Emily Henderson Header Image Emily Henderson

Trends are Trending

13 Living Room Design Trends for 2016 and How We Feel About Them


This year, 2016, is already setting itself up to be a year of good and awkward trends. Much like what is “in” in the fashion world, 1/2 of it’s hideous, 1/2 of it’s beautiful, and 1/2 of it only some people can pull off. Here’s what is trending now in the design world, and how I feel about it.

Chunky Low Furniture – A modern 1970’s interpretation. Here’s what happened: The 1950’s and 60’s were full of straight, streamlined and less loung-ey furniture, so the 70’s and 80’s had something to say about it, and thus entered in the boxy, round-y, low-ass sofas. The cycle repeated itself in the 90’s, 00’s, and now we are back to that. That’s not to say that mid-century is out, it never will be, but these chunky big sofas are in, too. And we’re into it. They are just begging for someone to sink in and crawl into a netflix-hole.

If a low boxy sofa on the ground isn’t really your vibe, and you’re needing a bit more height, then opt for something similar to the sofa in the below picture, which has some legs and adds a bit of height to the piece.

Longevity: As long as the piece is simple, in a good high-quality fabric, and is actually comfortable we can see this one sticking around for a long time. While there are some good rounded arm versions out there, if you are daring to take the risk I’d go for a boxier arm.

minimal design_living room_design trends_LOW CHUNKY FURNITURE

I will say that these sofa play best in large rooms. I could see how one of these in a smaller apartment, that feels cramped, could look dumb and generic. They also need to be elevated with beautiful things around it to make sure that they don’t look dumpy. So go for it, but be careful.


Modern Farmhouse: The Modern Farmhouse style has made this trend much more accessible to those of you that aren’t quite ready to throw an elk mount above your fireplace. This trend is all about mingling your more classic rustic pieces with your some of the more modern items you may already have. Think of it as a Clint Eastwood meets Bradley Cooper. Don’t go all “Little House On The Prairie” (be skeptical of too many ruffles and lace), as you might find yourself stuck in a time warp, but bringing in some aged leather club chairs, a nice plaid throw, old linens, and some great rustic accessories can really warm up your space . . . and heart.


Longevity: LONG. If you live in an urban setting (New York, SF and yes, even here in LA) make sure to mix it with urban style, too. This trend is certainly not new, but it is still very hot. I knew that this was one style that needed to be curated properly when I saw rustic wood clad walls in the food court of the Sacramento Airport. In other words, unless you really live in the country, make sure it’s not just Edison bulbs and deer horns.


Black: Like in the kitchen, black is back and popping up all over the living room scene. We get that a big black living room may not be for everyone, or for every room, but these darker hues instantly add drama to your space. If you aren’t ready to darken your room then bring in some black through accessories, furniture, and maybe an accent wall. If you can handle the drama.

black living room_design trend_moody_masculine_BLACK black living room_design trend_moody_masculine_BLACK 1

Art Ledges: AKA the new gallery wall. Don’t run with that statement, as it might put us out of a job seeing as a handful of the images and links that pop up when one googles “gallery wall” are my photos of my old portfolio projects. But, for those of you that are intimidated by the work that goes into a gallery wall, these art ledges can be easier. You put them up once, then go to town.


Serious styling addicts can rearrange every week. Or day, like myself.

Longevity: As long as you don’t get sick of art, or styling, then these will stay looking fresh as long as you can keep them styled.

art ledge_loft_art_eclectic_boho_living room_ART LEDGE 1

Matte Brass: We love all metallics right now, but gold is having a more refined moment. Look for brushed, satin, or matte finishes.

