Article Line Long1

Budget Room Design: Modern Boho Lilac Living Room

Hey EHD world, it’s Arlyn, and I’m back with the budget room post I promised last week when I dished on my changing perception of purple (which turned out to be quite controversial in the comments and on social…I get it, it’s not easy to make that switch). A good amount of you guys were really into lilac (especially when used in the modern palette I wrote about), but others were still like “yeah…no.” Maybe, just maybe, what you’re about to see will inch you closer to seeing the appeal of this trending wispy purple, but if not, we hope you could at least take away some styling tips on balancing furniture proportions and textures. That, or perhaps you’ll find some pieces you really love for your current sans-purple living spaces. Our goal was to create living room schemes that felt modern, layered, warm and exciting. And while all of us at EHD headquarters didn’t do a lilac 180, a few members of the team definitely did a double take at some of these design plans (Velinda, one of our awesome designers, literally stopped at Jess’ computer when she was prepping option 1 and said “wait…I was super nervous about what these lilac rooms would look like, but this I like. It’s good.”) There’s hope, yet!

As a reminder, this is the palette we’re talking about: lilac/lavender, sherbet-y orange, blush, mustard yellow and sand (in any combination, though at least three of those colors should be present to feel fresh and new).

Emily Henderson Design Trends 2018 Modern Lilac 4
image source

We shared this shot from Anthropologie’s Spring 2018 catalog in the lilac trend post from last week. While a soft purple sofa is quite bold in my book (that is COMMITMENT folks), the reason I think this particular set up works is the balance. It’s not a purple sofa, a purple wall, purple accessories. There’s liking a color enough to decorate with it, and then there’s overkill. That would be overkill. This is a delicate mingling of desert sunset hues that feels exciting and modern, not garish.

Emily Henderson Design Trends 2018 Modern Lilac 17
image source

Mixing in wood tones really brings the purple down to earth. If you want to try lilac on your walls (see our pastel paint picks for grown-ups post for some suggestions), be sure to keep some other key furniture pieces a little warmer and neutral, or else things might get a little oversaturated and Candyland-ish.

Emily Henderson Design Trends 2018 Modern Lilac 18
image source

Hello Mandy Moore’s living room (designed by the lovely Sarah Sherman Samuel…bravo)! While lilac isn’t exactly the predominant color here, I wanted to show you this shot so you could see how just a touch of it really softens a space anchored in warmer shades. The sitting area would have been great without it, but the grayish purple of that bench elevates the palette so much, IMHO.

OKAY, let’s take a look at the living rooms we put together, shall we?

Option 1: Balanced & Warm

[drawattention ID=”156753″]

Sofa | Coffee Table | Rug Side Table | Floor Lamp Lilac Pillow | Patterned Pillow | Throw Blanket | Leather Wall Hanging | BowlTray | Coasters | Lavender Bud Vase | Terracotta Vase | Side Table Lamp | Media Console | Side Chair | Yellow Pillow

I really love this room, and would honestly just move right in, as-is. This is how I would personally feel most comfortable working within this palette: heavy emphasis on the warmer hues accented with lilac and blush. It feels totally grown up, sleek, polished yet playful and grounded. I’ll take one of everything, please! That rust-colored sofa adds such a warm, earthy vibe and its modern shape in the unexpected color works really well with the more boho rattan chair. And oh my that side table…how good is that? The whole design feels retro-yet-modern all at once. A slim and sleek coffee table balances the heft of the sofa and console, and ties in the brass of the floor lamp. It’s the priciest version at almost $5,000, but it has some special and unique elements, like that midcentury table lamp, leather wall hanging and embroidered throw pillow.

