To begin with, ‘modern’ is a very misunderstood term; it is rarely defined in terms of geography and often confused with contemporary, which refers to what is currently trending. If we go by the book, the modern era was over in the 1950s. Everything that came after is postmodern. Though historically correct, this would be a very limited and literal way of looking at modern home design. In fact, how the layman understands the term ‘modern’ is quite different. For us, whatever is not traditional is modern, by the rule of exclusion. 

What do we mean by modern home design in India?

modern home design-yellow sofa-blue armchair
Open layout with pops of colour balanced with wood is perfect Indian tastes

If we were to explain it at a very basic level, interiors that are apartment-friendly are described as ‘modern’ by most people. One of our most popular interior designers, Heny Savla, puts it like this:  

“Interiors that are straight-lined, minimal in spirit if not in form and have seamless finishes are synonymous with modern in India.”

This may not overlap with the textbook definition of modern home design. However, that is exactly how the majority of Indian homeowners view modern interiors. 

To get a deeper understanding of what modern means in terms of style, we caught up with Payal Bagzai, Design Head for Livspace, our go-to expert for all style-related queries. And here is what she had to say:

“The Indian version of modern design draws heavily from the art deco style. So you will see bold statement pieces, geometric shapes, sheen-and-shine upholstery and the use of curvy forms. The Indian aspect comes through in the form of local art and a bouquet of warm tropical colours.”

Where do we see modern home design?

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Urban Indian kitchen with breakfast counter that doubles up as workstation

Typically, we see a move towards modernity in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai. In such places, homeowners have an urban lifestyle and need homes to support that. More people in big cities also live in apartments and hence , need interiors that work well in such spaces. In fact, in metros, there is also peer pressure to be perceived as ‘modern’.

We also see a rise in the popularity of modern home interiors in cities that have an inherently young population (read millennials), such as Hyderabad or Pune. They have now become homes for the Indian tech industry and have a thriving cosmopolitan culture. These well-travelled young people are buying homes and opting to design it in the most contemporary way. Articles

Who opts for modern home design?

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People often look at modern interiors from the lens of their budget and needs

According to Heny, two very distinct groups of people opt for modern home design. The first is a younger group of those we describe as millennials, like yours truly. This is a group of social media-friendly and surf-happy people who read everything off the Internet and come to interior designers armed with images saved from Pinterest. 

The other group is aged between 35 to 45 years — the slightly more mature generation who often have kids or elderly parents staying with them. They are more concerned about the details than just the overarching aesthetic of their homes. They come with requirements like storage, functionality, technical questions about modular furniture and budgets. 

What is common to both groups is the desire for homes that support their very urban and often busy lifestyles while catering to their unique requirements, such as me-time, gaming zones, kid- or elder-friendly furniture etc. 

Now that we have an understanding of what modern home design means, let’s break it down to its most essential aspects. 

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What are the most important aspects of modern home design?

#1: Storage

Storage is one of the most integral parts of any home. A homeowner may skimp on furniture or fancy decor but you rarely will see them skimp out on storage space. 

How much storage do modern Indian homes need?

modern home design-glass wardrobe-l-shaped wardrobe
Always go for 10% more storage than you currently need

Indians are culturally inclined to opt for more storage space than they need. Thank you minimalism, we may like you in theory but that doesn’t mean we will get rid of our favourite armchair handed down over generations. Nor are we sold on the idea of throwing away things, like those slightly damaged electronics or something of sentimental value like a baby’s crib. So we definitely need storage space — and plenty of it. 

Millennials often opt for more space than they currently need because they are planning for a growing family. So there is no upper limit on how much storage space Indian homes require; the more the merrier!

How is this storage added to the home?

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We usually visualise cramped ugliness in our head when we imagine too much storage. But the modern way of adding storage is quite different. It stands out because we are not adding deadbeat lofts everywhere. Instead, wardrobes are full-height, meaning they cover the space from the floor to the ceiling. Moreover, furniture like couches and beds often have storage under them to keep things we do not need on a daily basis. So modern homes have just as much storage as traditional ones; the way it is included in the scope of design has become smart. 

