When it comes to home staging, the golden rule is to make a space look bigger to prospective buyers. And perhaps nowhere is that concept more vitally important than in the living room—the place where homeowners tend to spend most of their time entertaining and relaxing, and where potential buyers will be placing extra scrutiny. Here, Realtor.com offers a few quick and relatively affordable ways to maximize your living room’s first impression, even when the square footage is lacking.
1. Don’t leave the living room empty
An empty room gives buyers no point of reference for size. In fact, buyers often will walk away from a vacant home because they falsely believe their own furniture will not fit in the master bedroom or that the living room will not provide enough seating for entertaining. Staging can help buyers visualize how they can arrange their own furniture. But don’t just shove some furniture in the living room and call it a day. There’s actually a science to arranging your stuff in a way that makes the room feel bigger. Most buyers scan a room from left to right upon entry. If you place the tallest piece of furniture in the far left corner, the room will appear larger than if that same piece of furniture is closer to the entry. Placing a large or tall piece of furniture near an entryway or door tricks the eye into thinking a space is smaller than it is, so keep taller items in corners or eliminate them altogether.
2. Carefully consider your seating scheme
Choose a focal point—a fireplace or windows with a view are the usual suspects, but maybe yours is a great piece of art or a family heirloom—and position your seating arrangement around it. Remember: You want prospective buyers to imagine themselves actually living in and using your space, so your seating concept should be functional. Carefully consider how your room flows; you never want a buyer to walk into a room that’s blocked or overloaded with heavy furniture.
3. Scale down your furniture
Never fill your small space with a truckload of huge stuff; you’ll dwarf the space, naturally. Instead of a sectional or large sofa, use a love seat, a wedge sofa or a semicircular sofa that curves inward. Using smaller furniture leaves more white space, which will make the room seem larger. Another alternative: Choose a piece that looks airy in a material such as wicker or rattan. Note: Try not to go overboard with the tiny pieces. Too many can make a room look cluttered and, therefore, smaller.
4. Build around your largest piece—and edit ruthlessly
Assess the room for your largest piece (likely your sofa), and judge every other item in the room against it. Ask whether it serves a purpose, either functional or decorative. If you can’t come up with an answer immediately, it’s not worth keeping. While you’re at it, switch bold, busy pieces of artwork for more neutral, unobtrusive prints, and get rid of the clunky family photos on the mantel. Remember: The goal is for your space—not your trinkets—to do the talking. Pro stagers also nearly universally recommend ditching TV sets, which occupy a lot of visual real estate. The only exception? A wall-mounted, flat-screen TV that’s appropriately sized to the room.
5. Balance color
You don’t need to cover your walls in white. You can have some fun with color, but you’ll need to follow some basic rules to avoid overwhelming the space. First, nix dark or bold paint colors, which make cramped spaces feel tighter—or at least use them sparingly on accent walls, for example. Brighter colors should be repeated to be balanced well—especially in a smaller space. If a rug is red and everything else in the room is various shades of neutral, add red to the pillows and accessories. When it comes to ceiling colors, choose a shade that’s lighter than your walls to give the impression of openness. For extra credit, match your wall color to larger (lighter-hued) pieces of furniture, which makes the latter blend in and seem smaller.
6. Use the proper materials
When it comes to furnishings, materials such as glass and metal reflect light and give a greater sense of space than dark, heavy wood pieces. Avoid heavy bookshelves and try floating shelves instead. Then declutter their contents by at least 60 percent.
7. Lighten up
An abundance of natural light tricks the eye into thinking a space is larger. To maximize light, keep your window treatments minimal with a simple roller shade. If you must have curtains, choose a lightweight, airy fabric such as voile or linen and mount the rod as close to the ceiling as possible to create the illusion of height. For darker rooms, hang mirrors to reflect the light you have.