Sofas for Small Spaces
It’s easy to see why loveseats seem the most natural choice of sofa for small spaces. They’re appropriately scaled. They can fit in the most awkward … er, unique … of layouts. They’re great for forced cuddles. But the loveseat isn’t the only option for apartment living. You could go modular. You could go retro. And — brace yourself — you could even go sectional. What? How could a big, bulky, sectional possibly work in your teeny tiny living room? Hold onto your throw pillows. The best sofas for small spaces aren’t what you think.
How to Choose a Sofa Size
You could find a light gray, well-cushioned sofa that’s perfect for your easy-breezy living room vibe. But what if said sofa gobbles up the entire space? Or hinders an essential flow of movement from, say, the sitting area to your chip stash? You’re left with a living room that’s out of whack *and* with unwanted obstacles between you and the pantry. Matching aesthetics is only one part of the sofa / small space equation. On that note, consider the following:
- Just because a sofa can squeeze inside a room doesn’t mean it’s the ideal size for your space. To keep a sofa from dominating your living room, use these guidelines to achieve a sense of scale.
- Choose a sofa that’s shorter than the length of the wall behind it. This rule of thumb prevents you from purchasing a sofa that is too big for your room.
- Leave 18″ of space between the sofa and the coffee table. Close enough to reach your tea but with respectable leg room, 18″ is a comfortable distance for most.
- To prevent a sectional sofa from becoming a barricade, limit the long end from reaching halfway across the room. This principle also ensures the room stays balanced. If the limbs of these sofas are too long they tend to weigh down one side of the room, putting everything off balance.
- Allow at least three-and-a-half feet between your sofa and other seating. This distance knits your sitting area together without popping any personal space bubbles.
- Keep a minimum of seven feet to the TV. There’s a reason the movie theatre’s front row is always empty — aesthetics have little to do with it. Craning your head back to squint at a pixelated screen can result in kinked necks and scorched retinas. By keeping a sound distance from your screen, you’ll avoid these unsavory ailments.
Your living room doesn’t have to be a game of the sofa vs. everyone. Harmony is achieved when all the players get along. Strive for balance by strategically mixing pieces that are tall and short, heavy and delicate, fabric-dominant and frame-dominant. What does this look like in practice? Let’s say you have a glass top table with an exposed silhouette. If you were to choose an equally dainty sofa, your eye would have a hard time determining what’s visually important. Instead, a better match would be a full bodied sofa — like the Timber — because it offsets the table’s more subtle presence.
Placement and flow.
As the largest piece of furniture in the room, the sofa often dictates how you move or don’t move through a space. The challenge in small apartments is to position your sofa in a way that directs traffic logically, without cramped or obscure pathways. To avoid feeling like your sofa is an obstacle:
- Keep your sofa contained. Unless you’re training for hurdles, your sofa shouldn’t extend beyond a wall.
- Use your sofa as a centrepiece. As a focal point and your sitting area’s linchpin, your sofa should feel like the host of a party.
- Highlight architectural features. Use your sofa to direct attention to details. For example, you could use the sofa to create a sightline to windows or aim the sofa towards a fireplace.
Sofa Design Tips for Small Spaces
It’s easy for us square-footage challenged to become overly precious about the space we do have. But just because you live small doesn’t mean you have to design small. There’s a lot of small space advice out there that tells you what not to do. Don’t use color. Don’t use patterns. Don’t have clutter. Don’t buy oversized sofas. Our take? Don’t limit yourself.
To create the appearance of more space, some interior design tenants suggest to choose a sofa that blends into your walls and decor. White sofa on white walls. Beige sofa on beige walls. But your living room isn’t a battlefield. The sofa you choose doesn’t have to camouflage into its surroundings. Your sofa is a big, sittable sculpture. By its very nature, it stands out. Pick a sofa that elevates the rest of your decor and represents your personal style, whether that’s taupe on taupe or green on flowers.