Longevity: Long. Aged brass/silver/copper are always in style. The more fun, less expensive stuff you have less longevity with. While I love shiny brass, and am still installing some in houses as we speak, a good matte gold can take it down to another (good) level.

brass coffee table_minimal_modern_pink_living room design trends_matt brass_MATT METAL

Limewash Walls: We love this trend, and I have already adopted this into my own home. I did it in my new guest suite (that you haven’t seen yet) and it looks beautiful. It’s not trying to look old, but it is a texture that has movement, and brings a lot of depth into a space.

limewash_living room_paint treatment_LIMEWASH 1

We got ours at Portola Paints, but there are many different brands that make it. It’s all in the application, which can be a splurge, but once on the walls it is so pretty and warm.

Longevity: Long. Except that it’s so fragile (scuffs easily and hard to retouch), so I will have to keep you posted on how long it could actually last in a real life setting. Don’t get greedy and try to have a lot of texture on your walls – you want some, obviously but keep it subtle, so this is a great option.

limewash_living room_paint treatment_LIMEWASH

Two Toned Walls: We are still on the fence with this trend. In the right situation, and with the perfect set of complimenting colors (as seen below) it can totally work in a space. BUT – if not done right it could quickly look like you either live in a fun house, or were so indecisive, or trying so hard that you couldn’t quite figure out which color to choose so you just went with two. For this to really work, the space either needs to be filled with complementary colored furniture (as seen in the second pic), or a very neutral space that can really let the walls be the stars of the show.

minimal design_living room_design trends_orange_red_pink_MINIMAL

Longevity: Not sure. I don’t feel too confident about it, but it’s just paint so if you are up for it – GO FOR IT (and send us pics, please).

minimal design_living room_design trends_orange_red_pink_ACCENT WALL

Minimal Living Rooms: Minimal living has always been on trend with a certain sector of society, but when I, Emily Henderson, am found clearing my surfaces for a more minimal look then we know that it’s one that has pervaded the public. Yes, a well accessorized living room can be inviting, feel like home, and look amazing in photographs, but these sparse and open living rooms are making us want to toss it all and start fresh. Of course the trick to this working (not just functionally, but really gorgeous) is to make sure that everything you do have is absolutely perfect, unique and beautiful. No pressure.


Wood Platformed Furniture: A cross between zen and Scandinavian, the wood platformed furniture trend is big this year, and we are very into it. At least we love to look at it. This trend may not be for everyone, as some people do appreciate a big cushy sofa to really flop yourself down on at the end of the day (see #1), and tune into the Bachelor (which is happening right now). But for those of you who appreciate clean lines, simple forms, and a streamlined look this trend is for you and your living rooms.


Longevity: So long. It’s so simple that I can’t imagine it ever being OUT. Keep the wood higher quality so it looks high end, and not like plywood. Because as we explained in this post, we aren’t sure how long the plywood wall trend will last.

living room_modern_platform plywood_design trends_PLYWOOD 1

Also for you DIY-ers, this is a great one to make yourself. It’s just simple platforms and boxed cushions. Plus, it’s easy to make it look built-in and custom to the space. Look fancy, when you aren’t.


Channel Tufting: We were seeing this first in dining rooms, and it was hard to find a good living room shot, but you should be warned that vertical and horizontal channel tufting are coming soon to a store near you. At the Las Vegas Market we saw a few, and were shocked how much we liked them, which is a good indicator that it’s about to emerge publicly. Be on the right side of history (unless you hate it, then stick with normal tufts).


These people are cool.

Modular Sectionals: Yes. Five years ago I can’t say that I was into this, at all. But look at me now. Similar to the low chunky furniture trend, these guys are a bit more convertible than their sibling, as these pieces can be shaped into any configuration to really provide the best setup for you and your guests. You need a huge living room to do this right, but then you can hang the hell out of your living room, all night with your friends.


I fear that only in a photo does the below sectional look good (it looks so schlubby), but it’s still inviting.

