Creating a sleek space is simple and can involve elevating pieces you already own.
If your living room is feeling dull or just plain outdated, elevating your living space to have a more modern and sleek feel is your solution. Modern decor seamlessly blends style with functionality, creating an ambiance that feels timeless but also in the moment. It’s also important to note that modern and contemporary styles hold key distinctions, and we’ll note some differences to look for later.
From the muted perfection of neutral tones to the boldness and power of a few carefully placed statement pieces, our 13 tips will transform your living room into a modern masterpiece. No matter your personal aesthetic, crafting a living room that transcends time and trends feels unmistakably modern.
What makes a modern space, modern?
Modern decor is defined as distinct features that, together, create a sleek, clean and sophisticated aesthetic. As decor trends evolve and experience fluctuating popularity, modern decor shines in what seems to be timelessness. However, like everything else, modern decor retains some strong influences with aesthetics developed decades ago.
That’s perhaps why the term “modern” is frequently misused in the realm of interior decoration. Its confusion with the contemporary style is fairly widespread.
The modern style that we encounter today actually stems from a German design movement that originated at the cusp of the 20th century, specifically the Bauhaus movement. This so-called “modern” style in furnishings and decor dominated the early-to-mid 20th century before transforming to another style we love today, mid-century modern.
Modern design pays homage to natural materials, employs neutral or earthy tones and embraces a minimalist approach by removing excessive embellishments. While contemporary styling can encompass a diverse color palette that carries some brash, bohemian influences at times, the modern style more strictly adheres to monochromatic hues in lieu of anything overtly loud or adventurous.
Modern vs. Contemporary: Telling Them Apart
Because the distinctions between modern and contemporary styles still probably seem confusing, we’ll break it down into bullet points so you get the exact style you’re going for. If contemporary calls to you, great! You’ve found new language for the look you envision, and that’s never a bad thing.
- Functional furniture pieces with clean lines
- Minimalistic vibes, mid-century influence
- Neutral color usage throughout most of the room
- Furniture that serves more than one purpose
- Sparse natural material embellishments that add visual interest
- An eclectic fusion of diverse influences
- Bold patterns and textures, and sometimes colors
- Dramatic and sculptural lighting fixtures
- Functional art pieces that blur the line between form and function
- Global inspirations
- Signature furniture pieces with unique silhouettes and unconventional shapes
- Eclectic mix of classic pieces with modern elements
13 modern living room tips to update your space
The key to a successful modern living room design is finding a balance between functionality, aesthetics and your personal style preferences. These tips offer guidance to work conjunctively with your own unique tastes to achieve your modern masterpiece.
1. Paint the walls a neutral color
If you’re allowed to paint your walls in a rental (make sure to check with your landlord first), this is a great way to set the modern tone in your space. Whether that be a crisp off-white or a cool grey, neutral wall tones can shift the space from feeling dull to more modern in a few paint strokes.
2. Install open shelves
An open display shelf is a great way to combine clean lines and functionality. For a rustic modern look, try a wooden ladder propped up against the wall and adorned with your favorite decor items.
3. Adorn the room with a natural rug
Modern living rooms often feel too simple, leading to a sterile feeling that just isn’t homey. Add visual interest to the space with textures like a natural rug. A faux cowhide rug, furry rug or even a woven jute rug can break up the monotony of neutral tones and minimalist furniture while maintaining a stylish and inviting atmosphere.
4. Illuminate the room with a simple floor lamp
By incorporating a simple floor lamp into your modern living room decor, you create a well-lit and visually appealing space. This piece offers some creative freedom when it comes to choosing the style of the lamp.
5. Make a statement with an artistic focal piece
A statement art piece serves as the visual center of attention in your living room. It’s the first thing that catches the eye when someone enters the room, which sets the tone for the entire space. This is important in modern design, where bold and captivating art piece breaks the monotony of minimalism and adds intrigue.
6. Opt for acrylic or glass pieces
Acrylic and glass pieces are a great option for working with a limited color scheme. Plus, they look space-age and modern. For example, a transparent coffee table creates sleek sharp lines while naturally matching the colors around it. Acrylic furniture is also inexpensive and is easily repurposed in other rooms.
7. Add smart home technology
Part of the modern aesthetic is the newest and freshest technology. Smart devices complement modern spaces well and seamlessly integrate into the sleek and minimalist design. Think smart lighting, speakers and other on-trend appliances.
8. Go bold with geometric patterns
Introduce modern geometric patterns through rugs and throw pillows to infuse a contemporary vibe. Choosing a pattern that resonates with your personal taste is a great way to add personality to the space as well.
9. Play with decorative mirrors
Mirrors are great decor pieces that naturally reflect light which helps the space feel larger. On top of their benefits related to room size, they’re also neutral when it comes to fitting a color scheme. (And if you liked the one we featured two photos up, we linked to one similar to it here.)
10. Create continuity with strategically placed wood items
Wooden furniture is a staple when it comes to monochromatic living rooms. The natural color of the wood often seamlessly fits into the feel of the room, while remaining a timeless piece with repurposing opportunities in other decor themes down the road.
11. Remove furniture to create negative space
Negative space, which is defined as the intentional creation of empty spots, is a common theme in modernly decorated spaces. Less is more in a modern living room, so purging unnecessary decor items and furniture is a must.
12. Add wall-mounted shelves and open up floor space
If you struggle to fill large open shelving and want to utilize wall space, opt for wall-mounted storage, like floating shelves. This also creates more negative space, helping give your space a more modern feel.
13. Make use of monochrome
Picking one color and using varying shades is the most common theme found in modern decor. The easiest way to go about crafting your color scheme is to select a base color and gather shades, tints and tones of that color. Create depth with contrasting light and dark variations by consulting paint experts or using color templates on Pinterest and other design platforms.
Your modern living room awaits
Incorporating these tips can help you craft a modern living room that exudes confidence and functionality while keeping with the times. With these tips and recommendations, you can easily achieve a modern living space that embraces both contemporary aesthetics and your unique preferences — even without hiring an interior designer.
Remember, modern design is about embracing simplicity and making every piece count, resulting in a space that feels efficient and effortlessly up-to-date. Find your dream apartment to make your modern muse today!