A few weeks ago, my brother asked me if I would help him design his living room in the apartment he just moved into. I was thrilled that he asked me to help. Of course, I said yes but then asked him if I could take it on as one of my projects. He didn’t hesitate to say yes, and I started planning right away. I’m excited to show you how you can take a small rental space and make it feel cozy, like home, and most importantly your style.


Here’s what I’m working with. It’s a total of 110 square feet for the living room area. And honestly a great blank canvas. The walls have been painted a light gray color so also taking that into consideration with my design plan.

The Plan

Phillip, my brother, has three must-haves for the living room space that he wants to see incorporated.

  1. Cow patterned rug
  2. Sofa bed
  3. Masculine yet sophisticated overall

Taking his list of must-have items, here’s the design plan with Phillip’s stamp of approval. This will create the main seating area of the living room, an area for his TV, and the counter/kitchen island as his main dining area.


I was able to fit everything in my truck, minus the couch, to drive to his apartment for a one-day living room makeover. I have to say, I was pretty impressed that everything fit in the truck. And by the end of the day here’s the living room I revealed to my brother.

The transformation has given this space a whole new vibe, look, and feel. It goes to show that even a small space in a rental can feel like home and show off your personal style. Yes, even when you can’t paint the walls! The best part was seeing how shocked my brother was and the pure look of joy on his face when he saw it all come together.

Small Space Rental Tips and Trick

There are a few things that incorporated and designed for this space to make the best use of the 110 square feet while giving it the ultimate cozy feeling.

Hang Curtains Near the Ceiling

By hanging the curtains near the ceiling, it makes the apartment feel larger by making the wall appear taller. Something great for a 110 square foot area. You also don’t want to block any of the natural light from the window. To maximize the sunlight, hang the curtain panels just past the edge of the window. This will also make it look like you have a larger window.

Utilize Nesting Tables

For the side tables beside the couch and the coffee table, I picked out nesting tables for both. They can become compact for small spaces like this but also provide additional surface area when needed. It’s also great that the tables can be moved around to other parts of the apartment if needed.

I also went with a round coffee table so when walking in the front door, it easily flows throughout the main living area of the apartment getting from one side to the other. This allowed for a more organic flow versus a rectangular table that would stagger the flow of the room.

Small Entertainment Center that Doubles as Storage

With already working with just a little bit of space, I knew my brother would need additional storage and a place to put his keys when he walks in the front door. I found this entertainment cabinet on Amazon at an amazing price and painted it black to go with the overall design of the space.

Not only does it offer plenty of storage inside and on top of the cabinet, but it is the perfect size for this small space. Knowing that the kitchen island/countertop space meets up to this area, I couldn’t do anything too big. By going with this smaller cabinet, the spaces don’t overlap and they function as their own spaces. For example, I didn’t want the stools sliding out in front of the cabinet every time someone goes to sit down.

Layered Rugs

Remember how my brother wanted a cow print rug? Rather than making it the only one in the space, I decided to layer it on top of an 8 x 10 rug. Doing this, it helps to define the space, added a cozy factor, and added texture to the overall design of the living room. I honestly think the cow rug makes the room and can’t imagine it without it. And a little detail on the 8 x 10 rug, it’s a jute and cotton rug. It’s what creates the subtle pattern on it, making it a softer jute rug and one that isn’t as stiff.

Scale of Furniture

One main thing you need to keep in mind when designing the space, is the size of the furniture and the size of the room it’s going in. Even with this small living room space, my design includes as sofa bed and two side chairs. I was anxious to see how it would all fit and flow but it was all the perfect fit.

With the couch being the largest furniture piece, I knew the chairs would have to be smaller and not bulky. These two side chairs help to ground the space with the black leather and allow your eyes to still flow through the room since there aren’t upholstered. In other words, underneath and along the arms, it’s open space.

Bonus: Give it some Personal Style

Giving a space some personal style is really what makes it your own. For my brother, he’s studying to become a sommelier (a trained wine professional) and found ways to incorporate that throughout the design.

For example, the artwork in the frames on the wall is of wine barrels. They’re really stunning and add to the masculine look of the space. The book on the coffee table is one of Phillip’s that is all about wine so I made sure to incorporate that as well. You’ll also notice the decanter and whiskey glasses on the entertainment cabinet. And lastly, the cow rug was the first thing he said he wanted to be incorporated into the space.

This has become one of my favorite projects to date! It has made my heart so happy doing this for my brother and seeing him fall in love with his new apartment space. He was so excited about it, he had friends over the same night I revealed it to him. Gosh, that will make you smile! I loved taking on this challenge of not only decorating and designing a 110 square foot space but also making it someone else’s style while also making it masculine and sophisticated. How do you think it turned out?


Green Velvet Curtains
Curtain Rod
Curtain Ring Clips
Picture Frames
Wine Barrel Artwork #1
Wine Barrel Artwork #2
Canyon Artwork
Sofa Bed
Side Chairs
8 x 10 Jute and Cotton Rug
Cow Rug
Nesting Coffee Tables
Nesting Side Tables
Entertainment Cabinet (Painted Black Magic by Sherwin-Williams)
Whiskey Glasses
Leather Pillows
Stools (stained provincial by Minwax)

Want more living room inspiration? Check out the living room makeover we did in our own home.

The post Making Over My Brother’s Small Apartment Living Room appeared first on Within the Grove.

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