Behind the Design | Modern Farmhouse Living Room

February 23, 2020

Living room design elements
A behind the scenes look at exactly how I planned my modern farmhouse living room design and purchased furniture and decor to compliment the space.

MACTAVISH HOUSE   |   Published February 23, 2020

Living room sofa and wicker coffee table

Designing a room from scratch is difficult.  I'm not going to sugarcoat the process, and if you're a perfectionist or indecisive, it will be even harder. is so incredibly rewarding when the space (finally) comes together.  To be able to look around to see what you created and how it all works (almost) makes you forget the frustration and impatience that went into it.


Until you start the next room and then it all comes rushing back.

I'm in that mindset now.

Beige sofa and side table

I don't say any of this to discourage you, but rather to reassure that if you have or are currently trying to give a room a makeover and find it challenging, you're not alone.  There is a lot that goes into a redesign whether it's a small spruce or a complete transformation.

While I don't intend on pulling you through each and every agonizing choice I made while designing my living room and the countless hours I spent shopping for things online like coffee tables and accent chairs, I did want to take you behind the design for a few basic principals of how I went from a dated room filled with orange-y paneling, ceiling tiles, layers of paint, and carpeting and ended up with something very clean, bright, and current.

For your convenience, sources for this room appear at the end of this post.  And my completed living room makeover, along with links to all the in-process posts, can be found here.

Living room design mood board and elements



When planning what I wanted to do with my living room, I knew that the end result needed to feel cozy with plenty of space for gathering and relaxing.  I see this as a place where the whole extended family can get together for holidays like they once did just as easily as I can see myself curling up on the sofa with a cappuccino typing a blog post.  Keeping this in mind, I needed to plan for plenty of seating and room for movement, as well as adding warmth through textures.  Throw pillows and a few blankets were a must.

I also didn't want the room to necessarily fall into one design style over another.  Although I refer to it as a modern farmhouse style, I feel like the final space draws on more than just that one trend.  I chose furniture and decor that I loved without regard to whether or not it fell into a certain category and in the end, it all fell into place.  I think design styles are very subjective and change constantly, so I try to just buy the things that speak to me.  This lessens the chance that a year down the road something just isn't me anymore or isn't "on-trend."

As I got more of a firm grip on my exact plans and what I wanted to purchase, I laid everything out along with a few inspiration photos on a mood board so that I could see it all come together and make changes if necessary.

Modern Farmhouse Living Room Mood Board


Actually, a mixture of textures, colors, patterns, and finishes is how you end up with a room that looks like you thoughtfully designed it rather than had a giant shopping spree to to the furniture store or Hobby Lobby.  It keeps things interesting.

I think in the beginning, some people were concerned that because I love white, my room was going to be ALL white.  But looking at the completed space, aside from the walls and trim, a couple throw pillows, and my plaster medallion, there isn't anything white in the room.  There is linen and leather, black metals and rustic woods.

When adding a mix of elements you just need to remember to repeat it at least a few times in the room to keep it all from looking random.  For example, I chose the pair of leather chairs and then also added the antique leather footstool and pillows that have a hint of leather trim.

Pair of leather chairs  Gray chair and leather footstool


This obviously is not a large living room, so it was important to pay attention to the size of the larger furnishings I was place inside of it, like the sofa and chairs.  You don't want to overwhelm and overcrowd the room, but you also don't want it to feel like everything is too small.

The "sofa" I chose is a generously sized love seat.

The leather accent chairs are actually dining chairs, but I loved their shape and fabric so much and they have a large seat making them perfect for this compact living room.

And I was careful to pay attention to the dimensions of the chair as you enter the room so that it didn't take up too much space in the doorway or rise too high blocking sight lines into the room. There were a few other choices that I really loved, but they just weren't the right proportion to meet this criteria.

Back of a gray accent chair with white throw


Throughout the house, it is important to me to keep as much of the old as possible, and replicate it where it's not.  That meant exposing the plaster ceiling, original floors, and restoring the staircase.  Although there was definitely a time investment, not having to replace the ceiling, walls, or floor was a budget savings.

The original trim is gone from all of the rooms except for the two bedrooms upstairs.  But that allowed me to see that the original baseboards were just basic 10 inch boards.  I didn't go quite that chunky here, but otherwise kept with the original style of the simple coal miner's company house with all of the trim.  And luckily, that no-fuss style fits in perfectly with what I already love.

Gray rug on hardwood floor


In order to get a room that looks like it has been put together over time (even if it wasn't), you need a mixture of new, from-the-store items and antique or vintage pieces.  Obviously things like your sofa you want to be fresh and new.  But things like accent chairs, side tables, or decor pieces like my rustic wood ladder bring character to everything you've just purchased.

I also love that I was able to use the old reclaimed 2x4 boards that I had taken from the stairwell as my mantel on the newly built fireplace.

Antique wood ladder and greenery in demijohn  


What I love most about neutrals is how easy it is to mix and match elements throughout the entire house.  A throw pillow on the sofa can later be used on the bed upstairs.  The pair of leather chairs can be switched out and used at the ends of my dining table.

By using grays, creams, charcoal, black, and white in a variety of textures and patterns, a neutral color palette can be just as interesting and eye catching as a room with more color.  And they combine nicely with a pop of color should I decide to add one later on.

Three pillows on sofa

Living room with fireplace

I experimented with different designs by laying out the elements in Photoshop and playing with different rugs, chairs, and coffee tables.  This makes it easier to visualize how everything can come together and play off of one another.  These are a couple of the designs that didn't make the cut for various reasons (size, product availability, etc), although a few of the pieces I  still bought and will be using elsewhere in the house:

Well, I hope that this post gave you a little insight into what I was thinking when planning out my living room design and I how I chose the pieces to buy that I did.  Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you'd be interested in a post explaining more about the basics of designing a living room or using Photoshop to plan your design.


PAINT: Valspar Snowcap White (Eggshell for walls and semigloss for trim and fireplace) available at Lowes
FLOOR STAIN: Fusion Stain and Finishing Oil in Cappuccino available on Amazon
LOVESEAT:  I bought mine locally, but it is available from Overstock
FAUX LEATHER CHAIRS: Wayfair or Home Depot
GRAY ACCENT CHAIR (also available in cream and teal):  TargetAmazon or  Bed, Bath & Beyond
COFFEE TABLE: Target or Home Depot
RUG: Boutique Rugs  (use code WINTER55 to save 55%)
LAMP:  Target
WOOD ACCENT TABLE:  Prior purchase but a similar version is available at Cost Plus World Market
GLASS DEMIJOHN: Purchased from Antique Farmhouse, but a similar version is available at Pottery Barn or in store at Hobby Lobby
FIREPLACE MIRROR: Purchased locally but a similar version is at Hobby Lobby or Pottery Barn
FIREPLACE LOGS: Currently unavailable but a similar version is on Amazon
CANDLESTICKS: Purchased locally
BOTANICAL PRINT: Purchased locally, but available in set of 4 different prints from Hayneedle
RUSTIC LADDER: Antique find


Planning a modern farmhouse living room

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