8 small modern living room ideas to bring beautiful dimension

Expert-led small modern living room ideas to bring the wow factor

Trio of modern small living rooms in bright and earthy colors including olive green L-shaped sofa, lots of plants at varying heights plus pendant lighting with gold shades
(Image credit: Future)

Small modern living room ideas are perfect for petite homes, bringing beautiful design to your space without cramming it full of furniture. Knowing where to start, especially if you're new to the modern aesthetic, can be tricky.

But a lack of square footage doesn't have to stand in the way of cool room design, especially with our panel of interior designers sharing their insight on all the colorways, layouts, and decor recommendations to help you nail this look.

Piecing it all together in your small living room will be a cinch with our experts capturing the essence of modern interiors — meaning your decor won't fall flat or come off as too "try-hard".

Modern small living room ideas we love

When thinking of modern living room ideas, we've scoped out the best experts, social media trendsetters, and pulled in buys from our in-house pro shoppers to help you replicate designer inspired elements in your space.

1. Opt for a light color palette

White modern open plan space with living room area defined with boxy sectional and design detail added through ceramics and sculpted furnishings

(Image credit: Joe Binford Photography for Amy Youngblood Interiors)

It is common design knowledge that today's neutral small living room ideas are much cozier than previous usage. Neutral doesn't have to mean bland, and a textured and multi-layered pallette will bring a modern, look light years ahead of its sterile predecessors. 

Interior designer, Amy Youngblood tells Real Homes how in modern small living room design, you want to focus on a lighter color palette to expand the space organically. 

She says, "I would say to go lighter with your main color palette to not diminish further the size of the space."

woman with brown hair smiling and leaning on brick wall is Amy Youngblood interior designer.jpg
Amy Youngblood

Amy Youngblood creates stunning interiors that thoughtfully blend lifestyle and design preferences to exceed clients expectations, every single time. With extensive experience in the Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio markets, as well as Northern Kentucky and beyond, Amy Youngblood Interiors continues to take the design world by storm.

2. Choose bold furniture

Ochre boxy sectional in small living room with green wave coffee table and geo area rug with blue and orange running through a caramel base.jpg

Created by @domandecors

(Image credit: @domandecors)

With that said, deeper hues do have a part to play in a small modern living room, as Laura Williams, principal designer of ATX Interior Design, tells us.

"Using darker neutral colors, like a deep olive green or chocolate in your sofa choice could be a great option to anchor the space," Laura says. "Keeping all of the coinciding pieces light and airy would be a great way to complement the surroundings." 

See how this coffee table in @domandecors home works its lofty magic against the earthy-hued couch? A truly modern vibe. We found a cute iridescent oval coffee table on Amazon, and a rectangular orange acrylic coffee table with shelf from Amazon , both capable of bringing beautiful modernity to any space.

Overly bulky furniture is a fundamental small living room layout mistake especially in one going for a clean and modern aesthetic. “When spaces are smaller, using decor pieces like mirrors and more streamlined accent chairs can give the illusion of more space," adds Laura.

"Additionally, keeping bulky storage furniture to a minimum allows for better walkability and flow in the space,” she adds. Keep it simple in form, then consider more unique colors and finishes for design interest."

White woman with balayage hair in black tshirt is Laura Williams
Laura Williams

Laura Williams is the principal designer of ATX Interior Design in Austin, TX.  After a corporate career, Laura now guides clients-turned-friends through a deeply personal, organic, and family-focused approach to modern interiors.

3. Add intrigue

Modern boho living room with textures throws, wooden round coffee table and large collection of houseplants

(Image credit: @mylilbohospace)

Even a small modern living room in an open-plan space needs specific design attention. Aim to make your living area as unique and intriguing as possible. 

A great way to do this is define the space with an important piece of living room furniture that we cannot do without, for instance, the couch. Go big or go home. Then for all the rest, think cozy in every sense of the word, using texture variation to add intrigue without adding extra furniture.

Amy adds, "Maximize seating with the best sectional sofa you can afford," Says Amy. "A well-fitting sectional compacts the sitting area and unlike several free-standing lounge chairs, it doesn’t require as much space around it." 

Target has a pretty nice sectional selection, and with the 4pc Haven French seam modular sectional in velvet dark green tickling our fancy.

