Decorating a small living room can be a challenge, but it's an exciting one. Having less space to work with presents an opportunity to be creative with colour, pattern and statement furniture, as bold choices have immediate impact and can help you to shape the rest of your décor. Of course, it's likely that you're looking to maximise square footage too, which calls for some clever solutions. Our design suggestions and styling tips will help you to take your small living room from compact and busy to elegant and bijou.

Living room with black walls, palm tree and a sofa

Conventional wisdom says that you should use pale colours to maximise a small space. While this does work, you're likely to end up with a very bland room if you stick to white or anaemic pastel shades on every surface. Rather than covering the whole wall in one hue, create 'zones' which split the space in to sections according to its different uses – so, for example, a blush pink or warm orange framing a cosy reading nook.

Don't be afraid to add colour to woodwork, either. Make a statement by painting the door, skirting boards, window surround or fireplace in a bright hue. This eclectic look, especially eye-catching if your house has period features, allows you to use more intense tones without making the room feel overbearing.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you from painting your entire living room in one shade, if you so wish, and there are benefits to this. Paint colours tend to look different depending on natural light, creating certain 'moods' in rooms at different times of day. A lush green might offer jewel-like tones during the day and become a cosy forest hue at night, synchronising effortlessly with your energy levels and desire to feel cocooned. The effect tends to be amplified in a small space, so if you like your rooms to take on a particular mood, go for it.

Striped blue and grey wall paper on wall and round with a blue chaise longue

As with paint, you can use wallpaper to create zones within your room, but our advice is to choose a feature wall and use it to draw the eye. Wallpaper has impact alone, but looks even better when used to bring attention to an interesting element of the space, like a beautiful window. Dress with furniture and accessories to enhance your stunning wall-sized piece of art.

A smart way to work with wallpaper in a petite space is to choose a vertical print. It doesn't need to be as regimented as vertical stripes, but a design with a general upward current will seem to elongate the distance between floor and ceiling. Consider the scale of the pattern carefully too. Tiny ditsy prints can suck the eye in and make a room feel smaller, so be bold and opt for something large. Luscious floral or botanical designs can be gloriously modern or have a certain vintage flair, depending on the style and how you choose to accessorise with furniture.

Bold abstract or geometric prints look chic in a simple two-colour design, drawing the eye and complementing the furniture and ornaments.

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Living room with a lady lying on sofa and a shelf of photo frames

Great interior design makes use of a room's best features. Assess your living space and decide what the natural focal points are. Do you have a striking fireplace? A beautiful bay window? Accentuating these features, whether with paint, wallpaper or accessories, will not only make your room incredibly stylish, it'll also help to distract from the lack of space.

Similarly, decide what it is about your living room that makes the small square footage feel even smaller. Low ceilings with low hanging pendant lights can feel very heavy, for example. One option is to remove overhead lighting altogether and instead use several lamps dotted about to provide uplighting and a warm ambience. With the ceiling light removed, your space will feel immediately larger.

If you have wooden floors in your living room, don't be tempted to cover them with carpet. Floorboards will naturally elongate a space, and they're far easier to decorate around than a carpet which may clash with your desired wallpaper or colour scheme.

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Living room with a dog on the sofa and frames hanging on the wall

When considering living room decor for a small space, furniture that is simple and lightweight could help the room to feel more spacious.

Dual purpose furniture is ideal for compact rooms. Seating or footstools that double as tables are versatile and great for making quick changes when guests come over. They'll take up less room than a chunky rectangular coffee table. If you can find items that also provide storage, space-stealing clutter can be whisked away without seeming to take up any more room.

A smart furniture layout will allow your carefully curated pieces to shine and look charmingly busy without feeling crowded. We suggest spacing the furniture like a sofa or table in each of the different zones of the room, then use accessories to add character and make the room flow effortlessly.

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Neutral room with long draping curtains

Soft furnishings and accessories can really improve a compact space. A small room will, of course, benefit from lots of natural light. Allow it to flow in by choosing lightweight curtains made from cotton or linen. Accentuate a tall ceiling (or create the illusion that you have one) by mounting the curtains well above the top of the window, and choose a floor length style for maximum impact.

Now that you've welcomed in the light, reflect it around the room with a strategically placed mirror. Hang a large one on a wall adjacent to the window for the best effect. Alternatively, you may want to draw attention to a focal point, like a fireplace, by hanging the mirror above it. Mirrors naturally make rooms feel more expansive, so regardless of location, your room will benefit.

It's not only curtains that you should hang high; placing shelves and picture frames higher up the wall again makes a room seem taller by drawing the eye upwards. Thinking vertically allows extra space for storage, keeping potential clutter away from ground level.

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Redesigning your living room with a couple of tricks and tips to maximise space will breathe fresh life into your home and allow you to make the most of what you've got.