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teal velvet sofa with gold legs in living room

Best Sofas for Small Living Rooms: 16 Options & Why They Work

Today I want to deep dive into the often confusing topic of sofas for small living rooms. And we’re going to tackle it in two parts.

First we’ll get into the nitty gritty; walking you through the different elements you need to consider and look out for before you go shopping. But the second (and probably more fun) part is me sharing a roundup of my fave small sofas with you, which you can go ahead and shop right here, right now.

Decorating a small space can be challenging. There are so many things to think about! But the sofa is undoubtably the most important element in the room, so let’s get this right from the onset. I hope you get to the end of this post feeling like a pro at what to look for. And if you fall in love with your dream sofa, that’s an added bonus.

Drop me a comment at the end of the post is you have any questions. And as always, feel free to share which of these sofas for small living rooms is your favourite. I love getting your buy-in!

If you need help styling your cosy space, click here for my easy cheats on decorating a small living room.

Feature image above is via Vozeli.

rydell sofa molmic furniture in grey living room with glass coffee table

You Can Choose Any Colour You Like

I always see tips on decorating small rooms in mags and online, and the advice is often to use light-coloured furniture. It causes the sort of dramatic eye roll that leaves me fearing mine might get stuck in the back of my head, never to return to their regular position.

The reality is, you can choose any colour sofa you like and it can still work in a small living room. The colour doesn’t make the room feel bigger or smaller.

It’s less about the colour of the sofa and more about the surrounding tones. Lots of different colours in the one room can be visually overwhelming, making the area feel cluttered and closed-in. But the sofa itself can be any colour. Just ensure you don’t go crazy with colour in other pockets of the room and you’ll be fine.

The Rydell Sofa above from Sofa & Soul is a perfect example of a sofa for a small living room. Not only is it a glorious shade of soft pink, but it follows a lot of my other key rules, which I’ll expand on below.

Now, Ensure it’s Raised Off the Floor

This is so crucial when considering sofas for a small living rooms. You’ll find loads of smaller options online that drop all the way to the floor. As gorgeous as they are though, they’re just not suited to small spaces.

You want there to be air travelling under the sofa, or at the very least the illusion of air. You want to see underneath the sofa a little when you walk into the room. It’s a small detail, I know, but it makes a big difference. If you look at every sofa in this blog post you’ll see they’re all raised off the ground on thin legs.

People often make the same mistake in small bedrooms when shopping for beds. They think an ensemble bed is the best idea, but it’s not. You want air to flow under the bed, just like with the sofa.

If you need help decorating your small boudoir, come see my tips on furniture and decor for small bedrooms.

gaspard tan leather sofa from horgans with black side table luxe living room

A Thin Low Arm is the Best Option

Not all of the small sofas in this post follow the ‘thin low arm’ rule completely. You can bend this rule a little, but let me first explain why a low and thin arm is the best.

In a small living room, you don’t want furniture to feel bulky. You want the eye to glide over each piece of furniture. Comfort is important, of course, but you want to reduce thickness in each piece. That doesn’t mean you can’t have arms on your sofa, but ideally they’re low and thin. High, thick arms make the sofa feel super boxy, and it dominates the space too much, blocking the flow and cutting the sofa off from other pieces of furniture in the room.

You can do a slightly thicker arm as long as it’s a low arm. And you can do a higher arm as long as it’s a thin one, Basically, just avoid a high thick arm and you can’t go wrong.

The option above has a somewhat high arm but it’s thin enough to work in a small room. You can still access the side table next to it, and it doesn’t feel closed off. If you like the look of it you can see it and all my other top leather sofa recommendations here.

Lower Backs are Always Preferred

I don’t like tall backs on a sofa no matter what size the room is, but that’s just me. It’s one of my big no-no’s when decorating an open plan living room, but it’s definitely one to avoid in a small space as well.

High back sofas in small living rooms create the same issue as sofas with high arms; they feel too dominant, they overtake the space, and they throw off the scale. Your eye can’t glide across them, so they become a focal point for all the wrong reasons.

You’re always better off looking for a sofa with a low back to give the illusion of more space. It doesn’t mean the back cushion can’t be plush and comfortable, but just avoid tall puffy sofas that swallow the room whole.

sierra two seater sofa for small living room temple and webster

Keep the Lines Clean and Structured

The Sierra 2-Seater Sofa above from Temple & Webster nails this rule perfectly. Notice how the lines of this sofa are clean? When I say clean, I mean that both the horizontal and vertical planes of the sofa are quite straight and structured.

When looking for sofas for small living rooms, you don’t want arms that taper out. You don’t want thick rounded arms like with a chesterfield sofa. And you want to avoid a lot of decorative bells and whistles. Keeping the look and feel rather orderly and minimal will make the space feel more open and less suffocating.

Don’t worry about the sofa feeling boring either. The sofa can be sensible but you can add fun to it with cushions and throws, or place some interesting art above it.

Bring in Interest Through Smaller Details

As I just mentioned, a sofa for a small living space doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be super-plain and without detail. You just need to be quite careful about the level of detail and where it features on the sofa.

