How to open up your living room space

When you move into a new home, everywhere looks spacious and full of possibility, but over time you can feel crowded. The living room is the place where you will spend most of your time so it’s especially important not to feel claustrophobic there. Even if it’s a small room, good planning can make it feel a lot larger, and this, in turn, will make your whole home feel more spacious.

Plain and simple

Smaller rooms are easily overwhelmed by patterns – even simple ones like stripes and checks. Sticking to plain colors makes them feel a lot bigger. As a rule, pale colors make a space seem larger, especially if the ceiling is a shade paler than the walls, but using darker colors in alcoves can work very effectively by creating a greater sense of depth. You can also create optical illusions by using warm and cool colors, as the former seem closer and the latter further away. If you don’t want the extra hassle of looking after a pale carpet, consider a polished wooden floor.

Let the light in

Rooms always seem bigger and airier if they’re filled with sunlight, even on gray days. The more light you can let into your room, the better. Remove heavy curtains and use blinds or wooden shutters to make the most of your windows. Use mirrors to make more of this light – stick to ones with narrow, unfussy frames, or no frames at all, to avoid creating a sense of clutter. At night, having two overhead sources of light instead of just one will add to the sense of space and give you the option of having your sitting area lit with a darker section of the room stopping you from focusing on the walls.

Cut out clutter

One of the simplest things you can do to make a room look bigger is simply to keep it tidy, but that’s often easier said than done. It’s time to think seriously about storage. Built-in cupboards and shelves are the best way to go because they don’t make the room seem crowded by furniture but they do let you keep books, magazines, and games and so forth out of sight. Keep ornaments to a minimum in your room – think in terms of accents that draw the eye rather than showing off all your favorite bits and pieces. If you want to hang some art, restrict it to just one wall.

Rethink your furniture

It’s easy for a room to feel small if there’s something resting against every wall, effectively moving them inwards. Rearrange your space by moving seating inwards if you can, creating a distinct seating area around a coffee table. Using a glass-topped table adds to the suggestion of space, as does choosing pale colors for your furnishing. Choosing low furniture also helps by drawing the eye to the empty space above it.

When seeking to maximize space, you should include only the furniture you really need in the room. Choosing items that serve multiple purposes can make this easier. For instance, instead of a chair you could have an ottoman, providing you with storage as well. Instead of a chair you could have a table with a foldout leaf, giving you somewhere to sit and eat that can be hidden away at other times.

Redefine boundaries

The simplest way of making a room look bigger is to actually create more space. You’ll need to make sure that you’re not taking down supporting walls in the process, but opening up your living room into your hallway or dining room, or simply enlarging the entranceway and replacing a door with an arch, can have a dramatic effect. You’ll need a professional builder to do the work, or at least to oversee it, but this isn’t as expensive as you might expect.

If you’re not able to modify your room like this, you can change the impression it gives by redefining internal boundaries. Instead of arranging your furniture in a big circle, create distinct areas within the room for the different things you and your family do there.

Opening up your living room in any of these ways can make your home feel very different. You’ll feel freer and more at ease in your new space, and it’ll be easier to imagine it as somewhere you can enjoy new activities. Children will have more space to play and guests will love what you’ve done. You can enjoy all the excitement that comes with having a new, better home – without any of the hassle of moving.

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Matthew Okafor