Contemporary style is more than clean lines, smooth surfaces, and sleek furniture and accents. It’s about creating a streamlined space that elevates your home and everyday life.
When it comes to designing a contemporary living room, there are some key elements to keep in mind but how you interpret and lay out your space is totally up to you. It’s part of the beauty of contemporary living room furniture and accents—they’re made for you to mix and match and blend seamlessly into spaces to suit your style and needs.
What’s also great about contemporary furniture is that there are many pieces that are softer interpretations of design styles, such as Mid-Century Modern or traditional. Which means you can easily find many unique iconic pieces that have been reimagined through today’s contemporary design lens.
Here, we’ve rounded up 20 simple tips from our designers for creating a contemporary living room design in your home. Read on for their foolproof tricks. And don’t forget to browse our gallery for more inspiring contemporary design ideas!
1. Play with Geometric Shapes
Bold lines and angular forms are pillars of any contemporary living room design. Bring focus to them through geometric designs, like a patterned rug or a graphic piece of art, which will add both sleek style and drama. If you’re not big on patterns, ease into geometric designs with smaller accents, such as pillows, throws, and even table accessories.
2. Mixing Textures is Key
A contemporary living room is often grounded in designs with simple forms and neutral palettes. Having lots of different textures will make sure your space doesn’t feel overly spare and cold. Consider pieces made with natural materials like jute and rattan, as well as organic fabrics like linen and cotton. Not only will they add depth and dimension, they’ll also lend a sense of warmth and comfort.
3. Add Modern Accents
The best way to round out a contemporary living room is with a curated array of modern touches, whether it’s a bold geometric pillow or a sculptural accent chair. Having a few modern pieces in luxurious materials and colors will help to balance out contemporary foundation pieces, like a white sofa or a unique coffee table, and make your space feel more elevated and personal.
4. Stick to Minimal Styling
What sets a contemporary living room apart is its crisp, pristine appeal. Part of that comes from minimizing visual clutter and sticking to a curated selection of display accents. Consider a tray with a box on top to corral small items or keep your fireplace mantel streamlined with simple art and ceramics. By paring down your accents, it will let your furniture pieces shine while also creating a more airy, open vibe in your living space.
5. Have Light Pops of Color
Contemporary style isn’t entirely void of color. Keep the mood uplifting and fresh in a contemporary living room with small bursts of colors, whether it’s a Millennial Pink sofa or an eye-catching rug with alternating bright primary colors and light pastels. Not ready to go all in with color? Opt for colorful accents that are easy to swap out, such as pillows, vases, lampshades, and curtains.
6. Set a White Foundation
The best way to ground a contemporary living room is to have an easy foundation to build on. A white sofa or sectional makes for a statement piece that’s sleek, versatile, and easy to style up or down with other furnishings and accents. If a crisp white sofa feels daunting, you opt for a rug, a large coffee table or simply keep your walls, which will make any furniture pop against it. The key is to have a solid white backdrop in some way, which will make it easy for you to layer on top of.
Also, see our guide for should you get a white sofa to decide whether it’s the foundation piece you want to start with.
7. Get Glam With Details
To keep a contemporary living room from feeling overly sleek and spare, find small ways to add warmth without diminishing the cool modern vibe. Contemporary furniture with glam touches and finishes, such as brass table legs, metal pendants, and sparkling art and accents are perfect details that add pizzazz without overwhelming your space.
8. Layer Rich Materials
Beyond pops of color and glam finishing touches, another way to enliven a contemporary living room is to layer luxurious materials. Consider mixing elevated designs in various materials, including velvet chairs and burlwood cabinets, hammered metal tables and lacquered wood stools or polished stone and gold-leaf finishes. All these rich materials will create a warm environment that plays up contemporary style through a layered, welcoming lens.
9. Keep It Neutral
A neutral color palette is a timeless choice for a contemporary living room—especially if you’re not a big fan of even light shades of color. Just be sure to mix together neutral furnishings that have a wide mix of textures, from sleek surface to comfy fabrics to soft woven accents. And be sure to vary your neutrals from deep charcoal to creamy off-whites, which will lend a warmer look and feel to your space.
10. Try One Statement Color
For a contemporary living room with a chic twist, consider adding one bold-colored piece that stands out from the rest of your furnishings. A vibrant sofa or bright matching armchairs or a large-scale painting all make for great focal points that add a captivating pop of color. They’ll also help add warmth and balance out other more sleek and clean-lined contemporary furniture pieces. Just be sure to stick to one distinctly colorful piece that contrasts with everything else.
