8 Modern Living Room Ideas

How to design a modern living room scheme around bright hues and statement prints...

Whether you’re colour-happy or colour-shy, here are 8 sure fire ways to give your living room some instant style points.

1. PAINT EFFECTS

Much can be achieved with a pot of paint and a few quality brushes. Highlight interesting architectural details with contrasting or complementary shades and create a picture frame effect. Alternatively, paint two-thirds of the wall with a colour and leave the final third white. This is a good tip if you want to visually raise the ceiling height. It’s also an easy way to add colour to smaller spaces without it becoming overpowering.

Get the look: Lichen and Setting Plaster estate emulsions, both £45 each for 2.5L, by Farrow & Ball.

Nothing can feel more restful than the combination of Lichen and Setting Plaster estate emulsions, both by Farrow & Ball, pictured above. They work perfectly together because they not only share a certain softness, but have the same depth of colour so both have equal importance in this room. And the fact that no white has been introduced on the woodwork makes the space feel relaxed.

2. PATTERN CLASH

The trick to combining graphic patterns is to mix and match. Don’t place a floral couch in front of floral wallpaper, for example. It will look much more striking if you place it in front of something more graphic, such as a stripe, so that the patterns clash. Sticking to the same colour family is the secret to making sure that pattern doesn’t overwhelm the space for a harmonious scheme.

A playful explosion of colour, pattern and texture in the Orangery at the Haymarket Hotel (pictured below) bears the signature style of the queen of fearless interiors, Kit Kemp, co-owner and design director of Firmdale Hotels. Here, the most unlikely combos are thrown casually together in ways that shouldn’t work, but somehow do.

Carnival wallpaper by Michael Szell, £85m, setting a busy backdrop for chairs and cushions upholstered in Ozone, £150m, both by Christopher Farr Cloth.

3. WILD WALLS

Take a walk on the wild side with paper that looks as though it’s about to leap off your walls. Stick a few samples up to help you decide on the perfect match and if you’re concerned that papering all four walls will overpower the room, create breathing space with a feature wall – choose one that will highlight the room’s existing focal points. When it comes to updating the room’s whole look, you’ll need to make sure that any new furniture matches your chosen paper. Snap a picture on your smartphone, so that when you’re shopping for furniture and accessories, you can see what works and what doesn’t, instead of playing a guessing game.

Repetition is key to the success of this living room below, where the Watch mural works with the colour of the turquoise sofa and the pink footstool.

Get the look: Watch mural by Willem Van Aelst, £65sq m, from the Ashmolean Collection at Surface View. Harper two-and-a-half seat sofa in Deep Turquoise and the Harper footstool in Dusty Rose, priced £1,500 and £550 respectively from Sofa.com. Also shown is the House scatter cushion in Dusty Rose, £65; and Lowry large rug in Petrol, £1,025, both Sofa.com.

Feature walls are a fantastic way to highlight architectural details and add visual depth to a space. Take this black and white wallpaper below, which draws the eye up to the decorative cornicing that serves as a pretty transition between the wall and ceiling.

Get the look: Jolie Dame wallpaper by Casamance, £341.70 a roll. Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White estate emulsion, £45 for 2.5L, makes a great background colour for the tan leather Rondo sofa, £8,495, by Lucy Kurrein for Molinari Living at The Conran Shop. Pulling the scheme together is the Stroc rug, from £899, by BoConcept.

4. INTO THE BLUE

If you’ve only dipped your toe into soft blue, now’s the time to dive in. It’s a powerful yet practical shade that can dial up the drama or calm and cocoon, depending on how it’s used. Painting all four walls in the same colour blurs the boundaries of
a room, making it feel bigger. Avoid jarring contrasts by painting skirting boards, too. You don’t want a mean white line running around the room, which only serves to make the blue look darker in contrast. Don’t forget to give doors a lick of the same paint for a seamless plane of colour.

A generous lick of Juniper Ash paint by Little Greene wraps around all sides of this family living room to create a dramatic backdrop. The trick is to introduce different tones and shades to make it easy on the eye.

Get the look: Juniper Ash absolute matt emulsion, £77 for 5L, by Little Greene at Designer Paint. George Smith Jules sofa, £10,041 and P011 pouffe, £2,870. Head to Christopher Farr for the handmade Zele rug, £450sq m.

Shutters are the perfect canvas for strong colour, creating a focal point for the living room. It’s important to consider which colour to choose for your shutters as, unlike decorative accessories, you’ll keep them in situ for a far longer period of time.

Get the look: These are full-height shutters in Dulux Niagara Blues, from £166sq m, by California Shutters.

5. MONOCHROME MADE EASY

Get it right and monochrome is a match made in colour coordination heaven. Get it wrong and your living room will look and feel cold, stark and ultimately unwelcoming. A trusted trick to keeping things interesting is working lashings of pattern and texture into your scheme.

Don’t skimp – monochrome helps to neutralise pattern, meaning you can go mad with it. Monochrome also makes a great blank canvas for brights. Swap coloured accents in and out as your mood, or the season, takes you.

