Small Space Styling: zoning your living room

Decorating smaller apartments or studio flats can feel tricky – it is a careful balance between producing clutter and chaos and maximising the limited floor plan. I’ve decided to produce a new blog series called ‘Small Space Styling’ where I research and share all the top tips from interior stylists and designers. My first entry is all about zoning our living rooms, as habitually small homes can have multi-functional open spaces with your living room, kitchen, and dining space all together. However, it is possible to use décor concepts and guidelines to separate these areas by ‘zoning’.

Here I list 8 ways to zone your living space:


Probably the simplest approach to divide your living space from the rest of the room is to employ a contrasting colour, whether it be through painting the walls or styling a whole area in a similar palette. Apply colour to differentiate the ‘living room’ by choosing a calm yet eye-catching tone, cool blues and warm summery hues work best for a relaxing space. You can block paint the walls, select comfy furnishings in matching hues or mix and match your pieces with a cohesive blend of colours. 


Zoning a space can be achieved with room dividers such as open shelving or built-in storage cupboards. This is both aesthetically pleasing in splitting your living space from the remainder of your room, whilst also being incredibly practical as extra storage is frequently needed in tiny spaces. Take advantage of the furniture as a media space, placing your tv, books and music collection on it. This allows a clear division between the ‘living room’ and the rest of your interior.


Choosing lighting for your home is usually dictated by how you want to use your space. There is general lightingtask lighting (such as above the kitchen island or a lamp on a desk) as well as accent lighting which highlights the décor and styling aesthetic. Consequently, lighting can be a successful technique to zone your living area as well as decorating a multi-functional room. Floor lights by an armchair are useful for small reading nooks, a dazzling pendant over the coffee table acts as a focal point and cosy soft lighting is beneficial for generating a subdued intimate mood when watching tv at night. The more options for layering your lighting the greater the possibilities in zoning and distinguishing your living area. 

Lighting is an effective way to zone your living space, defining areas for different activities and making every corner count  

Charlie Bowles – Original BTC

Big bulky furniture pieces are ideal for zoning your space as you can place them in the centre of a room to invent physical separation between spaces. By adding a console table or shelving stand at the back of the sofa this allows for extra storage and conceals the unattractive edge of furniture. Be wary in slighter spaces that you do not block pathways, it should still feel easy and straightforward to move around the floor space and in between each zone.


Texture is a skilful way to separate tiny spaces and a fundamental approach to do this is to utilise floor rugs. One sizable rug placed in the living space can produce distinction or alternatively you can layer rugs for extra comfort. Do not hesitate to use rugs in modest spaces as often the larger the rug the greater the illusion of extra floor space. 

You can create a rich space through a well thought combination of textures, materials and details

Fred Peclat – Atelier PECLAT+CHOW

There are countless décor tips for zoning small interiors including room dividers. These can be a multitude of styles including floor to ceiling curtains, sliding doors that hide in wall pockets or glass panels. They act as both as a zoning technique as well as for privacy in open plan interiors. Usually, they can be open or closed which means you can tailor your space to your needs, for example having some concealment whilst watching a movie or welcoming an open space for gathering family and friends. 


We repeatedly forget to look up when styling our homes, but this is a mistake as in smaller spaces as you can exploit the ceiling. A valuable tool for zoning your living space, why not try decorating by painting the ceiling a complementary colour to the rest of the room and highlight any unique architectural details such as mouldings and panelling. 


As much as it is central to look up it is just as imperative to look down and develop the flooring style when decorating small spaces. Zone your living room with a variation of materials, such as a dissimilar wood type or wood finish which can still connect an open room yet subtly distinguish and separate each area allowing for your décor to feel carefully considered and the home much larger. 

Variation of flooring gives the spaces coherence and enhances the feeling of space, but at the same time the living space takes on a slightly different feel and its own identity

Andrew Griffiths – A New Day