Consider this your PSA: minimalism doesn’t have to be austere or leave you longing for more. If you’re considering a minimalist living room (either by choice or in an effort to strike a concession with a neat-as-a-pin partner), know that there are endless ways to spin one. Ahead, we’re spotlighting the many faces of the minimalist living room. Whether your approach is a classic ode to right angles or involves Napoleonic antiques, find your ideal approach below! 

RELATED READ: Lighten Up With These Minimalist Lighting Ideas

Minimalist white living room
Design by Michelle Ruben / Photo by Anthony Barcelo

Go Classic

If classic minimalism fills your cup, don’t fight it. Dial back your furniture to Bauhaus-inspired basics, including perpendicular designs by and inspired by the godmothers and godfathers of minimalism, such as Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Strike a rectangular arrangement for your furniture — why fight perfection? — and anchor it with a neutral rug. To add character, layer in touches of texture. Be it a lambskin pelt tossed over the back of a chair or a high-pile rug, either will work wonders when it comes to making a minimalist decor feel homey.  

Minimalist living room with 19th century scottish mirro=r
Design by Martin Young Design / Photo by Martin Young

Add in Antiques

If an ensemble of minimalist furniture feels soulless to you, by all means, factor in some antiques! Believe it or not, with a little finessing, antiques can merge effortlessly with minimalist decor. To pull it off easily, select a limited color palette and ensure every decor in your room adheres to it. When choosing antiques, consider pieces with high architectural value that can double as art. Baroque, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau pieces are all good options. Fill in the space surrounding your antiques with the most pared-down of pieces. Think: Isamu Noguchi tables and lantern lights, Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, and Florence Knoll-style sofas.

Minimalist living room with yellow velvet sofa
Design by Redmond Aldrich Design/  Photo by Matthew Millman

Add a Bright Piece 

Minimalist interior design doesn’t have to be all neutrals and blase shades of gray. Liven up a minimalist living room by introducing high-wattage color. The secret to pulling it off? Not going overboard. Rather than introducing a bright coffee table, chairs, and console, try a single statement piece like a colorful sofa. Keep the rest of your palette in neutral, while keeping in mind that a colorful interlude does give you license to adopt a less serious tone. For instance, chairs outfitted in playful nude-colored patent leather are perfectly apropos in a minimalist living room with a lemon-yellow sofa.  

modern minimalist living room with curved sectional and biomorphic coffee table
Design by Jamie Bush + Co. / Photo by Shade Degges

Embrace Curvature 

Contrary to popular belief, curves and minimalism can coexist. If you’re inclined to take your minimalist living room in a less linear direction, commit to curves 100%. From your sofa to your coffee table, sticking with curvaceous designs with keep your living room looking streamlined — a quality no minimalist room can be without. When it comes to notoriously boxy pieces like credenzas, don’t stress trying to find a biomorphic design. Simply choose a piece with rounded corners and you’ll be golden. And while an irregular-shaped rug can enhance a curved minimalist theme, a four-cornered rug won’t kill the mood by any means. 

White minimalist postmodern living room
Design by Night Palm / Photo by Pablo Enriques

Play with Style 

There’s an overarching perception that minimalism means stark, bare-bones decor. But in truth, minimalism can be achieved with any style — even by the most unlikely candidates like the sometimes-silly-skewing postmodernism. The key to making a room full of playful Postmodern furniture feel minimalist? Embrace the style fully and resist the urge to get eclectic. Also, pad your furniture pieces with a good amount of space. Gridlocked furniture is the quickest way to kill a modernist vibe. You might also think about forgoing some seemingly prerequisite items for a room, such as art. Rather than opting for art, consider something like a low-hung shelf piled with sculptures or a leaned wall mirror placed on one side of your room. Both present more minimal than perfectly hung art. 

Minimalist living room with sage green sectional and black and white high pile rug
Design by Martha Mulholland Interior Design / Photo by Mike Schwartz

Let a Sectional Lead the Way

There are some who will argue that sectionals are at permanent odds with minimalist living rooms. After all, isn’t minimalism an exercise in refinement, while sectionals encourage just the opposite? But reconsider the sectional’s abundance of right angles, and it becomes apparent that it might not be as contrary to minimalism as you think. To set a sectional up for success in a minimalist living room, surround it with plenty of squared-off pieces and pare back patterns. Logistically, if you don’t have a ton of room to pad your furniture with space, try creating the illusion of more with tabletops and chairs that are a similar color to your sectional. 

Black and white minimalist living room
Design by Steve + Filip Design Inc. / Photo by Mike Schwartz

Go Monochromatic 

Here’s a secret worth knowing: pick a limited color palette and give your furniture enough breathing room and virtually any room can skew minimalist. To make it easier for yourself, choose shades that don’t have a lot of variation such as black and white. If you do choose a color with more shades, adopt only two or three shades to work with. A monochromatic color scheme will allow you to detour from strictly minimalist furniture pieces, but you’ll want to consider repeating shapes such as circles or squares to add continuity. Also — and this one is important — detox your room from any unnecessary clutter. For instance, let a single lamp on a side table serve as decor and nix the catchalls, vases, and books. 

Minimalist living room with black sectional and kilim ottoman coffee table
Design by Searl Lamaster Howe / Photo by Aimee Mazzenga

Use Only the Basics

It can be hard to make small living rooms feel minimalist, but here’s a trick: use only the basics. Choose a singular seating option and outfit it with a table that can double as an ottoman. Eighty-six the side tables (your ottoman coffee table will accommodate drinks and books just fine) and select a high-illumination lighting option if you don’t have recessed lighting built in. Another option is to use lighting in lieu of art. Try a single sculptural sconce hung over a sofa, or opt for neon word art.

Lead image design by Michelle Ruben / Photo by Anthony Barcelo


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September 22, 2023

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