How to Design a Modern Living Room

Oct 19, 2018  By Thomasville

How do you design a modern living room? The best answer might be “however you want.” Successful modern design is responsive, built around the way you live, stripped bare of anything that gets in the way or weighs you down. Take these steps to build the restful modern living room you want:

  1. Start with a clean background. White walls are common in modern design, but not required. What does matter is that the walls are clean. No wallpaper, no busy photo galleries, no crowded bookshelves. The goal is for the art, color, and form you do introduce to the room to stand out, so a colorless background—whites, grays, even charcoal and black—is ideal. Wood tones can also serve as a neutral in more organic modern or mid-century design.
  2. Address existing architecture. If you’re creating a modern living room within a modern home, your work is already done. However, if you have a traditional fireplace and mantel, crown molding, cased divided-light windows, or other architectural absolutes, you have to acknowledge their role in the room. Modern design is wonderfully adaptable, mixing well with other styles, but it’s most successful when you deliberately include those styles in the conversation. That might involve introducing a furniture piece that acknowledges the room’s architectural period, or choosing geometry in a textile that echoes the window grid.
  3. Identify a statement piece. Modern design is spare, sleek, and uncluttered, so the focal point of your room needs to be worthy of the spotlight. A bold piece of modern art does a great job of asserting the design vocabulary for a modern living room, and if you choose one or two colors from it to introduce elsewhere—a single bowl on a table, a lamp base across the room—you will reinforce its importance. Perhaps you want to celebrate a statement light fixture, or a sleek modern fireplace, or the view outside a wall of windows. Or you might introduce an exotic twist—a tribal rug, an ethnic antique, a bold color, or playful pattern. Whatever it is, choose just one thing, eliminate distractions, and let everything else in the room serve the importance of the statement piece.
  4. Start a furniture conversation. With your neutral backdrop, your architecture, and your statement piece identified, it’s time to choose furniture. Look for pieces that speak to one another without slavishly matching each other. As with a party, the most interesting conversations are between people who aren’t exactly the same. Mix texture and materials—a pair of leather Barcelona chairs grouped with a velvet or linen sofa, an organic live-edge wood table on sleek metal legs. Contrast helps to make individual items important and enhances interest. In a modern living room, just remember to keep the forms sleek, with clean lines and no excess weight. Allow breathing room between, under, and around pieces to maximize open space.
  5. Accessorize lightly. Finish your modern living room with a minimum of decorative accessories. Allow maximum natural light by leaving windows bare or framing them with simple panels. Start with clear surfaces on tables and shelves, gradually adding only those elements that prove themselves essential. And “essential” means they should either be visually compelling by themselves or serve to reinforce the importance of the statement piece by echoing the color, texture, sheen, or some other element.

Above all, modern design is about calm and comfort, which means something different to every person. Whether your modern living room is a place for conversation, relaxation, or retreat, you’ll know you’ve done it right when you find it’s the room where you most want to be.

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