A Tiny Living Room on a Tight Budget
Q: I am currently renting an apartment in downtown Manhattan. My roommate and I recently settled in, and we are ready to tackle the project that is our living room! We are working with a fairly small space - about 5.5' x 8 '. We want to incorporate a TV and nice seating area. I am a college student so I am working with a low budget :) What are your suggestions to maximize this space? Thanks!
-Emily C., New York, NY
A: Congratulations on your new digs! And...an apartment in Manhattan...can I tell you how jealous I am?!? But you aren't kidding about it being a tight space! We will have to get a little creative, but there are some tricks you can employ to maximize the area you have to work with. I won't be able to tackle every detail in this post, but your basic list should include: mirror, rug, seating, lighting, and some fun accents. For your TV, I'd recommend a wall mounted or ceiling mounted bracket to save floor space, and allow for adjustment to a comfortable viewing angle.
Create the Illusion of More Space
The very first thing I would do is to go out and buy the largest mirror you can afford, and hang it on the the wall with the small window in it. This is a time-tested way to create the illusion of more space. It will also bounce the light around and brighten things up. Large mirrors can be really expensive, so your best bet will be either Homegoods or Ikea. At Ikea, for example, you can get this one for under $50. If you can go up to $100, you could get an even bigger one like this. They are both simple framed rectangles; they won't be adding anything in terms of personality to the space but they will serve a wonderful functional purpose, and there's plenty of other opportunities for you to bring in some interest.
Small Space Seating and Double Duty Furniture
Furniture-wise, I'm sure your first impulse is to head to Ikea--and don't get me wrong, I LOVE Ikea--but since you've probably already thought of that, I figured it would be fun to show you a couple of Not-Ikea options on an Ikea budget.
For your seating, a loveseat or apartment sized sofa is going to fit the best in the space. I think the Klein from Structube is super stylish and cute. If you'd rather have upholstered arms to lean against, the Haley is a bit bigger, and has an interesting scultural shape to it. They both come in neutral colors which means you can have fun adding some colorful pillows and a cozy throw or two. Plus, did I mention they are each only $399?!
When you are working in a small space, another good tip is to think about furniture that can do double duty. I'd recommend looking for either a pair of stools or poufs that you could place in front of the loveseat instead of a table. These can be extra seating for guests, a place to put your feet up, or serve as a coffee table (with the addition of a small tray on top for the pouf). The turquoise stool below is actually meant for outdoor use, but is sturdy and could inject a fun pop or color (it comes in a wide variety of colors). The pouf is has a little bit of a shaggy texture to it, and would be a cozy, neutral addition.
Lighting on the Wall
Don't neglect the lighting! I see there is some overhead lighting (and a bit of natural light even!), but it is your accent lights that will make the space feel homey and warm. A good trick when floor space is limited, is to look for a wall-mounted plug-in lamps. A pair of these black and brass sconces would look perfect above one of the loveseat picks, and really aren't too pricey as far as lamps go. Ikea also has great lighting at affordable prices.
Don't Forget a Rug!
Because the living room isn't likely to be a high traffic area as it's off to the side, it's a great opportunity to go for a really plush, cozy rug. I love a wool shag rug, but they shed like crazy, which will not be a good thing in cramped quarters. Both for practicality, and for wallet-friendliness, it would be best to consider synthetic options. A 4'x6' will still give you space to push a stool back from the counter (if you are putting stools there). You could also go up to a 5'x7'. Rugs USA has an extensive and affordable selection. Plus, free shipping means you don't have to lug a heavy rug back to you apartment!
Pillows to Add Some Personality
And finally, the most fun part...pillows! Urban Outfitters is a great place to find inexpensive, on-trend pillows. I think these two styles make a cute and colorful pair!
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