I had a client once who wanted a chesterfield sofa in her small living room, and I really had to go into some major mental combat to convince here it was a bad idea. Thankfully I won. Sofas with a tonne of buttons, curves or stitching can create a sense of visual chaos. In a small space, you have to be really careful to keep that sort of busyness to a minimum.

The sort of detail you want to look for in your sofa is going to be less-is-more. Some light tufting on the base of the sofa is fine. A button on each of the back cushions is fine. Some beautiful piping is a winner. And you can’t go past a little stud detail either. One of the sofas in the neutral mood board further down features studs but in a restrained way, and I love it.

west elm alto sofa best sofas for small living rooms mid century style

Measure the Sofa in Your Space – Always!

Don’t get too caught up in whether the sofa is called a two-seater, or three-seater. Also don’t worry about how many cushions it has on it. One is not better than the other.

The crucial thing to keep in mind when looking for the best sofas for small living rooms is to measure the sofa out in your space before you buy it.

I don’t just mean the length either. Consider how high the back will be on the wall behind it. And then measure out how deep the cushions are. Sometimes the depth will be the element that gets you. So many people forget to think about how far the sofa cushions will just out into the room.

Remember, you want to leave approximately 50cm from the seat cushion to your coffee table. So just measure it all out and go shopping armed with the exact dimensions that’ll work.

The Alto Sofa from West Elm, pictured above, is a rather chic option, don’t you think?

neutral sofas for small spaces small living room sofa mood board

Sofas for Small Living Rooms: Neutrals

As I’ve already said, you don’t have to keep your small living room sofa in a neutral tone to make it work. But if subdued colour is your thing, knock yourself our with our six faves above. I’ve listed out the links to them below, so your dream small sofa is just a few clicks away!

  1. The Carl 3-Seater Sofa from Life Interiors
  2. The Denmark 2-Seater Sofa from Interiors Online
  3. The Tallulah Upholstered Sofa from Pottery Barn
  4. The Andes 3-Seater Sofa from West Elm
  5. The Sussex 3.5 Seater Sofa from OZ Design
  6. The Dollans 3-Seater Sofa from Fantastic Furniture

If these neutrals small sofas aren’t making your heart flutter, I have some coloured ones below for you to cast your eye over. I’m sure you’ll find something you love from the list.

coloured sofas for small spaces best small sofa mood board

Sofas for Small Living Rooms: Coloured

Colour lovers, I have you covered as well. As if I’d leave you hanging without some brighter options to add to your living room. The gorgeous green sofa above I almost bought for my own apartment, but pulled out at the last minute. I kinda regret it, I won’t lie. Someone please buy it so I can live vicariously through you!

  1. The Harper 3-Seater Sofa from Life Interiors
  2. The Christoph 3-Seater Sofa from Brosa
  3. The Kate 2-Seater Sofa from OZ Design
  4. The Atticus 2-Seater Sofa from OZ Design
  5. The Memphis 3-Seater Sofa from Life Interiors
  6. The Coogee 2-Seater Sofa from Temple & Webster

Which of these sofas for small living rooms is your fave from the list? Drop me a comment below and share which one is making your heart race.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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3 Responses

  1. Hi,

    Everything that you’ve recommended is what I have been trying to find for months…but most of the designs are bulky and don’t lend themselves to small spaces.
    Even retailers that say that they customise don’t really because everything is centred around their existing range.
    They’ll let you choose from existing sizes, possibly leg types/heights and often have a limited/boring range of fabrics.

    I’m after 2 x 2.5 seater sofas, low back (<80cm), elevated from the floor, a choice of fabrics that I like and what I’d call low profile…slim backrest which has a gentle curve that arches (not scooped) down to form the sides.

    Unfortunately, the recommendations in the article don’t tick all my boxes.
    Could you please help me find a retailer who really does customise?


  2. Thank you for the helpful posts! I just moved into a new place and had no idea where to start. The time you’ve taken to guide readers is very appreciated 🙂

  3. This blog might just be the best thing I have ever discovered. No wait, the best thing I’ve discovered is my new home that hubby and I have been living in now for three whole days! We’ve made a tree change from Bayside Melbourne and my mood board is rustic country cottage. I plan to paint the front door in a high gloss eucalyptus green with either charcoal or greige weatherboards and white framing. Decor will be strongly influenced by my South African heritage and pieces collected in Africa and South America. Horror or horrors…I have discovered my main living area is 3.76 x 3.6m! TV is going to have to back onto a window! The whole space comprising entry/living/dining is 3.76 x 8.28m and we’ve decided to make the living area face the kitchen even though that makes the dining area further away from the kitchen – I don’t mind this though as the dining area leads straight onto the outdoor living area which I love. Flooring is a light, warm grey timber wide board.
    What ideas can you offer to get giant functionality out of this tiny living area? Weekdays it’ll be pawrents and furkids schmooze, smooch and TV binge area. Weekends it’ll be chat with friends (lockdown restrictions permitting, of course!) while I potter in the kitchen before long lazy lunches at the 8 seater dining table.
    PS Feeling like a rock star, I mean interior decorator, for already realising, before reading this that, I need a low backed, narrow armed, skinny raised footed couch.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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