Option 2: Light & Happy

[drawattention ID=”156747″]

Sofa | Coffee TableRug | Side Table | Floor Lamp | Lilac Pillow | Patterned Pillow | Throw Blanket | Mirror | Bowl | Tray | Coasters | Tall Vase | Bud Vase | Table Lamp | Media Console | Side Chair | Yellow Pillow

For our middle-of-the-road budget option, we landed at about $2,000 less than option 1. This room leans into lilac much harder, and while it still feels modern boho-esque, it’s a little lighter and dips more into mustard and yellow than rust. The sofa (which is $1,000 less than the CB2 version above…and also is a sleeper!!), is in a less “safe” lilac (for anyone more comfortable with beige or gray). Its contemporary silhouette, blonde wood legs and nubby upholstery, though, prevents it from going too frilly. It’s like wearing a hip pair of sneakers with a maxi dress (instead of wedges or heels)—the casual shoes makes the outfit feel purposefully dressed down while still having serious style. Sometimes, you gotta be that person who shows up in Chuck Taylors when everyone else is wearing pumps. You could likely find a round mirror that is less expensive than this one, but it will probably be far smaller and feel disproportionate to the size of your sofa.

Option 3: All About the Accents

[drawattention ID=”156739″]

Sofa | Coffee TableRug | Side Table | Floor Lamp | Lilac Pillow | Patterned Pillow | Throw Blanket | Lavender Art (left) | Blush Art (right) | Bowl | Tray | Coasters | Wide Mouth Vase | Skinny Neck Vase | Pink Table Lamp | Media Console | Side Chair | Tassel Pillow

Coming in at just under $1,800 (which is about a third of the budget from the first room plan), this version might seem pretty jammed-packed with lilac accents, but it’s actually a great example of how to bring in the trendy color in small doses. You could go all-in with the entirety of our picks, or you could pluck out say…the pillows, throw and rug to your existing neutral space and have an instant update without too much of a scary “OMG AM I REALLY DOING THIS PURPLE THING?” moment. The natural elements (the floor lamp, side table and media console) really warm up the design, since purple tends to be a cooler tone that might feel too glam or young otherwise. The whole tray, bowl, coasters set up can be styled together on the coffee table or media console (if your TV isn’t too large), or you can scatter them throughout. Oh, and that art…it’s downloadable and printable up to 18″x27″, which is a great size for pairing two over your sofa without things looking dinky. If your budget allows, I’d suggest using the mirror from the middle living room design here, which feels just a touch more grown-up than the playful prints (though both are great).

So…what do you think? If money/budget were no object, which design would you want to live in? Are there any pieces that you’re itching to add to your living room RIGHT NOW? Let us know your thoughts.


0 0 votes
Article Rating


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

I love all three versions of this room. I installed a cool toned lavender kitchen two years ago and have never loved a room more. Go light purple!

5 years ago
Reply to  Libby

Whoa that sounds like it would be SUCH a happy space. We’d love to see it if you feel comfortable sharing pics!

5 years ago

That Mandy Moore living room is stunning and a perfect use of some very subtle lavender.

The modern dining room with the dusty purple wall though, oh no, never! I can imagine lilac walls only, in a very specific historical shade, in a SF Victorian room.

While I do love the Boho mix of curvilinear furniture and colorful accessories in option #1, and will take inspiration from that mix for my own home…I will still choose non-lilacy versions of blush, sky, dove, and saffron.

This kind of color-focused series is interesting and fun. If you are as into color as I am, you might like this 2016 book, all about the origins and evolution of specific enduring colors, throughout the world and through history. It’s called “The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair.

5 years ago
Reply to  Addie

I agree-I love this color-focused series! I’m obsessed with color (thanks for the book recommendation!) and purple (albeit amuch darker, blue-violet shade) has always been my favorite color, if I have to choose just one…if I don’t, my favorite color is rainbow. ? How rad that both colors (apparently) are trending these days!

5 years ago
Reply to  Abbie

I love: “my favorite color is rainbow.” You brought joy to my life. My daughter says the same thing. I am so happy that you never lost that appreciation.

5 years ago
Reply to  Addie

Yes, I’ve seen that book! I actually gave it to a friend who’s SUPER into color and design history last Christmas, but haven’t read it myself. I def will. Thanks for the recommendation.

5 years ago

Of course I like the most expensive one the best. With that said I have NEVER liked any shade of purple but these rooms are actually slightly changing my mind. Great job!

5 years ago
Reply to  Casey

Glad to hear it! Another one (almost) bites the (purple) dust!

5 years ago

I adore purple but due to limited inspiration have only used it in our master bedroom while the rest of our house has mostly shades of blue as cobalt & navy are my two other favorite colors. I’d love to see more ‘purple’ posts as I’m always looking for more ideas on how to make the purple in the bedroom flow more seamlessly with the rest of the house.

