How do I Make a Modern Living Room?

Sheri Cyprus

The best way to create a modern living room is to plan an uncluttered look with bigger, clean-lined furnishings rather than many small pieces. Too many details, such as trims, edgings and borders, tend to work against making a modern looking room. You should use the biggest furniture and accent pieces that suit the scale of your living room. Having a clear color scheme with a maximum of three main colors in addition to neutrals can help create a modern look.

A modern living room should focus on only 3 colors.
A modern living room should focus on only 3 colors.

While it is possible to use more than three main colors when making a modern living room, too many different shades can detract from the look. Modern rooms should make a creative impact, so both pattern and color should be carefully planned. Whereas small or medium printed fabrics of different types such as florals, stripes and checks are often combined in traditional or country style living rooms, larger prints in a limited amount make a more modern statement. An abstract design on a fabric can work in a modern living room in limited amounts, such as on a few large throw pillows and a rug. Adding print curtains on top of that may be too much detail, so it's best to start with a print you love and use it in only two places in the room before deciding whether to add another pattern.

A modern living room may contain throw pillows.
A modern living room may contain throw pillows.

Creative artwork is ideal in modern living rooms, yet the same principle of a larger size and limited number of pieces apply. While a cluster of small pictures or mirrors may work in a modern space, it usually only works on an accent wall rather than above a sofa. The concept of an accent wall, whether it displays artwork or is painted a solid accent color, is important when making a modern living room. Rather than using the traditional painting technique of having the entire room in one color, except the ceiling, a modern living room is best with neutral paint colors and an accent wall in the featured color. Large wall art tends to work best.

Decorated lampshades bring character to modern living rooms.
Decorated lampshades bring character to modern living rooms.

Of course, the furniture you use should be modern rather than traditional or country in style. Clean, geometrical lines with glass and metal really makes a modern living room possible. If you prefer wood furniture, this if fine if you keep to non-detailed pieces. A lot of carving and fussy details don't express a modern look. Seating should be detail-free and as large as possible to suit the room size.

People who prefer modern design may want to paint the living room's walls and buy furniture in the same monochromatic tones.
People who prefer modern design may want to paint the living room's walls and buy furniture in the same monochromatic tones.

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Discussion Comments


My daughter has a retro modern living room and most of her house has a very modern look to it.

I am learning to appreciate this a little more all the time, but don't think I would ever be able to get used to it in my house.

I have always loved the cozy, country look and enjoy being surrounded by smaller pieces of furniture and more pictures on the wall.

While I am getting a little bit more used to the look, I don't think the modern living room chairs are comfortable at all. The chairs my daughter has are very sleek looking, but I think they are hard and uncomfortable.

I am always ready to get back home to my overstuffed, soft recliner.


What I like best about a modern living room is the uncluttered look and furniture with clean-lines.

This style really appeals to me and I instantly feel calm and refreshed at the same time. It is also a lot of fun to go shopping for some of the modern living room sets.

I had a hard time deciding on one because there were so many unique choices to choose from. I probably have more of a modern contemporary living room.

The longer I live with this type of style, the more I like it. I am slowly trying to redecorate my whole house in this style. Since I can only do one room at a time, I started out with the living room and now am working on the bedroom.


I think glass is really what makes a modern living room. Our current living room is fairly modern, but not like what the article is quite describing. One of my best friends recently went all out with going modern in her living room, though, and it looks great. I think it might not be too long before I follow suit.

It sounds odd, but it works because of what the article mentions. Her walls are white with one dark orange accent wall. Then she has a few accent pieces that have the same orange color with a kind of brown or tan in them. It looks really nice, actually. Her furniture has a few curves, but I guess it is much more linear than what my furniture is.

Besides that, though, it is really the modern living room tables and the artwork that make the rest of the room. The coffee table has a metal base with a large glass top, and the end tables are a similar style. For artwork, she bought some prints from local artists that I guess would be considered modern art or abstract.


@kentuckycat - I know exactly what you mean. I had the same problem when I went to update my apartment. I had a general idea of what I wanted things to look like, but it was nearly impossible to find an example online so that I could find good paint colors and the like. End the end, I finally found a website where real people could upload pictures of their living rooms. I eventually saw a color scheme I really like and went with it, since it was similar to what I saw in my mind when I thought of modern living rooms.

Basically, the walls are a sort of bluish grey color, and all of the trim is white. It makes for a good contrast. Like someone else mentioned, I decided to go with white oak hardwood floors. I looked around at a lot of different modern living room sofas and finally decided to go with a tan leather. I am certainly not a designer by any means, but I don't think making a modern living room is too hard as long as you have a good idea in your head.


@TreeMan - Good point about painting with brighter colors if you have a smaller room. I remember reading that somewhere but had forgotten it.

My husband and I are also looking into remodeling our living room next year and would like to start planning for that. I think our living room is probably large enough that we could use some of the darker accent colors if we wanted. Has anyone else ever used accent colors in a modern living room? What are some of the good choices?

I have looked around online and just searched for modern living room designs, but everything I have found has been model homes. Those pictures look nice, but the rooms clearly aren't functional. Not to mention they are all in multimillion dollar homes that aren't realistic for a normal person. In other words, I'd like some tips about how to make a modern room when you don't have 30 foot ceilings and gigantic floor to ceiling windows. I need something that a real family could use.


@chivebasil - There are a lot of different color combinations you can use to achieve the modern effect. It really all just depends on how you use the colors together and what you like best.

We just updated our living room last year, and I love having the modern look. Before, we had gone with a kind of contemporary look I guess. It certainly wasn't a country room, but it wasn't as modern as it is now. Most of the furniture was large and rounded, and the end tables and coffee table were wooden.

The design we ended up going with was to have the walls and ceiling be white. We went with that, because the room isn't really all that large, so some of the darker colors might have made it seem too small. Then, we went with hardwood floors. We had berber carpet before. To top it all off, we went with some modern living room furniture like the article describes. We love the room, and think it's a great upgrade.


I would like to make my house look more modern and I think the first thing it needs is a coat of paint. Many of the rooms have old wall paper on them and it looks both old fashioned and worn out.

I'm not sure where I'll go once I paint the walls but I think it's a good place to start. What colors would you guys suggest? I know that some work better than others. If I am trying to give myself the greatest number of options down the road what color should I paint the walls?


I think a great way to achieve a modern look in any living room is to go with sleek and simple leather furniture. Try to find a unified color pallet and choose subtle accessories to compliment the furniture.

My husband and I recently redid our living room and we hired a decorator to help us achieve a more modern look. The whole process got me thinking a lot about modern living room design. I was reading a lot of books and magazines to try and give the decorator a better idea of what we wanted. I saw the living room set we picked out in a book about Danish modern living room concepts. I think they are the perfect pieces and I love the way the redesign turned out.

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