Living in a small-footprint home often means that your living room may overlap with your dining area or kitchen. One effective way to maximise space and functionality is by creating distinct zones within a single area. Here are a few creative ways to zone your small apartment living room for both aesthetics and practicality, along with examples from some of our featured apartments.
1. Separating Zones with Colour
Colour has the power to visually separate spaces within a room. Painting walls in different shades and tones can be used to designate various zones. In Project 26, Singapore, the entrance and kitchen are painted a dark army green by designers Jack and Jia Hui of Resistance, sharply contrasting with the minimalistic white living room—“a visual cue to slow down and rest”.
This design strategy can be described as a “compression and expansion” architectural approach. The intentional use of colour manipulation, lighting, and spatial design creates a unique sensory journey for those within the space.
For more ways to creatively use colour, check out How Colour Can Enhance Small Living Room Design.
2. Using Different Materials and Finishes
Applying diverse materials and finishes in your design can help distinguish zones. Carpets, rugs, and various flooring materials can be used to create boundaries between spaces. Mixing wood, glass, and textiles can also provide clear distinctions between areas, adding depth and character to your small apartment living room.
Floor-to-ceiling oak cladding used in Type Street Apartment, Melbourne, by architect Jack Chen clearly delineates the entrance, kitchen, and living room. The oak cladding and receded ceiling contrast with a painted white wall to create two visually defined spaces.
3. Creating Different Levels
Elevating or lowering certain areas of the floor or ceiling can be an innovative way to divide your living room. A sunken seating area or a step up or down to access a dining room can create dynamic zones that make the most of vertical space.
Designer Kumiko Ouchi from Small Design Studio played around with multi-storey spaces in the house for two, Tokyo with the kitchen being distinctly raised above the living room to create different zones.
4. Using Room Dividers
If more privacy or separation between zones is desired, consider using curtains as room dividers. Curtains can separate a home office or bedroom area from the main living space. Alternatively, they can offer a budget-friendly way to visually separate zones while adding a touch of theatricality and allowing you to adjust the layout as needed.
Lauren and Nicholas Russo employed a multipurpose curtain in Karoot, Melbourne to establish privacy between the living zone and adjacent office nook, and also to soften the overall space both visually and acoustically by drawing the curtain across the nearby kitchen.
5. Partitioning with Furniture
A clever rearrangement of the furniture in your living room can easily create different zones. Larger, bulkier pieces of furniture, such as cabinets or storage units, can be used to become room dividers. To maintain a more spacious and airy feel, open shelves are a great way to partition your living space while allowing natural light to filter in and your prized possessions to be displayed.
Take El Camarin in Buenos Aires for example, where open shelving was used as a partition between the bed and main living space. This granted some privacy in the bedroom, while plants dangling from the shelves added some zest to the living room.
For a cost-effective and minimal-intervention approach similar to Crussol, Paris, consider positioning your sofa and dining bench back-to-back. This arrangement will effectively delineate the living and dining areas without obstructing the sight-line.
In a small apartment, every inch counts, and thoughtful zoning can make your living room feel larger, more organised, and more functional. By using lighting, colour, materials, different levels, and room dividers, you can transform your small living space into a multi-functional area that suits your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. The key is to balance functionality with style to create a harmonious and visually appealing small apartment living room that serves all your needs.
For more tips and tricks, check out our Book + Essential Guide to Your Living Room bundle.