11. Think Cool Yet Cozy
A contemporary living room is all about finding the perfect balance between airy and cozy. Like any other design style, it’s important to approach your contemporary living room design with the goal of creating a space you feel comfortable and want to spend time in. To achieve that, start with a modern sectional that you can easily layer with pillows and throw blankets, or make room for a plush armchair you can curl up in. It’s all about how you dress up modern pieces to work for your idea of comfort at home.
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12. Create an Open Layout
One defining design element of a contemporary living room is a sense of openness in how furniture is laid out. Make it a point to not clutter surfaces and your floors and be sure to leave lots of walking room in between furniture pieces. Whether you’re working with a small living space or a large room, you can play up a contemporary look by simply arranging your furniture in an open layout format—which could be floating a sofa or forgoing a large coffee table for smaller side tables and stools. It’s all up to you.
For some easy layout ideas, see our roundup of ways to get a contemporary design scheme.
13. Display Calming Art
One way to play up a serene look in a contemporary living room is to hang art in muted neutral tones. Consider a grayscale photo or a monochrome painting that brings quiet focus to walls while also instilling a feeling of tranquility in your space. Unlike a bold graphic piece of art, this is a soft approach to contemporary art that emphasizes a zen and harmonious feel.
14. Play up an Accent Wall
To give your contemporary living room a feeling of warmth and depth, paint an accent wall in a deep neutral, like black or charcoal gray. It will provide a bold monochrome backdrop that offers a touch of drama and a new perspective to your space. If you have a fireplace, consider painting your fireplace surround or the walls on either side; if you have an open door frame to the room, consider painting the walls around that. Both approaches will add striking architectural appeal.
15. Layer in some Leather
Light leather is always a great material choice for a contemporary living room. It has a sleek finish, modern look, and timeless appeal that’s all in keeping with a contemporary style aesthetic. Opt for light-toned leather armchairs for a bold and sculptural approach or work in small leather details, such as pillows, poufs, and table tops, for a soft touch.
16. Bring in Natural Elements
Natural organic touches are the easiest way to liven up a streamlined contemporary living room—and they can range from plants to natural fibers and woods. Alongside sleek forms and minimalist designs, lush greenery and natural textures make for rich contrasts that will instantly impart warmth and a bright, airy feeling to your living space. Be sure to array these organic accents and textures throughout the room for a balanced look.
17. Let Furniture Forms Shine
No matter your space, bring focus to your contemporary living room furniture pieces with a spacious layout that shows off their sleek silhouettes. From sofas defined by straight lines to the curves of sculptural armchairs and ottomans, style-forward pieces are just as much functional designs as they are artful showpieces in a contemporary living room. So play them up to maximize visual and sculptural appeal.
Not sure what furniture to look for first? We’ve broken it down in this Living Room Checklist.
18. Accent with Metallics
For a foolproof glam detail that blends into any contemporary living room, pull in bold metallic touches. Think a coffee table with a sleek wood top and shiny base, a brass side table with a mirrored top or a collection of metallic trays and vases. It will add to the sleek appeal of your contemporary space while also perfectly complementing any range of colors and patterns.
19. Combine Cream and Wood Tones
Off white shades, be it cream or ivory, pair beautifully with light wood tones. Together, they’re an ideal combination for anchoring a contemporary living room and ushering in a welcoming vibe. Start with a creamy-hued sofa and armchair, then mix in light wood tables for a tailored yet inviting look. Because these shades feature a warmer palette, they’ll contrast wonderfully against both painted and spare walls as well as alongside bold and soft patterned accents alike.
20. Go for Mod Bold Colors
Finally, if you think contemporary style is all sleek and a little boring, think again! You can dial up colors while keeping a contemporary look in your living room by keeping to bold pops of color grounded in an earthy palette. As long as your base palette is cohesive throughout your space—be it rustic brown or yellow—you can play up a color-on-color look that doesn’t take away from the clean-lined aesthetic of your space.
You can also easily style up with more color or pull back with fewer bright accents. The key is making sure your room has an overall cohesive contemporary aesthetic that’s not entirely defined by the colors you bring in.
Explore our gallery for more living room design ideas!