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Design Inspo

Apartment Living Room Ideas for a New Move In

Living room design for an apartment can be as functional and fun as for a home if you follow these decorating tips for a new move-in.

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We’ve all been there before: You move into your first apartment, and you’re feeling timid about design choices that will let your personality shine while still abiding by your lease agreement. *sigh* 

Let the inevitable limitations of the lease inspire your creative genius instead of frustrate you! Spoak’s community of design lovers can help you find creative solutions for home design that will give your place character and enduring style. Plus, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves. Read on for inspiration on how to design your living room.

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Small Apartment Color Scheme

Apartment dwellers often lament the “landlord all-white” walls and cabinetry of their new homes. Don’t let the flat white paint get in the way of creating a space you love. Instead, let its light-reflecting properties inspire your inner artist to create magic with all that (literal) blank canvas. It’s all about perspective! 

Choose a Simple Color Palette (or Don’t)

Whether you go with ultra-light neutrals to encourage a feeling of expansiveness or more saturated and bright hues to spark creativity, make sure your color palette speaks to you. Use Spoak’s design suite of visualization tools to find coordinating colors that would work with the shade of your white walls.

Carry your intentional color scheme throughout the apartment for a feeling of one big, cohesive space rather than several cramped rooms. If you need some extra help deciding, check out Spoak’s free online course on designing with color.

Let Statement Pieces Pop

Choose colors that will pop against your all-white backdrop. When painted in a vivid blue, a console becomes a statement piece that ties in with your accent throw pillows.

Vibrant colors aren’t the only ways to make a statement (but we won’t stop you from using them!). Play up the black-and-white decor style with a black lacquered trunk as a coffee table juxtaposed next to the white walls and furniture. 

A statement-making living room; designed by Lindsey LaPrime in Spoak

Layer on the Lighter Textures

To enhance a white or light neutral color scheme, introduce textiles in similar hues but with varying textures to give your room depth. A jute rug can add softness to cement or vinyl flooring while tying into your color palette. A bouclé chair pairs wonderfully with a matching sofa slipcovered in a sailcloth. You can still have a rich, layered look without straying into a technicolor world.

Paint an Accent Wall To Define Space

Before you kiss painted walls goodbye, ask your landlord if you can paint your walls or even just one accent wall. Many will allow it if you choose from a subdued palette or agree to paint over it when your lease ends. It never hurts to ask! (But if you don’t, your secret is safe with us!)

Use your accent wall to help define your living space and separate it from the dining or kitchen area. A deep green on the same wall as a fireplace or behind the couch gives your room an instant, dramatic focal point.

Work With Your Apartment Living Room Floor Plan

An apartment living room can have all of the elements of a grand living room, but they may need to be in smaller doses. 

Create an Entryway

You may not have a large entryway or mud room for dropping all of your stuff when you walk in the door, but you can still have a stylish catch-all area that sets the tone for the rest of your home upon entering.

Lay peel-and-stick tiles on the floor inside your doorway to identify it as an entryway with a dash of whimsy. Set a slim shoe rack console atop your tiles, with a basket for keys or mail and drawers for shoes and bags. Hang a round mirror above the console for last-minute glances before walking out the door, and you now have a compact, working entryway.

Get Furniture to Scale 

Believe it or not, larger living room furniture can make a small space feel larger. Just make sure you curate a select few pieces that will visually change the scale of the room to seem proportional to your furniture and not the other way around.

So yes, you have our permission to splurge on that luxurious velvet sofa and the classic mid-century lounger. Then, pare down the rest of your furnishings to a floating console and a coffee table with thin legs, giving the appearance of more space. The key is to choose where you will “spend” your available square footage to get maximum results.

Create Soft Room Dividers

If your apartment is like most out there, there is little divide between the living room and dining area. The room decor can create separate zones to give your space a cozy, inviting feeling. 

For instance, you can float your sectional sofa between the living space and dining room to act as a visual buffer between the two.

Perhaps you’d like to hang a few picture ledges above the couch for an easy-to-install gallery wall that marks the lounging area. A picture ledge hung with command strips (a renter’s best friend) will let you rotate art regularly without damaging those walls. 

Choose the perfect placement of your pieces with Spoak’s gallery wall tool. When you plan before you hang, you reduce the holes in the walls and keep some of that deposit money for your next vacation abroad. 

Let Your Area Rug Define the Area 

Though your living area is small, a large area rug under your sofa and a conversational arrangement of chairs is a powerful way to anchor the living room as a separate space. Let your rug’s wool tufted texture create a stir when you are keeping your color palette light and neutral.

Storage That Looks Like It Belongs

Storage is always tricky in small spaces, but if you can make it look original to the area, it recedes into the background. 

Fake a Built-In

Love the look of a turn-of-the-century apartment in New York with gorgeous built-ins and moldings? Fake the look by bringing in bookshelves that almost reach the ceiling and adding decorative trim to the top for classic cabinet storage. (IKEA’s Billy Bookcase hack is just a DIY project away!)

Adding a similar scalloped trim to the lower shelves of your bookcase and other pieces can give your living room a sense of history when all are painted in the same milky white color. 

Use Hidden Storage Pieces

No matter your home’s size, there will always be things we’d rather not look at on the regular — like a web of device cords. Invest in furniture with hidden storage compartments to keep it all under wraps.

Side tables that double as device chargers or extra linen storage are lifesavers in a small space. Ottomans that lift up to reveal storage space for game systems and magazines let you have your amusements on hand but tucked neatly away. 

Add Doors to Existing Cabinets

If you are fortunate enough to have existing cabinetry, but it seems crowded and chaotic with all your books and belongings peeking out, try adding cabinet doors to shield your stuff. 

Buy pre-cut custom doors and hinges, or try your woodworking skills with a little DIY session. Try alternating which shelves or cubbies you close behind doors with the ones you leave open.

Lighting Up Your Small Space

Light is everything in a smaller apartment! Make the most of your natural light and create lighting solutions for every scenario.

Mirrors for Lighter Interiors

Take cues from the past and use mirrors to reflect natural light and brighten dark areas of your home. Lean a large trumeau mirror against the wall for a French Provincial look that makes your living room feel larger. Or create the illusion of doubled floor space by hanging a grid of smaller mirrors on an accent wall to look into one big gorgeous mirror.

Small spaces are all about maximizing your vertical space, and mirrors do it better than anything else. 

Task Lighting as Apartment Decor

Several levels and sources of light throughout your living room create a restful living room. Try folding swing-arm sconces on either side of the couch that can light the room when folded or swing out to illuminate a specific reading nook. To keep it renter-friendly, opt for battery-operated bulbs. For that dark corner, create visual height by adding a floor lamp. 

Ambiance With LEDs

Look for clever places to conceal LED backlighting for evening ambiance in your living room. Try attaching a light strip beneath bookshelves to illuminate art below or behind the TV. 

Your Decor Ideas Are Move-In Ready

You don’t have to be a minimalist to have a streamlined decor style that works in an apartment. Start with these interior design tips to make your apartment living room space feel delightful and surprisingly functional. 

Photo Credit: (Left) Design Files


Make a small room appear larger with these 7 visual tricks | Washington Post

The Rise of the Mirror as Commonplace | Brown University

Boiserie From the Hôtel De Varengeville | TheMet 

25 Ultra Clever IKEA Billy Bookcase Hacks | The Spruce

Let Spoak’s design suite of tools guide your home decor process for a memorable space that you crave coming home to. 

Date Posted
April 19, 2023



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