Longevity: In the right space it has legs (yes, intended), but don’t buy a cheap one that will look like garbage in 6 months. Make sure the fabric feels/looks high end, so that it counteracts the casualness of the sofa.

low chunky furniture_grey sofa_modern_minimal_CHUNKY SOFA

Clustered Coffee Tables: For those of you with a bit more eclectic heart, the clustered coffee table trend might be right up your ally. We are both for, and against this. It works in a small space, when a large coffee table that takes up a lot of real estate may not be the best option, BUT, these clustered coffee tables when not curated well can very quickly start to look like a garage sale in your home.

Our rule is keep it simple, vary the heights, and they should have something in common (see the cluster in the modular trend photo above).

Coffee Table_Living Room Trends_Emily_Henderson_CLUSTERED COFFEE TABLE

Slipcovered Furniture (yes, a few elements of shabby chic are on the return): Can you see the over-arching trend going on? Casual and comfort are in. Slipcovers have come a long way since the 90’s, and we are very into the more modern adaptation of them.

A few tips for making slipcovers work: Keep the fabric in a washed linen or canvas, and try to steer clear of slipcovering a piece that has too many curves, as even a beautiful linen can’t overcome the original bones of a bad piece. Keep it modern, opting for boxed arms over curved arms.

Even Victoria of SFGIRLBYBAY is into slipcovered furniture, and she is, like, RUHL cool.

minimal design_living room_design trends_SLIPCOVERED SOFA

For a more refined look (this pic also combines so many of the trends above – modern country, minimalist, and maybe a lime-wash??).

Longevity: The right piece, with the right Belgian linen – FOREVER. Restoration Hardware does the best job in this category, and while they don’t make it cheap, they sure can be pretty.


What are your favorites? Any big surprises or any that you think I’m dead wrong about??? Do dish . . .

If you are craving some more of my color and trend predictions for this year head on over to check out these 90’s colors that have made a comeback in the design world, these kitchen trend predictions, and some of our color trend roundups.

 *** Image Sources: Featured Image | Chunky Low: 1,  2 |  Modern Farmhouse: 1,  2 |  Black: 1,  2 | Art Ledges: 1,  2 | Matte Brass: 1 | Limewash Walls: 1,  2 | Two Toned Walls: 1,  2 | Minimal: 1 | Wood Platformed: 1,  2, 3 | Channel Tufting: 1 | Modular Sectionals: 1,  2 | Clustered Coffee Tables: 1 | Slipcovered: 1,  2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I love the comfy sofa trend!! Sofas are for watching tv lying down as far as I’m concerned ☺…. another trend I’ve heard that’s coming our way (not lounge room related mind you) is stylists visiting Australia. Is it true? Please say yes!! And will you be visiting Western Australia?

  2. I am astounded at how many times I see ‘complement’ spelled ‘compliment’ on design blogs! Great post. I’ve been itching to try the paint the bottom two thirds of the wall and leave the top white in my son’s room. Can’t wait to see the limewashed wall.

  3. I have a pretty amazing blue velvet chesterfield that will NOT be amazing if it’s covered in baby vomit and snot streaks when we have kids. do you have any good (stylish) sources for slipcovers for chesterfields?? I’m a little hesitant to ask the sofa designer for fear they may be offended, but then again, they KNOW their sofas, so maybe it could open up a new market for them?? thoughts?

    1. Jenn – I’m on the hunt for a sofa that is more on the traditional side and yours sounds great. A “pretty amazing blue velvet chesterfield” could be exactly what I want. Do you mind letting me know where you found yours/had yours made? Thank you!

        1. Dee – much appreciated! I’m so excited to get off my broke-down Craigslist sofa and into something grownup, comfortable and beautiful!

  4. I think your image sources are off. I’m trying to find the website of the designer of that ‘modern farmhouse’ image, the one with the warm wood planked walls in the kitchen, but none of your image links go to it. Can you help?!

  5. Excellent round-up! I’m so curious about the limewash walls! I can’t wait to see how your guest suite turned out. Thanks Emily and co.!

