As modern design has become more popular, it’s inspired a number of offshoots. These hybrid design styles use modern design as a starting point and branch off in new directions, pairing the style’s clean lines with unexpected elements, like beachy linens and grandiose mirrors.
Coastal modern design gave us surprisingly sleek beach houses. Desert modern style proved that clean-lined furniture looks great with printed textiles and imposing cacti, and the modern Victorian movement gave us layered interiors fit for the contemporary queen. Just like its predecessors, the latest iteration of modern design—organic modern style—has put a fresh spin on modernism, making the usually-sleek style feel warm, earthy, and surprisingly cozy.
What Is Organic Modern Design?
Organic modern design blends the clean lines and minimalist approach of modern design with warm, earthy accents, like cozy textiles, natural materials, and lots of greenery.
“Organic modern style is a subtle departure from traditional modern design, emphasizing organic materials and nature-centric elements,” Ginger Curtis, principal designer of Urbanology Designs, says. Hallmarks of the style include natural materials, soft neutrals, lush greenery, and cozy accents.
“Organic modern feels much more earthy and warm compared to modern design—this is the primary difference,” Curtis adds.
To help you get a handle on this trendy new modern offshoot, we spoke to three experts who’ve mastered the style. They walked us through the basics of organic modern design—and shared some of their favorite organic modern design ideas with us.
Meet the Expert
- Ginger Curtis is the founder and principal designer of Urbanology Designs, a design house based in Texas.
- Annie and Jordan Obermann are the founders and principal designers of Forge & Bow Dwellings, a full-service design and build boutique based in Colorado.
- Denise Rives is the owner and principal designer of Rives Interiors, a boutique interior design firm based in Colorado.
Set the Scene With Pretty Neutrals
Organic modern design is earthy and minimal, so set the scene with a neutral-packed palette. Fill your home with earthy browns, creamy whites, and soft grays, and don’t be afraid to play with contrast.
Put Greenery Everywhere
Plants are a staple in organic modern design, so stock up on greenery and put it absolutely everywhere.
“If natural materials are missing from the design, it is not organic modern,” the Obermanns say. Curtis recommends sprinkling plants and organic accents throughout your space.
If you want to make a statement, Rives suggests crafting a plant-lined accent wall.
Play With Soft, Organic Shapes
Organic modern design is filled with curves and arches. Why? The shapes nod to modernism’s sleek lines, while mimicking some of the softer edges found in nature. Curtis recommends stocking up on “earthy, organic sculptures and pieces," so keep an eye out for curved couches, round armchairs, and other sculptural finds.
Keep Clutter to a Minimum
At its core, organic modern design is still modern design, so stay away from clutter and excessive decoration.
“Organic modern design is all about living clutter-free, without the sterile coldness you can get in a strictly modern space,” Rives says. “All organic elements should be subtle and not overwhelming. Add just the right amount of décor to soften and surprise modern design, but not clutter it.”
Add just the right amount of décor to soften and surprise modern design, but not clutter it.
Line Your Walls and Ceilings With Wood
Wood is one of the most popular natural materials around, which makes an easy addition to any organic modern décor scheme.
“If we want a space to feel warm, we almost always have wood in the design,” the Obermanns say. “If hardwood floors are not compatible with the use of the space, we will bring wood in through millwork, wall treatments, or lighting.” Remember, you can always fill your space with wood furniture, too.
Stock Up on Unique Pieces
Since organic modern design is so minimalist, you can focus on quality over quantity—filling your space with a few core pieces that really make an impact.
“I love bringing in anything that is textural and handmade,” Curtis says. “These items make the connection between artistry and nature—beckoning you to not only look, but feel.”
Sneak in Pops of Color
Organic modern design may be big on neutrals, but there’s still plenty of room to play with color. “Sometimes people are afraid to use color with this style, but don’t be,” Curtis says. “A marigold pillow, a deep rust velvet chair, or a splash of color in your rug will all be of value and interest to your space.”
Make the Most of Your View
“Organic modern design is all about bringing the outdoors inside,” Rives says. Take full advantage of all the windows and glass doors in your space. Leave these glimpses of the outdoors uncluttered, letting in as much natural light and stunning scenery as you can.
Sprinkle in Ceramics
As you stock up on organic accents, remember that plants aren’t the only thing on offer. Earthy pieces, like ceramics, are welcome, too. The Obermanns recommend snagging some hand-glazed ceramics or stocking up on zellige tile. These accents will pair beautifully with the rest of your space, adding another layer of texture to your decor scheme.
Add Texture to Your Walls
Modern interiors are often filled with crisp white walls. But since organic modern style is all about warmth and texture, your walls can handle more than a simple coat of paint. With a layer of concrete, a skim coat of stucco, or some warm wood panels, you can make your walls feel softer—and your space feel cozier.
Find Beauty in Weather and Wear
Nature isn’t perfect, and organic modern design sees this as a beautiful thing. “Earthy influences highlight the beauty of the organic, the worn, the patina, the natural,” Curtis says. Embrace the texture of chipped ceramics, the soft color of worn-in leather, and the storied personality of weathered wood furniture.
Keep Your Lines Clean
“Organic modern is a minimalist design style where natural elements are introduced to bring warmth and energy to a clean-lined environment,” Rives says. The key to achieving this balance? Keep your lines clean. Stock up on sleek furniture that would suit any modern interior. Then layer in organic elements—like lush plants and natural materials.
Soften Your Space With Cozy Accents
One of the hallmarks of organic modern design? A warm, welcoming feel. Be sure to pair your sleekest pieces with plush pillows and fluffy blankets. These accents will soften your space, making your clean-lined modern furniture feel genuinely cozy. Just favor options made from organic textiles, and add them anywhere that needs an extra dose of comfort.
Add a Stone Statement-Maker
One material designers say you should definitely include in your organic modern interior? Stone. Rives recommends a stone accent wall, Curtis suggests a stone backsplash, and the Obermanns say there are all kinds of stones worth considering—“soapstone, carrara marble, travertine, slate”—as you fill your space with earthy accents and materials.
Give Your Space a Lived-In Feel
Modern design puts function first. So your space shouldn’t just look beautiful—it should feel great to live in, too. Design a layout that supports your everyday activities. Make sure your furniture feels comfortable. And embrace imperfection. “We like to use natural materials in almost any design, simply because [they make the space] feel touchable and lived in,” the Obermanns say. When a space feels too pristine, guests may be reluctant to kick back and relax. But when a space feels lived-in, they’ll feel right at home.
Make the Look Your Own
“Organic modern can be beautiful in its minimalism, but it is a great base that you can build on with other designs on the spectrum,” the Obermanns say. So don’t focus on creating a picture-perfect example of organic modern style. Instead, draw inspiration from the style, and weave in other pieces and personal touches as you see fit.
“A beautiful interior without story is a melody without lyrics, a vase without flowers,” Curtis says. “We believe anyone can create a modern style for a room. But layering our lives' stories—and creating a space that is deeply personal—should be the ultimate goal.”