"Modern" style these days can be a bit tough to define — after all the idea of "modern" design can be traced all the way back to the modernist movement, which took root in the early half of the 20th century. Currently, modern living room designs include furniture, lighting, and architecture that feel streamlined and often include an interplay of curved and linear forms. Modern living rooms might be slightly eclectic (mixing vintage pieces with new; incorporating contrasting artwork; bringing in an element or two of a different style), but they feel distinctly different from the textures and embellishments you'll find in boho, desert, or traditional living rooms.
If you think "modern living room" and palettes of whites, grays, and blacks come to mind, you're not incorrect — those hues often achieve a stark contrast that can define a modern living room. However, many modern living rooms use bold colors to create spaces that feel like they challenge the status quo. Here are some principles to guide your modern living room design:
1. Use two unexpected colors to define your modern living room.
This space by Spanish architecture firm CaSA is proof that you don't need to buy high-design furniture to create the basis for your modern living room. Instead, start by selecting a color combo that will pop. You don't need to paint the whole room; take stock of any architectural details (window casements, baseboards, doorways, etc.) that could be painted to create a more interesting and artistic scheme.
2. Or, go low-key on color and high-impact with art.
While this living room seems busy, there are only three dominating colors (brown, white, and black). The artwork here is what defines this modern space — but you'll notice that the color in the framed pieces is considered and spaced out. The rule here? If you don't know where to start, build from basic hues, and then bring in art — just make sure the art as an ensemble doesn't sway your design too far into maximalism or bohemianism.
3. Look for curved furniture and varying textures of upholstery.
This living room by Australia-based firm Decus features a play that's showing up a lot these days in modern living rooms — curved furniture, which often feels very '70s or '60s in nature. (These types of authentic vintage pieces can be quite pricey. You'll find plenty of awesome stuff on 1stdibs, but you can also try searching your local Craigslist for terms like "mod," "1970s," "channel," or "1960s.") Also, inserting one bold, velvet piece can help your design feel extra-modern.
4. Think clean, streamlined aesthetics.
5. Go earthy and multi-texture without going overboard.
This living room in our very own Hunker House delivers a modern vibe thanks to a considered combination of textures and materials (wood and marble tables, a tweed couch, a leather chair, wicker pendants) in earthy hues (light brown, camel, tan). There's a lot of stuff in here, but you'll notice that the lines remain clean and the impact comes from the bold, abstract art.
6. Go for one defining piece of furniture.
This Berlin apartment attains a modern look by drawing on a few influences — there's definitely a little bit of Scandinavian in there. The velvet couch, with its boxy angles and Yves Klein-like blue, paired with the circular light fixture (which feels very high design), brings the room together in a way that feels fresh, but not too heavily influenced by other styles.
7. Contrast heavy, luxe elements with lighter ones.
Without that brass-and-marble table and the lavender velvet bench in Sarah Sherman Samuel's design for Mandy Moore's living room, the space would feel more minimalist. The addition of those two pieces — which feel almost Italian — elevates the design and makes it feel artistic.
8. Go rounded, all around.
Obviously, this amazing space has the benefit of incredibly cool architectural details. But if, like most of us, you don't have rounded walls, searching for curved sofas and pairing them with circular coffee tables and rugs, along with chairs with rounded lines, can create a look that feels like a futuristic, midcentury home updated for today.