It can be difficult for many people to figure out what differentiates cozy living rooms or other spaces that feel relaxing and comforting from spaces that feel cramped or uncomfortable.

Below is a series of changes you can make to your small living room to make it exude warmth and coziness.

What Makes a Living Room Cozy?

Soft lighting sources

Cramped, stuffy living rooms are often either too dark or have only harsh overhead lighting. Most floor and table lamps will provide softer lighting just by being filtered through a lamp shade. You can also use low wattage incandescent lights for a softer glow. When it’s practical, fire in a fireplace or through candles can provide a warm, flickering glow.

Simple color palettes

Small spaces have a much harder time supporting varied or colorful palettes. A coordinated color scheme of 2 to 4 harmonious colors can be used to create a space that is as visually engaging as you want without getting overwhelming.

Cozy color and surface choices

You can make a cozy space with any color theme, but warm tones (orange/red/brown/taupes) are naturally more suited to creating a warm, cozy space than cool tones (blues/greens/pale grays). Wood and stone-toned surfaces are also cozier feeling than plastic or metal objects.

Clutter-free and open surfaces

Not having enough clean, open surfaces is a subtle stressor for most people, and can prevent them from relaxing fully. By keeping plenty of clean, open

Subtle textures and patterns

Soft varieties in patterns and materials add a feeling of softness and comfort to a space. As with your color scheme, you shouldn’t do anything too dramatic or attention-grabbing, but muted textures like velvet, suede, canvas, silk, and wool or yarn, along with simple patterns like stripes or floral patterns

Natural materials

The basket weave-style throw pillow, small potted plants and rustic side table bring a bit of nature into a living room. © 2010 Favaro JR

Many cozy spaces make a point to include natural materials like wood, cotton, flowers, plants, seashells, rocks and more.  The materials don’t have to be knickknacks, either: many pieces of furniture or counter tops can be made from natural materials, including solid wood, wicker, glass, or stone. You can also integrate natural floor or wall coverings, such as grasscloth wallpaper or jute rugs.

Comfortable seating and textures

Many modern chairs and sofas are sleek and sophisticated looking, but they may also not be someplace you would ever want to curl up with a good book or relax with close friends. Add soft throw pillows, floor cushions and throw blankets with soft texture to your small living room.

Having safe spaces to relax

It’s an instinctive evolutionary trait to prefer your back to a wall, to ensure nothing can sneak up behind you, which may seem a little silly in the modern age, but the psychological impact is undoubtedly present. Try to position the primary seating area far from any entrances to the room and with the occupants’ back to a wall. The secondary seats should be arranged so that anyone seated in them has a clear view of the entrances (i.e., don’t put anyone with their backs to any entrances.)

Symmetrical arrangements

A general interior design rule is that symmetry is passive and calm, asymmetry is active and energizing. If you want a more calm, relaxing space, you need to bring visual order into the room. For example, try similar or matching end tables and lamps on either side of the sofa, a series of wall art in an evenly spaced pattern, or matching occasional chairs.

Open, clear pathways

Another psychological preference is to have a clear path to exit the room. You shouldn’t have to turn sideways or step over anything to maneuver around your living room. If you can’t walk freely around the room, you may need to get rid of some furniture or clutter.

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