living room provides extra seating for kids, as well as low-level surfaces for them to play with toys,” says interior designer Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors (opens in new tab).
2. Select two symmetrical banks
Two sofas may sound like overkill in a small living room, but current sofa trends prove that if you get the size, scale and style right, it’s a match made in interior design heaven.
Instead of a large couch and a chair or two, a pair of symmetrical couches with the same bijou proportions placed across from each other can work well in a small space. In fact, they can help when it comes to making a small living room feel bigger.
‘In many of our projects the sofa is seen from multiple angles, ie the back or side as well as the front, so we look for pieces that are 360 degree beautiful,’ says Cat Dal, founder, Cat Dal Interiors (opens in new tab).
‘You also have to consider the height of the sofa, there should be different heights in the room, and low sofas can be great for not blocking a view to another room or window.’
3. Use a bay window for low level seats
If you have a bay window, a built-in window seat with storage below is a valuable option. However, there are other ways to make use of this attractive but uncomfortable space.
“A custom-made chair or two, adjusted to fit the space, looks good in a bay window,” says Irene Gunter, founder of Gunter & Co. (opens in new tab). “The advantage of custom chairs instead of a window seat is that you can move them to a more cozy place when needed.”
Of course, you can also get some low chairs to match the space. It will look best if the backs of the chairs are not higher than the windowsill and there is room for a small table between them.
4. Change a coffee table for an ottoman
Instead of a coffee table with a hard wood, marble or glass surface, bring a level of flexibility to a small space with an upholstered ottoman. This trick for small living room layouts adds truly versatile flair to the space.
This multi-purpose piece will not only be useful for extra seating when there’s a crowd, but can also be used for storage, as well as a flat surface to place a tray on if you want another surface to reach for an evening G&T – or herbal fusion.
5. Choose a sectional couch
Choosing a large piece of furniture for a small living room may sound counterintuitive. But when it comes to seating, one large sectional sofa with a chaise or footstool can take up less space than a three-seater with separate chairs.
In the right place, it will also look more compact. “In a small living room, tuck your L-shaped sofa into a corner to open up the rest of the space,” says Irene Gunter, founder, Gunter & Co.
6. Add a fireplace screen
Small living room fireplaces can have more use than just heating the space, you know. Originally designed to keep firewood from rolling away from the hearth, and later to keep children and pets away from a roaring flame, a fireplace screen can also have other handy uses.
“If you have a fireplace, a splashback is a great way to squeeze extra seating into a small space,” says Irene Gunter of Gunter & Co. “Alternatively, you could place some chairs or an ottoman next to the fire.”
In this project by Enass Mahmoud, founder of Studio Enass (opens in new tab)the interior designer elegantly made use of what could have been wasted space under a slim console for extra seating.
Upholstered in turquoise velvet with a copper base, the stools add a sophisticated splash of color to the space, and can be neatly tucked away when not in use. Combined with the coordinating ottoman, they offer a compact solution for those with extra seating.