Get the look: These are the Tempo sofas by Natuzzi, from £2,140 each.Atena carver chair, from £1,823; and a mustard cowhide cushion, £251, both by Casa Botelho.

In this monochromatic living room (above) by Casa Botelho, the repetition of a graphic geometric pattern packs a visual punch, while bursts of sunshine yellow, from a statement chair and accessories, inject interest without overpowering the look.

When it comes to combining black and white patterns, designer Jonathan Adler has three tips. ‘Vary the scale, vary the scale, vary the scale.’ He also suggests easing the tension by throwing another hue into the mix. ‘I love black and white with teal, with pink, with pistachio,’ he says. ‘The only colour to be careful of is red – it can go very Eighties very quickly, which can be fabulous or go terribly wrong, so handle with care. The secret is to choose one accent colour and stick with it.’

Get the look: with the Jacques stacked table lamp, £595; Bond end table in Charcoal Black, £1,500; and Canaan Peruvian rug, from £2,160, all by Jonathan Adler.

6. HARNESS THE FIFTH WALL

Take your living room to new heights by sweeping colour up the walls and across the ceiling, the forgotten ‘fifth wall’. You read the size of a room by that white square on the ceiling. By painting the same colour over the walls and the ceiling, you can’t tell where the walls stop and the ceiling starts, which creates the illusion of space.

Not a fan of the uniform look? Paint the ceiling a few shades lighter than your walls for a fresher, brighter vibe. Go darker if your aim is to lower a lofty ceiling and make the room feel more intimate.

Draw attention to a decorative ceiling rose by painting it in a contrasting colour. A dash of bright white makes a strong graphic statement when offset by black in this London living room (pictured below), owned by interior designer Sera Hersham-Loftus, founder of Sera of London.

Get the look: Try Pitch Black estate emulsion by Farrow & Ball, £45 for 2.5L. Made.com has a good selection of retro-style sofas. The painting is by Agnieszka Stone.

7. RUGS ADD INTEREST

A rug can kick-start a decorating scheme or complement what you already own. It never fails to complete a room, anchoring the various elements of the space as well as injecting colour, pattern, texture and all-important comfort underfoot.

On a practical note, rugs protect the carpet in high-traffic areas and help to define or separate zones in an open-plan space. Use them to create variety. In large rooms with a dining and living area, why not bring in multiple rugs? 

When you’re choosing a rug, you don’t always need to match prints and patterns. However, it’s advisable to opt for a style that shares a colour with something else in the room, such as the walls or upholstery.

Get the look: The Villa Bright Floral rug, from £49.99, is by Carpetright.

The bright floral rug above combines a statement pattern with a mix of bright and bold colours, helping to harmonise the clashing wall and flooring shades in this room, for a cohesive and stylish finish.

Adding a patterned rug doesn’t always mean making a bold statement. The owners of the living room below create interest with a monochrome print while still maintaining a zen-like space. Size matters when it comes to your rug, so go for the largest you can afford – a small rug can look as though it lacks purpose. If you’re tempted by a busy pattern, temper it with white walls
and neutral furniture to ensure the architecture merits of the space don’t get lost. On a styling note, to help anchor all the pieces of furniture, the owners have used a tried-and-trusted decorating technique of placing the front legs of their sofa on the rug while the back legs are off.

Get the look: This is Moooi’s Raimond pendant, from £1,515 at Chaplins.

8. CURTAIN CALL

Window dressings can help to drive pattern and colour in your interiors scheme or quietly complement it. A classic-looking space can be made to look more contemporary with a stand-out curtain print. But, when pattern is dominant in other pieces in the room, a neutral window dressing will help to temper it and act as some respite. Matching curtains to wall colour creates a feeling of space and uniformity so could be a good option for smaller spaces. Play with contrasts, however, for dramatic effect and to create a focal point within the room.

White is the calming counterpart to red in this scheme below, kept at a low level so that it packs a punch without taking over.

Get the look: Farrow & Ball’s Ammonite, Brinjal, Charlotte’s Locks and Rectory Red estate emulsions, £45 for 2.5L, Farrow & Ball. Find a similar Sixties-style Schreiber lacquered wood dressing table on eBay. The curtains are made in Harlequin’s Tranquil Bayberry/Praline 130954 viscose/linen-mix, from £68.85m, from Fashion Interiors.

The walls are an excellent case in point, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Ammonite at the top, tempered with layers of Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal, Charlotte’s Locks and Rectory Red at the bottom. Furniture is used to drive the colour story home. Cue the Sixties-style Schreiber lacquered wood dressing table in red. The curtains, with their ombré effect, are the crowning glory and echo the paint layers of the walls for a harmonious look.

Below, curtains channel the sun-soaked tropics with Pierre Frey’s playful Mauritius linen fabric, creating a statement backdrop. The same happy turquoise hue has been introduced to the Jonathan Adler sofa,to continue the feel-good vibe. Graphic and geometric patterns were added in for additional impact.

Get the look: Curtains made from Pierre Frey’s playful Mauritius linen fabric, £230.40m. This is Jonathan Adler’s Lampert sofa, £3,595.

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