Vicki S Williams
5 years ago

Ha Ha my big take away is the FADO lamp. I’ve got to have it. Love the lilac, if I ever repaint my bedroom I think I will go for one of these. Otherwise I must say I get a kick out of the prices. These rooms could be done soooo much less expensively. Yes spend money on comfort for sure, (which BTW the Urban Outfitter sofa looks so comfortable but check out the reviews, not so much in the longevity department) but the throws and pillows and accessories? Boy, let me at ’em!
However the inspiration is solid and I thank you always, for your insights and color choices that are always intriguing and beautiful.
I’m a daily dyed in the wool reader since Design Star so I’m always with you. :))

Susie Q.
5 years ago

I tell myself that I don’t like lavender, but in most of these pics it reads as a pinky-grey, which I like.
I also LOVE orange. Someday I will create my fantasy room which will be orange, fuchsia, and dark violet with brass accents!
My favorite option is #3 because it’s all 70’s and chill. It would look great in a beach house.

5 years ago

I like the first room best. I think that burnt orange sofa is necessary to ground the pallette.

I adore those mustard leather chairs in Mandy Moore’s room!

Lisa Hamel
5 years ago
Reply to  Paula

I don’t think my mind processed anything fully after seeing the gorgeous, rust-colored sofa. I could never sell my husband (dogs, and two rowdy children) on it, but I definitely wish I could.

Kirsten Pool
5 years ago

Thank you for the helpful post! I think you solved my design dilemma. I have a gorgeous 1960s mustard yellow gold sofa with coordinating but dated rug from my grandparents. The rug is predominantly off white but with some earthy green and earthy dark mustard yellow. I will work in lavender to make it current. Although I love blues with mustard that will not work the rug. I think lavender is a perfect idea and will work with the green in the rug. I will try it in small doses, perhaps an accent chair, a pillow or two. I appreciate the color palate suggestions given. My favorite is option 1 but I am very interested in the side table and coffee table in option 3 for my current living room. The side table looks like perfect height. I like the floor lamp too. I love the side table in option 1 but too short. Also, thank you for the Mandy Moore living room inspiration. Gorgeous!

5 years ago
Reply to  Kirsten Pool

So glad this helped you IRL!

5 years ago

I have that Urban Outfitters sleeper–I love it! It’s small, but a perfect size for our tiny office/guest room. You really can’t beat the price for a sleeper, and it is stupid easy to set up/turn into a bed/turn back into a sofa. I will warn that because of the way it’s tufted, it has a natural dip in the middle when it’s used as a bed. Doesn’t bother me, but something to keep in mind. 🙂

5 years ago
Reply to  Jourdan

Ooh thanks for the intel.

5 years ago

Love these!!

5 years ago

cool stuff. Check out new WalmartOne guide.

5 years ago

Gorgeous schemes! Can I ask what you made these mood boards on please? Thanks!

5 years ago
Reply to  Amelia

I too have wondered how you make the mood boards. Photoshop? Something else? What about when the shop site’s images aren’t the right angle?

5 years ago

I’ve been a purple hater for quite some time but you’ve got me hooked with this subtle shade mixed with modern colors! I love the first option most! While I think your purpose is to convince us that lilac can be grown up, I think I might use this inspiration as a jumping off point to give my daughter the “purple” bedroom she’s been begging for. ? would you paint a piece of furniture one of these dusty lilac shades or would that look cheap??

5 years ago
Reply to  Tiffany

I def think the right piece would look awesome (the color of the cabinets in the kitchen I shared in my first lilac post is Farrow & Ball Calluna No. 270 if that’s helpful. We also shared some of our favorite “grown up” pastels in this post: I’d pair it with warm brushed or antique brass hardware to give it a modern twist (but nothing too polished or else it goes “glam”…unless that’s the look you want!). Good luck with the room.

5 years ago

I am HERE for this room—mostly because it’s the exact color palette of my front room. Haha buying all these accessories now. #teampurple

5 years ago

I would love to see this done again for a bedroom!!! I’m trying to do a lilac (adults) bedroom right now and really struggling.