5 Ways to Design the Modern Living Room of Your Dreams

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on February 12, 2020

Contrary to the name, modern is timeless. Used to describe mid to early 20-century design, you don’t have to worry about the modern aesthetic going out of style. However, achieving the modern look in your living room does take some intentional planning. It’s about doing more with less, which means making careful choices to transform your space. 

Want that modern look for your living room? Try these five pointers to get started. 

A hallmark of modern design is open-concept floor plans. In the entertaining spaces of a modern home, the living room flows into the kitchen which seamlessly transforms into the dining room. 

If you’re already starting with an open concept home, don’t put up any walls and half the work is done for you! However, if you’re in a partially-open concept home, don’t start knocking down load-bearing walls just yet. Here are a few simple ways to make your less-than entirely open-concept living space feel open and airy:

  • Keep sofas and large sectionals against the walls and away from the middle of the room. Putting large furniture in the middle of the space will visually divide the room but keeping them to the walls will make it easier to move from space to space.  
Open Concept Living Room

Use the same color scheme throughout the rooms. If you want your modern living room to flow into your kitchen, keep the wall colors and general color schemes the same. It will link the two spaces together in the mind. 

Modern living room color scheme
  • Repeat the same art across the rooms. Use similarly themed art or art in a series on the walls in your partially open floor plan to further link the spaces together.

Embrace the wide-open spaces of an open floor plan, or make your home feel like one with a few visual tricks. Modern design is all about the airy feeling of wide open, light-filled spaces. 

Modern living room theme

Modern design takes the practical aspects of what came before it and modifies that using modern building materials to create a marriage between the two. That means you won’t find any tufted sofas, considered an excess, in the modern design living room. Instead, use steel-structured armchairs combined with comfy upholstery, or a counter stool with metal legs and a molded acrylic seat.  Modern furniture has structure and isn’t oversized, but it’s still comfortable. 

Glam modern living room

Find furniture for your living room that can toe the line between structure and simplicity. Think steel legs with natural fiber seat, or upholstered cushions on a rigid wooden frame.

Contemporary modern living room

The term “clean lines” is often thrown around in design, but its meaning can be confusing. A staple of modern design, clean lines mean straight sharp elements that contrast against easy other design elements in the space. You won’t find swirls, or ornately carved finishes in the modern living room. Instead, stick to design elements that have straight, economic lines and little to no flair. 

Modern clean living room
Modern Eclectic Living Room

Color for neutral design is firmly planted in a neutral palette. While you can use an accent color or two, you should stick to white, beiges, grays, and an occasional black in your living room. This also aligns with the lean towards natural materials decorating the space. A neutral palette means less synthetic material and bold colors. 

Midcentury Modern Living Room
Modern Man's Living Room

While designing your modern living room with intention, you’ll want to refrain from accessorizing every surface, wall and square inch of the space. Modern design is more about the absence of decor than the excess of it. This might take some restraint but resist the urge to cover your coffee table or cram your bookshelf with keepsakes. Giving everything room to breathe will actually enhance the modern sensibility in your space. 

Midcentry Modern Living Room

Modern design can make your living room feel fresh and airy–the perfect space for entertaining or relaxing. Just remember that less is more and a few key changes can make all the difference. 

Not sure modern is a match for you? Take Havenly’s quiz to determine what interior style is the best fit.  

Gray Modern Living Room

Words by Emma Diehl