20 modern living room ideas – easy ways to create a contemporary space

Dreaming of a calm, minimalist lounge? Well, these modern living room ideas are perfect for you...

Living room by Interior Fox
(Image credit: Interior Fox)

Spend your days lusting after modern living room ideas? What a coincidence, because so do we. So, we thought we would gathers all of our favorite contemporary living room looks in one spot to help get you inspired. 

From the get-go we would like to say don't equate the word 'modern' with 'stark'; modern living rooms may lack some of the frills of traditional living room designs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be warm and inviting, as the rooms below demonstrate. 

So just keep reading for lots of lovely living rooms with a modern vibe and make sure you head over to our living room ideas feature for plenty more inspiration in all sorts of styles.

1. Rethink your living room's layout

Living room filled with houseplants by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Before you begin your transformation, assess the current layout of your living room, thinking beyond the traditional way you might arrange your furniture. Pulling pieces away from the wall, arranging seating around a central coffee table, and paring down unnecessary or bulky pieces of furniture will all give your room a less cluttered, roomier feel.

2. Hide away your living room's clutter

Ikea modern living room with storage

(Image credit: Ikea)

Next step to create a more modern living room: organize your stuff. When we say 'stuff', we mean all that clutter that is messing with your clean and modern design aesthetic. Hide as much as you can away in closed living room storage. Then go through and pick out the treasured things that you want to put on display. 

In this modern living room, wall cabinets and an industrial metal storage unit have been used to stash clutter, while a select few decorative items have made it on show.

3. Think quality of over quantity in a modern living room

Modern living furniture from Debenhams

(Image credit: Debenhams)

Modern design rules dictate that it’s not the amount of stuff you can cram into a living room, but the quality of the pieces that make an impact. So, why not invest in a couple of statement pieces (that needn't cost a fortune, just look like they do), then build your modern living room around them? 

Don’t go overboard on their proportions, as you still need to make sure there is plenty of breathing room between your pieces. Avoid over-accessorizing too: less is more.

4. Keep your modern living room furniture low-slung

Modern living room by Houseology

(Image credit: Houseology)

Not only is this a great trick to make a small living room look bigger, it is also a key tenant of the modern living room. Keeping all your seating – and associated coffee and side tables – at the same low level creates sharp lines within a room, instantly making the space feel cleaner and simpler. What's more, low-profile furniture makes a room look more laid back and informal – just what you want in a modern living room.

We've for plenty more small living room ideas over in our gallery. 

5. Mix and match old with new

Farrow and Ball Tessella wallpaper

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

What we love about the latest approach to modern living room ideas is that it’s all about combining contemporary pieces with other styles. So, you don’t always need to opt for glass coffee tables and slimline sofas in a modern living room – try mixing in a few antique pieces or choose a wallpaper with a more traditional print. 

This Farrow and Ball wallpaper nods towards the traditional architectural elements of the room and creates the perfect contrast with the ultra-modern light fittings and transparent coffee table. Love it.

6. Layer up on cool colors in a contemporary living room

Grey modern living room

(Image credit: Urban Avenue)

Think greys, teals and steel blues. These cooler hues just speak to the modern living room design aesthetic and are so easy to live with and update. We love how this living room uses so many different shades of grey to create a layering effect. And if you really can’t let go of color, try adding a few splashes of contrasting shades in orange and yellow accessories. 

Love this living room? Check out our grey living room ideas for more looks. 

7. Mix-and-match

Green velvet sofa in front of a gallery wall

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

If you love a modern look, but also fancy yourself a bit of a maximalist, fear not: you can have both. Mixing clean-lined pieces with vintage finds, traditional designs, and on-trend touches can create a look that has modern sensibility, but still feels eclectic and curated.

8. Go for an all white living room color scheme

Living room window ideas

(Image credit: Ikea)

Since modern living room ideas are all about simplicity, it’s hard to go wrong with an all white color palette. Interest in your living room can be added in the shapes and curves of the furniture or by highlighting the architectural elements of the room. Alternatively, try adding a just a few pops of color in accessories for a value-added personality. 

For more white living room ideas head over to our feature. 

9. Or splash on the colour in your living room

living room

(Image credit: Justina Blakeney)

Got an all-white living room you want to update? Bold colors work just as well in a modern living room, and you can add it with accessories (cheaply), furniture (bit more of an outlay) or with paint (small outlay, bigger effort). Stick to one main accent shade, with a second color used in smaller proportions. 

10. Test out the colour blocking paint trend

Blue living room

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

As we have hopefully established, you can go a little color-crazy when designing a simple, modern living room. So why not take up the latest trend for color blocking? It's a really easy look to copy just check out these color-blocking wall ideas for loads of tips and looks. 

