Before and after: small space living room makeover

small space living room home decor

H&M; bow dress, Home Decorators Collection Watkins couch, West Elm chair, DIY pillows, Threshold bar cart, vintage trunk, Homegoods rug + mirror (similar), mini Meyer lemon tree – (my baby!)

I’ve gotten several requests to do home posts, and wanted to share a few favorite finds so far as well as a super easy pillowcase tutorial (coming soon!). Our space is very small and much of it is still in progress from renovations, adorned with luxurious cardboard boxes, rubble and paint swatches. We want a home that is bright, comfy and functional but just haven’t been able to devote much time to it yet. We do love to entertain guests, so the first area that finally saw a little progress is our living “corner”…

Before vs. After:
living room before and after 670

Although I was all emo parting with the old sofa thing that’s served us since Nick’s college apartment, this linen couch has to be my favorite element of the update. I wanted a slightly old-fashioned design with tufting and textured fabric, and Nick’s only request was “nap-friendly and not too girly.” Most couches we looked at were too wide for a small space, while loveseats were tight for two adults to sprawl out comfortably. I stumbled across this cute sofa by Home Decorators Collection that seemed to meet all of our needs, and was a bargain compared to other options we looked at! And FYI, just noticed they have free shipping for the holidays which is huge as it’s usually $150+ for pieces like this.

small space living room home decor2

Target tray, Homegoods cheese dome (similar) also good for trinket storage, Ikea pitcher

We were wary of buying a large furniture item sight unseen, so took advantage of a Chicago trip and trekked out to a HDC showroom (found inside a Home Depot). They didn’t have this exact couch, but we were pleased enough with the similar items to take the leap of faith and order online. Here are two other styles that we “tested” before going with the Watkins – I felt like Goldilocks and the three chairs:

Outfit from this post

home decorators collection couches

Arden Club Loveseat – 75″ wide (also comes in 93″ sofa)

Gordon Tufted Loveseat – 66″ wide (also comes in 91″ sofa or side chair)

Clearly there is something for every tufted couch lover…for our space, the Watkins ended up being the perfect happy medium both style and size-wise compared to everything we tried. If we had more room, then the larger Gordon tufted sofa would’ve been a serious contender.
The couch also comes with two little same-fabric pillows perfect for mixing and matching. I know little about home decor so my mind could only go at it like with outfits, starting with a neutral base and adding prints, texture, and accent colors to complete the look. Decorative pillows can be pricey and the right patterns are hard to find…but these easy ones cost about $10 each on average (including the pillow insert) and I took photos for a step-by-step tutorial.

target bar cart1

Threshold bar cart, undermount rack, thrifted map book and tray


Given the limited space we had to work with, we tried to keep the color scheme light and airy and find multi-purpose pieces whenever possible. This popular bar cart (no assembly required…woohoo) serves us as a drink/snack station, side table, and wine glass holder in one and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s Nick’s happy corner of whiskey manliness in a home full of handbags and shoes. We choose a simple wine rack hanger (can also find in-stores at BB&B; and Home Depot) to tack on, but depending on your needs, the choices for undermount hanging storage are plentiful. Just make sure the width will fit, and that the screws aren’t so long they’d poke through the top surface!

A coffee table with storage was also a must. We were donating appliances at a Habitat for Humanity “Restore” store and were giddy to spot this rustic cedar trunk in pristine condition – quite the upgrade from our cardboard boxes left over from moving! If you like such trunks, check your local Craigslist since I regularly see similar options on there.

Coffee table tray

Another great thing about making your own pillows is leftover scraps of fabric for coordinating small touches. I might’ve gone a little overboard with making a placemat, vase thingy, and a bow tie for Nick at his request ; ) This gold tray is plastic and shiny in-person, but when tempered using other textures like wood or fabric it looked nice. I can’t find it online but got it from the holiday section in store. If you’re tray searching, Target is a gold mine!

What are some of your favorite functional home pieces or small space decor tips? I’d love to hear them!

69 thoughts on “Before and after: small space living room makeover

  • Reply Jean November 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Hi there – if you email their customer service via Facebook or online, they offer a 10% coupon for anyone who asks (or did back a few months ago! I got this as a housewarming gift but found the coupon for my family). I know the shipping is a bummer. It's really tough to find these in the northeast at this stage of growth. I looked all over the internet in the spring/summer as well as locally and this seemed to be the most reputable site since they offer a 3-year guarantee to replace your plant if it dies. My planter is 10" and I found it at TX Maxx or Marshalls (or Homegoods…same chain of stores!).

  • Reply Anna Marie November 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Once I get my own place I will use this post as inspiration! this is exactly my style! The couch is the main attraction.. love it

  • Reply midori November 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    that was my first apartment couch (except in black–it's in my office now) and i still kind of love it. i didn't put the legs on because i like being close to the ground, haha.

    it's the ikea klippan w/ a fabric slipcover (for the commenter above me)!

  • Reply Anonymous November 21, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks Jean!!

  • Reply ladysarahinlondon November 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Beautiful living area. You've got great taste, done up to feel & look comfortable. Enjoy!

  • Reply November 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing! The couch looks very comfy too!


  • Reply Samantha Cote November 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Jean! I live in Boston as well and am a big fan of your website – it's so helpful for having style in a city with crazy weather! (65 today and snow in 2 days? what?!). I really love the trunk you got and was wondering which Habitat for Humanity store you went to? I'm sure they aren't going to have any other trunks, but it sounds like it would be fun to check it out regardless!
    Also, just curious what area of the city did you move to? I'm relatively new to the city and am still learning the different areas, and its fun to see what other apartments look like from other areas of town. Thanks again for keeping this blog!

  • Reply Julia November 26, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Thanks ladies! 🙂

  • Reply Merrie K. November 27, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Loving the bar cart.Your living space is amazing!!
    -Merrie K.

  • Reply Anonymous January 22, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Love the freshness and cozy vibe of it all! Question – is the color of your sofa Natural Linen? Thanks!

  • Reply Jean January 22, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you! Yes, it's Natural Linen : )

  • Reply Jean January 22, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Hi Samantha! I went to the Habitat for Humanity "Restore" in West Roxbury. It truly is hit or miss so I wouldn't exactly recommend making a far drive out there, but if you're passing by in the area they are interesting to check out in addition to Savers Thrift Store which is a bit further along down VFW parkway! I live in the south end and spent a long time in Brookline before that by Coodlige Corner (absolutely love that area). Welcome to the city!

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    I love the couch! I am in the process of shopping for furniture for my small living room and love the look of yours, but what do you do when you have company? Where does everyone sit when it's not just you and nick?

  • Reply Stephanie Granade May 7, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I apologize if this posts twice…didn't see my comment. How comfortable is the couch?

  • Reply Jean May 7, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    We have floor cushions, dining chairs, and two bar stools at are kitchen counter – we've never run out of seating space yet! : )

  • Reply Jean May 7, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Firm but comfy! We've been loving it!

  • Reply Mary Ng May 25, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Hi Jean! I've been a long time fan and I have been checking into your blog constantly for home decor updates! You have fabulous taste! I am moving into a new place at the moment and would love to get more inspiration off you. Would you please do a house tutorial?

  • Reply Anonymous April 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Would you be willing to share the dimensions of your trunk? Trying to find a vintage one for cheap to restore myself, but am unsure of what dimensions to look for! Your trunk is exactly the size I'm looking for!

  • Reply None November 14, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Jean! Wondering how the Watkins sofa has held up in the past two years you've had it? Thanks!

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