4. Curate but don't overcrowd

Large abstract print hangs behind ivory fabric couch in small living room space with bright throw pillows and black marble dressed coffee table

(Image credit: Soledad Alzaga Interior Design)

We love a trinket as much as the next person, but some just do not need to be on show all the time. It's an overload on the design senses and doesn't leave much room for flow in a small modern living room space. 

Style your coffee table with the seasons, and keep just a select few home accessories to streamline your space and keep it feeling modern and uncluttered.

"A modern-looking space is a well-curated, not overdone space," interior designer, Soledad Algaza adds. "Avoid too many pieces and focus on things that are useful, beautiful, and that have meaning to you." 

Even adding a simple item such as a distressed ceramic vase from Target will add more lofty appeal and interest.

5. Get the right kind of vintage

mid century modern style small living room with green sectional topped with colorful, modern throw pillows and vintage coffee table with books in the centerjpg

Space created by @highboyla with throw pillows from @floofliving

(Image credit: @highboyla)

It might seem counterintuitive to include vintage items in a modern space, but done right, they'll add a brilliant and deliberate dash of style.

Overdo it, however, and you're headed for grandma territory. Not that this is always a bad thing. After all, our grandmas are likely to have nailed farmhouse interiors a lot earlier than we did.

To incorporate your love of vintage in a small modern living room, pick one item that meshes well with your modern furniture and make it the focal point of your space. You might opt for a gorgeous coffee table like influencer @highboyla has with her mid-century table. Learn how to fit a table into a small space if you're worried about squeezing it in.

"Stay away from granny-looking furniture," adds Soledad, "unless it's a vintage piece that blends well with the rest of your decor."

Soledad Alzaga
Soledad Alzaga

Soledad Alzaga is an interior designer at her firm Soledad Alzaga Interior Design. A personal approach to design allows Soledad to bring a unique edge to every project, helping clients achieve a space perfectly balanced with beauty and function.

6. Make lighting a total vibe

A small living room with a white pendant light, a white couch, and a wooden coffee table

(Image credit: @domandecors)

Mood lighting is the vibe in a modern living room space. Especially where space is minimal, layering soft lighting instead of whacking on one central and overly bright overhead light will bring ambiance and design depth.

"Sculptural lighting can make a design statement," says Artem Kropovinsky, interior design expert and founder of Arsight. Dimension is essential so choose a combination of statement pieces and softer ambient lighting as above in this small living room lighting look.

"Choose task lights, table and floor lamps, and avoid overhead lighting unless you can dim it to give subtle light," shares Soledad.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, an award-winning interior design studio based in New York.

7. Contrast bold colors

Bright array of poufs and low seats in eclectic patterns in front of window in small living room with plants and large poster

(Image credit: @mylifeinmulticolor)

Even if you are leaning into a natural and earthy color scheme, this doesn't not mean color is out of bounds. If anything, color brings a stunning design opportunity and in small spaces, unexpected combinations can bring visual dimension, without taking up physical floor space.

"Modern-looking living rooms can still include a high contrast color palette, but are starting to include some more curves than in past years," says Laura. "I'm seeing rounded sofas combined with rich, interesting materials, like velvet and boucle."

We love these brighter-than-bright round velvet throw pillows from Urban Outfitters.

Artem also endorses a livelier colorway. "For a modern and artistic feel, use deep contrasting colors such as blues against whites," he says.

8. Include raw and natural materials

A neutral colored living room with a white couch with multiple neutral fluffy throws and marble table

(Image credit: @aloftlife_)

We have seen indoor plants bringing a touch of nature in small modern living room spaces for longer than we can remember, but including earthy and raw materials are becoming an increasingly cool look.

These absolutely belong in minimalist small living room spaces, too. "Include natural accents, such as wood or stone for a balanced and appealing finish," says Artem. 

We love marble coffee tables as well as a wooden, more mid-century modern look. This one is easy to introduce in big and smaller doses too, depending on your small room layout and selection of decor.

What is the best color for a small modern living room?

Relaxed, curated, and cool is the vibe here, and choosing a style that you can build on is the perfect way to nail a modern look in a small living room. Simple furniture and more interesting additions, such as accent chairs for small spaces, that are easy to swap in and out means that you won't overwhelm the space, but instead, will curate an iconic and inviting finish.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!