Modern doesn’t mean lifeless: How to add warmth to a modern aesthetic

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I’m gonna say it. YouTube influencers have singlehandedly (okay maybe not quite singlehandedly) ruined the reputation of a modernly decorated home.

Because of them, when someone says “I like my home to look really modern,” I have war flashbacks of gray, mirrored furniture, gray, stark white ikea furniture, marble everything, and gray. It’s like a weird mix of sterile, lifeless, and a tacky attempt at “glam.”

Or when people just take it the ultra-minimalist route.

Prime example: Kim and Kanye’s creepy ass, post-apocalyptic lookin’ house that literally makes you feel empty inside just looking at it. Like what IS that??

minimal and primitive monochromatic dining room
Source: @kanyewest on Twitter

I get it, I love clean lines and minimalism, too, but your home should feel like a home, not a museum.

I think that the best modern decor is in homes where warmth and minimalism/modernism can coexist. Since some interpretations of “modern” pretty place it as the opposite of warmth, it can be tricky to know how to make this happen.

But I got you.

From personal experience, as someone who has always been drawn to a more modern aesthetic but still wanted it to have some life, I’ve picked up some tricks along the way. So no worries, I will not let my homey homies let your home fall to the ways of the poorly decorated YouTube apartment tours.

Pop some color on that shit

I get it, color can be scary. Why do you think most people end up going with a variety of neutrals in their home? The thing is, in a house that’s more traditional that naturally has more richness built into it, a mixture of creams and whites and grays can work without feeling too sparse. But if your house is full of harsh lines and a minimal approach to decor, the lack of color can make it feel sterile.

Go as crazy or as subtle as you want, it’s all about what you connect with.

Here are some places to add color: a statement couch, a bold piece of artwork, a colorful armchair, a big vase, rug, pillows, paint a wall or door… you see where I’m going here? You can literally add it anywhere.

Kitchen with light wood cabinets, white countertops and walls, and green stools
Source: Robson Rak

(How cool is this wall sticker? I came across it here.)

If you still find yourself a little timid with color, just try out a less-neutral neutral color, like this tan leather couch. It’s a little less of a commitment than a bold color, but still adds a lot of interest and warmth to the space.

Texture is your friend

This is a lesson that I didn’t learn soon enough. In my pursuit during my younger years, I always thought that modern meant everything needed to be sleek and smooth. And yeah, those are some major components of the modern aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be textureless.

Texture adds so much more depth and can transform what would’ve felt like an insane asylum to an actually inviting place to cozy up in. Think of Kim K’s house. My ass hurts just looking at those chairs because of how aggressively smooth they are as well as everything else around it is. I mean, there’s really no fighting the creepyness of its fully monochromatic-ness, but like damn differentiate something in the space.

An obvious place to add texture is in pillows and blankets. I love a good thick knit blanket.

You can also add textiles to your walls. I DIY’d this wall hanging with some fabric, glue, and wooden dowels, and I love the way that its subtle 3Dness adds a little extra oomph than a regular old piece of art on the wall.

Other good places to add texture: a textural rug, rich curtains, plants, an ornate piece of furniture, knickknacks on a table, shelf or mantle.

If you’re down for a big change: a textured accent wall. The cool thing about this, too, is that there are TONS of DIYs on Pinterest using just wooden rods to create a wall like this.

Mix in some other design styles

This is a super simple fix. If you are scared of looking too modern, then just sprinkle in elements from other aesthetics you might have a little interest in.

For me, this means adding some natural and industrial elements. A slab of wood as a centerpiece on a table, a couple plants here and there, tarnished metal bins, rustic-looking shelves like the one below. All of these are potential ways to add an element of surprise in an otherwise flat space.

Make it you

If your house is truly acting as a reflection of who you are –your experiences, your personality, your family– then the warmth and character will naturally come. This is a pretty broad point, because truly this can include all the other shit I said above. It’s really just all about what feels good and what makes you feel happy, safe, and comfortable.

But because only saying “add personality” is kinda a dick answer if I’m trying to give advice. Here are some concrete ways to make your space you, regardless of your style.

– photos, photos, photos

– display keepsakes and items from your travels

– put your favorite books in a visible place

– purchase artwork from your artist friends (if you have them) or just pick art that really speaks to you, whether it 100% matches the rest of your decor or not (just make sure it at least makes some sense in the design scheme)

Feelin’ a little bit better now about how you can make your house modern without sacrificing all life from it? Good, me too.

Happy resuscitating, and

keep it homey, homies

(4) Comments

  1. […] touched on it briefly in my post about modern decor, but it deserved a mention in another post. Ultra-minimalistic houses with tons of gray, white, […]

  2. […] was so sleek, sophisticated and cool but was still very submersed within the nature around it. I’ve ranted before about how it irks me so badly when modern in done in a super bland, cookie-cutter, insane asylum […]

  3. […] This doesn’t mean that minimalism is innately bad. Some people are psychologically drawn to simpler, more bare spaces. A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind for a lot of people. But there are ways to still keep your home on the minimalist end of the spectrum without making it feel like a museum. […]

  4. […] know, I know. Me writing about actually liking a trend that has minimalism in the name is a little unexpected. But hear me out. I’ve always been for minimalist or […]

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