  6. Slipcovers bring me joy. Then again, I have a toddler, am planning on more babies (and their associated grossness), have pets (shedding, dear lord), and live in the country (MUD. so much mud.) Slipcovers are, honestly, the key to basic sanitation, and I will use them until our lifestyle is no longer quite so guaranteed to make filthy sofas.

    I like the country-farmhouse look, but I also live in the country, in a farmhouse (only semi-literally: we moved last summer, so our chicken coop is planned for this coming summer, with the sheep the summer after that. The sheep are currently occupying the field at my in-law’s .) I’m perpetually puzzled by the pickling crocks used as vases, and that sort of thing. Like, sure, there’s a pickling crock on my kitchen counter… because it’s fermenting up some sourkraut. I certainly wouldn’t be putting modern furnishings in my living room – slipcovered couches, multiple bookcases full of books, a piano (my husband is a musician), and (lovely, cream-enameled) wood stove is where we’re at!

  7. Thank you thank you Emily. I’m decorating my first place and your site has been so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to do daily posts about a wide variety of topics. There is something for everyone here and you’ve made design attainable for me. These trend report posts are my favorite!

  8. I am totally against the two-tone walls. The condo we just bought had two tone walls in every room and I would describe it to friends exactly as you did- as a fun house! I think it works in the pictures you showed because they are very sparse and midcentury in feel, so it’s almost as if you are on a movie set or something. But in real life, it would lack cohesion for me!


  9. Great post. It’s always interesting to learn about new trends. That said, low furniture that swallows you up is sooooo impractical and not even comfortable. I love lying on my couch to a degree that is pathological, but good sofas should take a cue from good bras – structure and support are everything. I also occasionally entertain guests, some of them elderly, and want them to be able to sit down and stand up in my living room without unnecessary pain and awkwardness and without the use of a crane.

  10. You may already have this planned, but please, please, please show us your limewashed guest suite with a how-to. I’ve been wanting to limewash my bedroom wall for some time but I feel so intimidated. You always make decor/styling projects seem so doable!

  11. I wish the images were labeled so it would be easier to connect them with the links.

    I love black walls but worry that I don’t get enough light to keep it from looking cave-like. I know chunky furniture is in, but it is so not my jam. I don’t need full MCM, but I do like things a bit less full. I also hate slipcovers, even though I am currently using one because it’s better than looking at the green and white checks on my inherited sofa. 🙂 Modern farmhouse is a look I appreciate for others (which is why I love Joanna Gaines), but it’s not for me.

    I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m hopelessly out of it.

    1. I will say, though, that picture ledges might be just the thing above my couch. I wanted to do a gallery wall, but I love art and want to be able to rotate pieces.

  12. I LOVE this post, thank you Emily! Right before I read this post, I was actually just at west elm and surprised to see that chanel look in a chair: http://www.westelm.com/products/roar-rabbit-armchair-h1717/?pkey=cliving-room-chairs%7C%7C. I didn’t love it in person, but it is a softer look that I think many will like.

    Another “trend” is a move towards white/cream walls. I think people are getting sick of gray and are realizing that things can really stand out against white or another non-gray color.

  13. I love the picture ledges and the cluster of coffee tables. The ledges I will definitely attempt; I’m less sure I could pull off the coffee tables.

    The two-toned and black are intriguing but not something I see doing in our home.

  14. So, I don’t normally make sassy comments because obviously style is subjective buuut that bright pink “channel tufted” bench definitely looks like an intestine.
    Think The Magic School Bus meets Blue Velvet.

  15. I am definitely into comfy sofas, but I really can’t stand the one in that first photo! It looks like contemporary style in a very bad way to me. Same with the modular chunky sectionals. They all look like they only belong in family rooms where the kids have friends over.

    I am with you on the other trends though, especially the matte brass. Thanks for the post!

  16. I’ve had an art ledge for a while, and I absolutely love it. It allows me to change out art & tchotchkes without massive holes everywhere. I have had two-toned walls for years and, while it’s okay, I’m trying to drum up the energy to pick one color and stick with it. In the meantime, I’ll tolerate it. I do not recommend it.

