Ideas + Inspiration

How To Decorate A Modern Living Room

From furniture arrangement to scale, we share modern design ideas for creating a stylish and functional modern living room.

Modern Living room furniture and lighting.

Today, the great room is the beating heart of the modern home. This open living space—typically connected to the kitchen and containing both modern dining and living room furniture—is where family and friends gather, dine, do homework, and entertain. Of course, furnishing and decorating an open, varied area can be a challenge. To advise us on great modern living room design ideas, we turned to the Chicago-based interior design firm Studio Gild, and its founders Jennie Bishop, Melissa Benham, and Kristen Ekeland. Many of the firm’s current projects incorporate “dramatic open-plan spaces with combined kitchen/living/dining zones,” says Bishop. “These layouts work well in a wide variety of homes, styles, and geographic locations.”

YLighting: What are your top tips for decorating a modern living room?
Studio Gild: Giving a large room delineation is important and it’s more than simply putting together different seating arrangements. We like to use large area rugs that follow the perimeter of the space to help soften and unite an oversized room. We also like to layer smaller, contemporary rugs in order to further define distinct areas. A built-in banquette can anchor a niche, and set it apart from the lounge area. Creating a focal area with a fireplace or television helps to orient the main seating arrangement, and facing some of the seating towards the kitchen helps to keep these two areas talking to one another.

Blue, focal point living room rug.
Mini Basketweave Floor Mat from Chilewich

YL: Which pieces are suitable for large-scale rooms, such as sectionals and larger coffee tables?
To create a proper scale in this kind of space and to avoid the feeling of postage-stamp-sized seating areas requires bigger furnishings. A sectional or sofa itself could act as a room divider, signaling where the kitchen ends and the living area begins. The LRG Sectional Sofa is a great piece for this reason and is comfortable as well as beautiful from all perspectives—which is important in an open-plan space where furnishings may be viewed from several directions.

Extra-long sofas, like the Place Three Seater Sofa, also work well in large-scale rooms. I’d pair it with the sizeable Eyre Coffee Table, which has an equally strong presence and can ground the seating area. The Carlisle Coffee Table is quite large, but the cage-like base makes it feel light and airy. It’s always good to balance visually weighty furnishings with pieces that are more organic and open in structure.

Modern, light grey sectional sofa
LRG Sectional Sofa from ARTLESS

YL: A great room often contains areas for both living and dining. Can you offer advice on finding dining tables and sofas that work well together as a modern living room furniture set?
SG: Pick one to be the statement piece. If it’s the sofa, let the dining table be subtle. And keep in mind that subtle can still be dramatic, just not overly competitive. The dining chairs can be a statement as well, but the two largest pieces shouldn’t both be fighting for center stage. Often a console table behind the sofa can double as the dining buffet and create the barrier that is needed to define each space and give the sofa and dining chairs some breathing room. The Saarinen Dining Table is always a great choice for open-plan rooms because it can look both formal and casual and bridges modern and traditional furnishings. The round top and slim tulip base enable it to easily pull up to a banquette or corner bench.

Modern marble round dining table.
Saarinen Round Dining Table from Knoll

YL: What are some storage pieces you like in a great room?
SG: The Phase Shelf is great for displaying accessories as well as storing books. It would work well as a modern étagère flanking either side of a fireplace. Adding a tall bookcase to an open room helps create a focal space and, like artwork, adds a layer of visual interest to walls. The LAXseries 3X Shelf with Base is a nice credenza on which to place a TV, or to position under a wall-mounted TV. It easily conceals AV equipment while also displaying books or objects.

Modern, grey and blue storage shelves.
Margo Shelf from BDI

YL: What are some seating ideas to help facilitate entertaining?
SG: We often place unique benches within the seating arrangement so they can be moved around for additional seating at a party. Additionally, with banquettes, we like to run the bench long beyond the table so there’s a place to perch without feeling that you have to sit at the table. One we really like is Alice Tacheny’s Platte Bench.

modern wooden benches.

YL: Open-plan living spaces are often rather modern—but what if you have a more traditional home?
SG: Modern, open-plan living spaces typically feature oversized statement pieces for seating, such as sectionals, which encourage a social and casual atmosphere for lounging and entertaining alike. More traditional settings have a greater number of small seating groups, but intimate vignettes can be just as successful for entertaining while fostering multiple conversation zones. For this look, select human-scaled-versus oversized-pieces, like the Moooi Smoke Lounge Chair.

Modern and comfy lounge chair.
Bart Armchair from Moooi

YL: What about Modern Living Room lighting?
SG: We like striking, large fixtures to bring multiple zones together in one cohesive gesture. It’s also important to layer in well-planned task lighting, to ensure that form and function are equally addressed.

Modern, random pendant light in black.
Random II Pendant Light from Moooi
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Team Y

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