Style Guide: Urban Modern


Cosmopolitan Living


With the often frantic pace of a city, urban areas can be exhausting for its residents – if you live in a major city, we’re sure you can relate. At the end of the day, all you really want to do is curl up with a bottle of wine and binge-watch some Netflix in the comfort of your own home.


The relaxed-yet-refined aesthetic of urban modern design offers city-dwellers an opportunity to create an escape from the busy world outside – a chance to slow down and appreciate the softer side of the city. Fusing raw, industrial materials with the sleek simplicity of minimalism and the vintage character of mid-century design, urban modern design is ultimately a perfect embodiment of contemporary living in the 21st century.


Read on to learn more about what this style has to offer, or click here to find out how you can achieve this look in your own space.



The History of Urban Modern Design


Just a few decades ago, downtown areas were for business only – those who worked in urban centers generally preferred to escape the chaos of city life by living out in the suburbs. Now, with more and more young professionals choosing to both live and work in metropolitan areas, real estate developers started looking for creative solutions to address the need for more residential spaces.


These innovative projects typically involved renovating existing industrial structures to suit the needs of urban homeowners – office buildings, warehouses, and factories became entirely new spaces that could accommodate downtown living. You can see this influence in neighbourhoods like DUMBO in Brooklyn, the downtown core of Detroit, or San Francisco’s Mission District.


Often, these converted spaces were left with existing industrial features, like exposed brick walls, concrete floors, or large steel windows. Instead of investing more money to remove them from the space, developers made them attractive to potential homeowners – and urban modern design started to emerge, allowing city-dwellers to embrace these features and turn them into central elements of their interior décor.



The Principles of Urban Modern Design


The goal of any interior design project is to create a space that is both comforting and refreshing. With the hectic lifestyle that comes with urban living, creating a safe haven becomes all the more important. Urban modern design is generally trendy and cutting-edge, but without the brutal edges that are typical of a classic industrial aesthetic.


When most people think of urban modern design, they conjure images of a picturesque downtown loft, but you don’t need to live in a cosmopolitan area to appreciate this style. There are plenty of ways you can draw inspiration from urban modern design to incorporate elements of this metropolitan aesthetic into your own space – even if you’re miles away from the city.



The Components of Urban Modern Design


Open plan living


An open floor plan connects all your main living areas – the kitchen merges with the dining room, and the dining room merges with the living room. While this is typical of many loft apartments, you can achieve this look anywhere simply by taking down some of the walls in a traditional home. It’s airy and comfortable, while allowing for tons of natural light to brighten up your entire space.




Natural lighting is key in an urban modern design. Aim to bring in as much light as possible into your main living area through windows and skylights, as well as from sources like modern chandeliers and other sculptural light fixtures. You can keep your personal spaces, like your bedroom or your study, a bit darker – giving them a warm, relaxed atmosphere.




Hanging contemporary art on your walls is one of the easiest ways you can incorporate urban influence into your own home. For a true big-city feel, find large pieces that will really make an impact. And don’t worry about the expense – explore our list of affordable resources for original art and select something that speaks to you.


Low-profile furniture


Furniture is primarily what defines each area of an open floor plan. You’ll need to put substantial thought into each piece you choose in your urban modern design to ensure it will achieve its required purpose.


In an urban modern space, larger pieces of furniture like sofas or beds will feature sleek lines and uniform silhouettes while offering a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Contrasting accent pieces should be trendier – trailblazing designs that push the envelope and make a strong statement.


Creative accessories


To decorate your urban modern space, opt for accessories that will express your individuality. Cosmopolitan living is all about artistic freedom – take this opportunity to bring splashes of color and personality to your space through your cushions, throws, rugs, and other decorative items.


Look for stark geometric patterns, soft textures, or pick up some cool vintage pieces that speak to your personal aesthetic. Plants are also a great way to bring in a bit of nature to your escape from city life, adding an element of organic greenery to a more industrial-feeling space.



Industrial Materials


Since urban modern design aims to warm up the classic industrial vibe, you’ll see a lot of the same base elements – brick walls, steel windows, rugged wood, and cool concrete. An industrial space will generally include exposed pipes and ducts, but these elements should be covered up for an urban modern design.


This is a refinement of the typical industrial aesthetic, bringing in a thick layer of comfort in the form of soft, neutral shades and cozy, plush furniture – a stark contrast to the industrial elements in the space.


Upscale finishings


To create a more polished environment, an urban modern design will enhance these raw surfaces with elegant finishings and bespoke fixtures – high-gloss lacquers and reflective metals like brass or copper. By thoughtfully enhancing the structural elements of an industrial space, you can create a cohesive, chic design with interesting architectural features.



Whether you live in the city, in the country, or in the suburbs, the urban modern design aesthetic can help you create a space that feels like a welcome escape from the stresses of daily life. Check out our favorite urban modern pieces to see how you can incorporate this big-city vibe into your own home.