11. Add natural materials and textures for warmth

Living room with wooden beams and rustic decor

(Image credit: Design by Emily Henderson Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp)

Layering up textures and adding accents of wood create warmth in a sparse, modern living room. The sleek lines and no frills approach of this living room are definitely channeling some minimalist vibes but the pale wooden coffee table and the cosy soft furnishings prevent the room from being cold and impersonal. 

12. Add greenery to a contemporary living room 

Add greenery to a modern living room

(Image credit: Desenio)

When in doubt, stick in a few house plants, a quick way to add a bit of modern style and color into your room. The large plant in this living room adds a splash of green to a very natural color palette and (literally) livens up the space. 

Looking to find plants to suit your home? Check out our guide to the best indoor plants and for all the tips you need on looking after house plants head to our guide. 

13. Hang statement prints

Black and white living room

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Nothing brings personality  into a modern living room like a big piece of statement artwork that you love. A striking print or an interest photograph or piece of artwork you felt drawn to, can add a focus to a space and can set the modern tone too. 

Use a print to bring color into a neutral space, or pick something that has cohesive feel and works with the scheme you have going on. Loving this huge, monochrome print that breaks up a dark wall in this living room. 

14. Miss match your furniture

White minimalist with blue living room furniture

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

An eclectic living room can be modern too, so don't be afraid to mix and match furniture from all different eras and all different styles. Note how in this living room the statement Mid-century modern chairs and statement rug work with the more traditional sofas. 

The all white walls are the perfect minimalist backdrop for this look as it stops it tipping over from modern to maximalist. Plus there's is a vague color scheme going on here with the blues and browns that makes the look feel more cohesive and contemporary. 

15. Stick to simple decor

Living room by Interior Fox

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

Easiest way to create a contemporary vibe in your living room is to keep it simple. Keep the walls fuss-free with just a single large print or an oversized mirror and make sure all your surfaces are clutter-free with just a few curate displays to add some personality to the space.

Now, we know that minimalist living looks gorgeous in pictures, but in reality , how do you create a living room that looks like this? The answer is storage! Make sure you also pick out closed storage pieces like sideboards and TV cabinets so you can hide away all that un-aesthetically pleasing stuff you don't want ruining your minimalist vibe.  

16. Choose statement lighting 

Dark grey living room with yellow sofa

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

Is it really a modern living room if you don't have some kind of statement light going on? A funky pendant or quirky floor lamp can instantly change the tone of a space –making it feel more on trend and modern. Look at how this amazing seagrass lampshade takes this living room from 'well that's nice' to 'wow'. And it's made even more of a focal point thanks to the contrasting black wall behind which really makes it pop. 

17. Warm up with woods and leather

Fireplace ideas

(Image credit: MoutainMod)

Modern living rooms don't always have to be sleek and minimalist. If you want a contemporary space that feels more... homey, adding in those warm materials like woods and leather are going to give a more rustic vibe while still feeling modern.

Pair leather furniture with very simple decor, white walls and muted colors to recreate this lovely look. Add in a rustic wooden coffee table to for adding texture and if you are lucky enough to be blessed with a fireplace a wooden beam mantle with really add to the look. 

18. Create clean lines 

Bobby Berk's renovation of his childhood home

(Image credit: Design: Bobby Berk; Photography: @marisavitalephotography)

One things we've noticed with a lot of 'modern' living rooms you see on Pinterest and Instagram is that they don't always have a a lot of furniture in them. We get that that's the minimalist vibe, but what if you have a family of five, that all need a space on the sofa, plus a place to park their drinks, books, technology. All of a sudden that, very chic, Mid-century, two seater sofa isn't look so realistic.

But, you can cram in plenty of pieces of furniture into your living room and still have the modern minimalist  feel. The key is to keep the visual lines in the room to a minimal. See how in the living room the sofas match, as do all the tables and each sits at the right height so they don't visually break up the space. Very clever but easy to recreate in your home. 

19. Go for a modern rustic vibe

One Kings Lane rustic living room

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Exposed brick, wooden beams, layered up rugs, swishy throw cushion, this living room is so cozy and inviting and yet still really contemporary feeling. This kind of modern cabin look is bang on trend right now and is super simple to master, just pick a neutral color palette – browns, creams, maybe throw in some muted terracottas – and in plenty of different textures like wood and fur and rattan. Easy! Who needs a stylish chalet in the mountains when you can create the look in your own living room?

20. Go for a minimalist look with dark colors

Grey living room idea

(Image credit: Neptune)

Because modern living rooms aren't all light and airy, they can be dark and dramatic too. Create a very chic, cocooning space by painting all four walls a very dark charcoal or a blue/black if you are after something softer. Decorate with greys and blues to keep with the cooler tones and add in some lighter woods for a bit of contrast. Of course, a massive statement houseplant wouldn't go amiss either. 

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.