#2: Space utilisation

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Modular furniture is faster while customisation is for better space-optimisation

Just because you have tons of storage space in your house doesn’t mean you have optimised your space. Surprised? Payal explains that space optimisation is more about doing the best you can with what you have. And that is where the debate of modular versus customised furniture comes in. 

Modular versus custom furniture

Modular furniture is essentially made from preset dimensions, often in factories, and assembled on-site. It’s faster, has better finishing and comes with a set of warranties.

Custom furniture is made on-site as per specific dimensions. So it fits your space like a glove and stays true to your design inspiration.

So what would you pick? Payal says there is no hard and fast rule.

“If you want furniture that is available easily and quickly and falls within an affordable price range, opt for modular. If you don’t intend to move from your home or have a specific design in mind, custom might be your best choice.”

Want to know more? Read: Top 5 Reasons Why People Customise Furniture

#3: Functionality versus aesthetics

It’s important to fully comprehend what we mean by ‘functionality’ for a home. 

“Your home is functional if it supports all your lifestyle choices and caters to all your needs.”

We may have erred on the side of drama in the heading but it is not an either-or choice. A modern Indian home can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. And it most often is. How we arrive at this perfect balance of functionality and aesthetics is an interesting story. 

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30-somethings are more inclined towards styling and decor

Heny tells us that the younger homeowners, the 30-somethings, come to them with mood boards that lean towards decor. They have clear ideas about how to style an area or a corner that is totally Insta-worthy. They want an accent wall that will look great as a backdrop for video calls. All these are valid requirements and the designer’s job is to ask them relevant questions to add the functional aspect to their home interiors. For instance, do they eat at a dining table? If not, then can the dining space be converted into a reading nook?

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The 40-somethings want more of details about their interiors

The 40-somethings are more measured and come to designers with what they need, such as a kitchen that a household help will be comfortable cooking in or a master bedroom that must have a walk-in closet. Here, the designer’s job is to ask them what colours they like. Do they want their home to have certain textures? Would they consider panelling to give their living room a focal point?

Hence, the designer’s expert eye can bridge the gap between just a pretty home and a functional but boring home.

Want to know how much an interior designer charges? Click here

#4: Colours, textures and more

yellow sofa-wooden bar unit
Millennials make bolder colour choices
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The older generation is more cautious about colour

Modern homes are restrained in their use of colour. However, in the Indian context, anything without a pop of colour is considered dull. So modern Indian homes have colour, but not too much of it. Often, textures like exposed bricks or woven rattans are used to create visual interest where the use of colours is minimal. 

How colour and texture come into the interiors is also distinctly different for the two age groups we have been discussing. Millennials are bolder in their choice of implementing colours. They don’t shy away from going for a bright yellow sofa if it gives character to their living room. The 40-somethings are more cautious. They consider the fact that a yellow sofa may go out of fashion in a couple of years so it is better to stick with a neutral one. They would probably choose to add colours using soft furnishings such as rugs and cushion covers that can be changed easily. 

Designer Speak: Here’s how you can get modern interiors right…

To sum this rather fruitful discussion on modern home design, our designers came forward with their suggestions on what you should keep in mind as homeowners.

interior designer-livspace
Heny Savla, Interior Designer, Livspace

“The space that you have is your first resource. You must work with it and for it. The design elements you pick must make the best use of your space.”

Heny Salva, Interior Designer

interior designer-livspace
Payal Bagzai, Design Head, Livspace

“I live by the rule that form follows function. Always begin with what you need and then figure out how you can make it look pretty.” 

Payal Bagzai, Design Head, Livspace

If you enjoyed reading this story, also read: How to Design a Minimal Home that Indians Can Fall in Love With.

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