If you’re 6’3 with a penchant for midafternoon naps, a loveseat might not be the right choice. To kick back the way you want to, consider reworking your living room to include a chaise, an ottoman, or a combination of the two with a modular, multi-piece sofa like the Solae. As compact as a loveseat with the legroom of a sectional, the Solae is the best of both worlds.
In a small space, a sofa isn’t just a sofa. It’s a place for your couch surfing friend to rest their head. It’s a meditation cushion. It’s the dinner table. Consider choosing a sofa that chameleons to your needs at any given moment. For this, we love sofa beds that come complete with built-in storage — perfect as a last minute clutter stash when the in-laws pop in for an unexpected visit. Again.
A thoughtful color palette. Pale colors, powdery hues, and light naturals open up a room by taking advantage of the airy, opening effect of light. But that’s not to say small spaces can’t be colorful. Pops of color open your space in a different way. Instead of seeing the room as a whole, you unconsciously start looking for more color. The eye darts from object to object, like a bumble bee looking for a flower. What’s more, splashing hues strategically across upholstery, accents, and art doesn’t just call the eye; it influences the mind. In fact, the color of a room can alter your mood. Blue boosts creativity. Green is restorative and emotionally calming. Red enhances attention to detail. Isn’t psychology neat?
Best Sofas for Small Spaces
L is for the way we look at loveseats. Here’s a little known fact: the loveseat can range in size from 53″ to 74″ inches. If your love language is physical affection, you might choose a true-to-form leg-to-leg 53″ inch loveseat. For those of us who favor a more “this is your sitting space, this is my sitting space” approach, the 74″ inch variety is a personal space wonder.
A standout sofa.
Baby, it’s a star! The spotlight is already on the sofa. Why not go loud and proud? Bold colors. Atypical shapes. Sumptuous textures. All of the above. A sofa that uses unexpected design characteristics adds visual interest to your design, setting the tone for the rest of the room. There’s no need to be discreet — unless that’s your style, of course.
Look at those legs! Actually, look through them. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the interior designer’s book. We love leggy sofas for small spaces because your eye can pass through the furniture, making the room appear more spacious. Exposed, leggy frames have an opening effect, unlike chunkier options that blocks off what you can see.
When you can’t raise your ceilings, lower your sights. A sofa with an earth-bound build emphasizes vertical space, making the room it’s in appear bigger and less cluttered. Similarly, a sofa that has a low back and low arms — like the Gaba sofa — takes up less visual space than sofas that’s blocks the room with a tall back and arms.
Styling a sofa in a small room is a like aligning a rubix cube. Place the sofa along the wall, and you block the fireplace. Place the sofa adjacent to the fireplace, and you block the walkway. Sometimes you just can’t win with a standard design. For tricky spaces, we love the modular sofa. Because they are sold as separate pieces you can restyle the modular sofa to fit funky, albeit, atypical layouts. They’re compatible with odd room shapes and sizes and can extend or compress depending on your needs.
If you find patching a pesky hole in an airbed as irritating as this author does, consider an upgrade. Some heroes wear linens: the sofa bed is a wonderful, puncture-free multifunction savior. Bonus: with an actual mattress to lay on, your guests won’t wake up on the floor — making you look like the best host ever.
At first blush, you’d think the sectional would overwhelm a small space. In reality, the backwards law is in full effect. The sectional actually economizes space. We talk about it at length in our blog post Sectional Sofas for Your (Small) Space, but to summarize: sectionals put dead space to work. It allows to you make full use of corner real estate. It axes the need for an ottoman. Worried that a sectional will swallow your room whole? Choose one with straight lines and taut pillows, rather than an overstuffed option.
[The Nova sectional brings big house energy — down filled cushions, minimalist lines, sprawling nap-ability — to any small apartment.]
Whether you live in a condo, a tiny home, a garden suite, or a walk-up, your limited square footage doesn’t have to limit your imagination. You small home is the sandbox you get to play in, a canvas you can color, the box you can turn into a castle. When we say “sofas for small spaces,” what do you think of? Whatever comes to mind, we hope it’s a sofa that you love.