DIY

Got a Small Living Space? I'm an Interior Designer and I'm Here to Help

You have to space-plan. Especially if you live in a small space.
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Publish date:
February 7, 2015
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DIY, interior decorating, weekend, tiny houses, interior design, How-To, Small Space

If there is anything I always suggest that my clients must do before purchasing any furniture for their home, it’s space planning. Especially if you live in a small space. When you space-plan your furniture layout first, you can rest assured that all your pieces will fit, which saves time and prevents a big headache later on.

Being an interior designer has a lot of fun processes when it comes to designing a space, but my favorite part of the job is when I get to sit down and brainstorm different furniture layouts. I love coming up with unique ways to maximize a small space.

Today, I want to show you different ways to lay out different furniture in both a small bedroom and a small living room. You'll be able to take these layouts and apply them to your own space, too.

Living Rooms

If you live in an apartment, your living room is probably your most used space. Your family gathers there, your friends hang out there, and you usually relax, watch TV, and/or work there. So, the living room has to work extra hard to make you and your guests happy.

I’m going to show you three different ways to lay out furniture in this small living room below. The front door is in the bottom corner, the kitchen is off to the left and is open to the living room, and the door at the top leads to the bedroom.

Living Room Layout 1

This layout is probably the most obvious because you're just placing furniture against the wall across from the wall, which seems to be the most natural thing to do for some people. The sofa goes against one wall and the media console goes against the wall across from it. I've added some small poufs to use for extra seating or as tabletops. I love that these can be easily moved around the room, or even to another room, as needed. To one side of the sofa is an end table with a lamp, and the butterfly chair is a cute way to stylishly seat a guest. You can also use a desk in place of the media console if you don’t require much storage, but need a surface to work from.

Pros

  • There is a lot of room to move in and out of the space.
  • Furniture has enough clearance between it.
  • Seating is light-weight and easy to move around.
  • There’s space to put extra storage (like a small bookcase) next to the media console.

Cons

  • Someone coming in or going out of the front door will obstruct the view of the person watching TV.

Living Room Layout 2

This layout keeps the view of the TV from getting blocked by people entering or exiting the front door. The sectional is great to have if you like to lounge or sleep on the sofa (like me). I’d suggest getting a cute throw to drape across the back of the sectional, since it’s the first thing you’ll see when walking in. Unless the back of your sectional is really cute!

Pros

  • Your seating area is nested in the corner, making it more intimate when hanging out or watching TV with a guest.
  • You're closer to the TV.
  • The pouf in front of the sofa works double-duty as seating and a surface to place items on.

Cons

  • You and guests have to walk “into the back” of the sectional.
  • The TV is in direct sight upon walking in the front door. For me, it’s not a bother, but some people hate this.
  • Seating is limited to the sectional and the one small pouf, so those in the living room will be seated closely together. Some might find this to be too close.

Living Room Layout 3

This layout could work perfectly if you work from home and need the extra space for a desk. The secretary here has a desk surface and lots of storage. The best part is it can all be tucked away to reveal a very beautiful cabinet. There’s not much room here for much storage or a TV if you place the furniture in this layout, but you'll still have enough room to have friends over. You can also choose to use a love seat instead of the chair if you need more seating.

Pros

  • Provides optimal space for creating a work area.
  • There is lot of space to add more seating for small gatherings.

Cons

  • The front door opens right into the side of your sofa.
  • There is no room for a media center and TV (unless you mount it over a desk).

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are a little more forgiving when it comes to the way you lay out your furniture. Usually, you only need to figure out a plan that works for yourself (or your significant other) only, and not others, like you would in a living room.

If you're up for it, you can usually squeeze pieces a bit closer together to fit in a little more. But I like a bedroom to be as spacious as possible, while maximizing the space with pieces that provide enough storage.

Here’s one bedroom with three different furniture layouts. The door into the bedroom is at the bottom of the room and the closet is to the left. A large window is on the right side of the room. A queen bed is used in each of these layouts.

Bedroom Layout 1

I LOVE this bed. It’s such a great use of space. It’s beautiful and functional. The drawers are on both sides of the bed and really help with maximizing storage. This layout is great if you don't want to squeeze a lot of furniture in a small space. You have a lot of space to walk through to the closet and the four-drawer chest can be switched for a long dresser if you need more storage.

Pros

  • There’s hidden storage in the bed.
  • There’s lots of space to walk through to the closet.

Cons

  • The nightstand on the side by the window is squeezed into a tight corner and may be a little hard to get to.
  • The space between the four-drawer chest and the bed is less than two feet wide and may be a bit uncomfortable to maneuver about when adding and removing items from the chest.

Bedroom Layout 2

This layout provides a totally different view when you enter the room. The bed is now at the window allowing symmetry on that wall.

Pros

  • The bed on the wall with the window allows for symmetry on the wall, which is (for some) “easier on the eye” than a wall without symmetry.
  • Both nightstands have a decent amount of walkthrough space in front of them.

Cons

  • The three-drawer chest is blocking the line of view into the closet and may be an issue when sharing a room with someone (you may be putting clothes away when he/she is walking through).
  • Putting the bed at the window can be uncomfortable for some people (like me — I can't sleep close to a window),

Bedroom Layout 3

This layout is my favorite. It allows for a chair, which I believe every bedroom should have. I also really like that there’s enough room for a long dresser (and in this case I chose a long, tall one for maximum storage), but in this layout the nightstands are smaller, because the wall that the bed and nightstands are on are smaller than the other walls.

Pros

  • The long, tall dresser provides maximum storage.
  • There’s enough space for a chair.
  • The bed is on the wall opposite from the one that you see when you first enter the room, which allows for privacy for someone sleeping in the bed (in case you share a room with a significant other).
  • There’s lots of walkthrough space when first entering the room and moving to the closet.
  • The nightstands are smaller, but makes up in storage with shelves and a small drawer.

Cons

  • The nightstand by the window is squeezed in a tight corner and may be hard to get to.
  • The space between the dresser and bed is tight, which may make putting away clothes (and removing them) inconvenient.

Remember for each of these layouts, you can mix and match pieces. For example, you can use the bed with drawer storage in either of the layouts and the small nightstands with the shelves and drawer (as seen in bedroom layout No. 2) can also be used in either of the other two bedroom layouts to save more space.

Now you can use these layouts to inspire you to space-plan your own small room. The important thing to remember is that you must plan for YOU and how YOU live. For you, it may be okay to have a tiny space between your nightstand and the wall, because it could free up extra space in the rest of the bedroom for a desk or two chairs. For you, you may find it necessary to only have a small love seat in your living room with no coffee table, because you use the space for yoga or dancing.

What small space planning questions do you have?