  17. I can’t wait to see your guest room as I’m very intrigued by the limewash. Is it possible it veers into a ‘faux finished’ paint job?

  18. I love those puffy, square-armed sofas. I’d love to get one for our living room, but don’t know where to look. How do you suggest doing a search for those? I don’t even know what to call them (?).

  19. So we just took the feet off of our sofa. After reading this I was ready to be done with all the lost toys and shoes that slip under there. I think it looks really good, kinda like the sofas I’ve been lusting after ever since our trip to Europe 4 years ago. I’m psyched to know I will not need to clean under the sofa ever again. Thanks Emily!!

  20. I also love these trend posts, because unlike most out there you give your actual opinion with some history and context… not just “this is cool now… ” Your analysis is appreciated!!

  21. Not sure that anything will ever replace my love of a gallery wall, but the art ledges are pretty incredible. Definitely one of my favorite trends that I have seen this year. I thank you for introducing me to the limewash wall idea. Love that as well.


  22. Very keen to see and hear more about the limewash, it would be perfect for our massive master bedroom wall I’ve no idea what to do with.

  23. Hello! I want to know where to find the sofas in the first two images, the pale pink one several down (the one with the round coffee table) and the first platform one! I know four is a lot but I would love to do some comparative shopping and those are all amazing! Thank you!

  24. I really love the modern farmhouse trend that you mentioned! All of my life, I’ve loved both rustic and modern styles, and it’s nice that there is a new style that is a nice blend of both. Plus, I’ve always loved the quality associated with classic wooden furniture. I’d definitely get sturdier, rustic furniture that will be used a lot, and then more modern pieces to complement it.

  25. If you are craving some more of my color and trend predictions for this year head on over to check out these 90’s colors that have made a comeback in the design world, these kitchen trend predictions, and some of our color trend roundups.
    thank you for this article.

  26. Great post as usual Emily! All these living room designs look amazing, especially the way they mixed the room color with furnitures. And the sofa’s color are usually like the room color in these design. Personally i think these living room need more spaces. That’s what i think. Thanks for sharing this. Love your post!

    1. I love the comfy sofa trend!! Sofas are for watching tv lying down as far as I’m concerned ☺…. another trend I’ve heard that’s coming our way (not lounge room related mind you) is stylists visiting Australia. Is it true? Please say yes!! And will you be visiting UC Browser For PC?

  27. Any thoughts on gray sofas…I’m thinking a charcoal grey in a linen fabric. Our windows face south. We do get lots of light. I’m a bit concerned about the fabric fading. Does linen fade more easily than other fabrics?
    I’m finding that choosing a gray colour is quite difficult…the undertones seem to be blue-ish or green.
    Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

  28. I love the sleeper sofas sets that is very comfortable while I and my all family members are together watching the TV and talk with others. And at last when we all tired sleep there and it makes very comfort for us. And these type of sofas sets when not in use, can be folded and placed at one place.

  29. Bigo Live App I love the comfy sofa trend!! Sofas are for watching tv lying down as far as I’m concerned ☺…. another trend I’ve heard that’s coming our way (not lounge room related mind you) is stylists visiting Australia. Is it true? Please say yes!! And will you be visiting Western Australia?

  30. For those who are wondering how to decorate a modern living room, the first advice is devoted to furniture type.You will need: a sofa and chair, closet or dresser, and perhaps pictures. All the furniture should be in square shapes and simple lines. Living room designs is becoming increasingly popular.It helps to make living room more elegant, without over-filling it with furniture and accessories.

  31. Emily,

    It saddens me to see you use the last linked picture of the slip covered sofas, as the painting above the sofa is very disturbing. A bound (dead), blindfolded and naked person as decoration? In my book, not cool. We need to look further into the pictures we (sometimes) mindlessly like and link. Art is not always comfortabe and beautiful, but depicting torture – not ok.