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A Guide to Organic Modern Interior Design

organic modern interior design: a guide

As an interior designer, I get asked all the time – “how do I make my home feel warm and inviting, but still contemporary and elegant?”

This is why I love the organic modern interior design style. It’s the perfect blend of beauty, function, warmth, and modern aesthetics. It’s a style that seamlessly bridges the gap between contemporary aesthetics and nature-inspired elements. 

This design trend has gained immense popularity in recent years, replacing more “fixed” styles like mid century modern or Scandinavian interior design – in large part because it offers fluidity and the ability to create a harmonious, inviting, and refreshing living space that lets you combine all the elements you love in a cohesive way. 

In this post, we'll explore what organic modern interior design is, its key features, how to style your home in this style, and how it differs from other popular design styles such as modern, minimalism, and mid-century modern.

What is Organic Modern Interior Design?

Organic modern interior design is the elegant fusion of two seemingly contrasting elements: modern design principles and the natural world. It marries clean lines, minimalism, and functionality with the warmth and textures of the outdoors. The result is a living space that feels effortlessly cozy yet sophisticated. Both contemporary and inviting, it offers a sense of tranquility and connection to nature.

The History of Organic Modern Interior Design

The history of organic modern as a school of thought can be traced back to the 1930’s. It was a natural response to the growing awareness of the importance of the environment and a desire to connect with nature in an urbanized world. 

The style was catalyzed by the concept of organic building put forth by pioneering architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His iconic Fallingwater house, completed in 1939, epitomized this approach, with its cantilevered design seamlessly integrated into the surrounding forest landscape. The style was also shaped by designers and artists like Charles & Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen, and more.

image source: wikipedia

Arguably the breakthrough moment for the growth of the organic modern design style was the 1941 MoMA exhibition Organic Design in Home Furnishings. This pivotal exhibition marked the beginnings of the manufactured organic modern design that we’re familiar with today. The central tenet of organic design in the early 20th century was a focus on handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces and a respect for natural materials. This show addressed the tension between this craftsmanship philosophy and mass-produced, industrial design – a tension which is still felt today.

image source: MoMA

In the latter half of the 20th century, as environmental consciousness grew, organic modern design gained momentum. The movement towards sustainability, a greater appreciation for the beauty of natural materials, and comfortable living solidified organic modern as a distinct interior design style, fusing the clean lines of modernism with a deep reverence for the natural world. Today, organic modern design continues to evolve, with contemporary designers finding innovative ways to integrate organic elements into modern living spaces, reflecting our ongoing commitment to sustainable living and the timeless appeal of nature-inspired aesthetics.

Key Features of Organic Modern Interior Design

Natural Materials

Organic modern interiors often feature a palette of natural materials such as wood, stone, textured textiles, patinated metals, and leather. These materials bring warmth and texture to the space, creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Minimalist Aesthetics

Clean lines, uncluttered spaces, and a focus on simplicity are at the core of organic modern design. This minimalism ensures that natural elements shine through without distraction or overwhelm.

Neutral Color Palette

Given that organic modernism is rooted firmly in inspiration from nature, earthy tones are a cornerstone to the aesthetic. Neutral colors like soft whites, muted grays, greens, clays, and taupes dominate organic modern aesthetic. These colors create a soothing backdrop that complements the natural materials and allows selective pops of color to stand out.

Biophilic Design

Organic modern interior style often incorporates biophilic elements. Biophilic design is the intentional design of spaces that create connections between people and nature – such as large windows to bring in natural light, indoor-outdoor spaces, nature-inspired artwork, and indoor plants.

How to Style an Organic Modern Home

Start with Neutral and Understated Colors

Organic modern interiors inevitably incorporate beautiful moody and dark earthy colors, and occasional pops of color. Just like nature! To keep your home light and bright, begin with a neutral color scheme for walls, floors, and larger furniture pieces. This provides a clean canvas for natural materials, textures, and colorful accents to shine.

Embrace Essentialism

Think of your space as being artfully curated – not ‘decorated’. You can keep your space warmly minimal and clutter-free by incorporating only essential furniture and decor items that are truly special to you. This simplicity and intentionality is key to achieving the organic modern look and a calming, joyful living space. 

Layer Natural Materials & Textures

Integrate warm woods, interesting stone, and other natural materials in furniture, flooring, and decor. Consider reclaimed wood for statement pieces and architectural features like beams and ceilings for a sustainable and unique touch. Layer soft textiles like wool, linen, and leather to introduce texture and coziness to the design.

Iconic Furniture

Organic modern interiors feature beautiful modern furniture pieces crafted with organic shapes and natural materials. Iconic pieces nod to the forefathers of the design style – think Eames lounge chairs, Noguchi coffee tables, and Artek bentwood pieces.

image source: architectural digest

Bring in Greenery

Indoor plants, cut flowers, and arranged branches can infuse nature in your space. Focus on creating intentional focal points in your space with greenery, to keep your space from straying into bohemian design territory. 

Organic Modern vs. Modern

While modern design focuses on clean lines, minimalism, and a monochromatic palette, the hallmark of organic modern design is the incorporation of natural elements and a more relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Organic modern interior design is warmer, while modern design tends to feel cooler, more removed, and more industrial.

image source: decoraid

Organic Modern vs. Minimalism

Organic modern and minimalism both embody simplicity, but they diverge in their approach to achieving it and the overall ambiance they create.

Minimalism, as the name implies, places a primary focus on minimal elements and clutter-free spaces. It can be ruthless in its embrace of the "less is more" philosophy – aiming to create serene and uncluttered environments through a reduction in furniture, decor, and color. Minimalist interiors are characterized by monochromatic color palettes, clean lines, and a strong sense of order. While beautiful, the aesthetic is often cold and clinical, promoting a sense of detachment from worldly possessions. 

In contrast, organic modern design combines simplicity with warmth and comfort. It achieves minimalism through the thoughtful curation of pieces and a neutral color palette, while incorporating elements inspired by the organic world. By integrating wood, stone, and other natural textures, organic modern creates a cozier and more harmonious environment, with an emphasis on comfort and a deeper connection to nature. It is less rigid and more accommodating, welcoming the subtle imperfections and the warmth of natural materials, making it distinct from the stark and austere style of traditional minimalism.

image source: residence magazine

Organic Modern vs. Mid-Century Modern

Organic modern and mid-century modern are two distinct interior design styles that often get compared due to their shared history and affinity for clean lines and minimalist aesthetics. However, they each have their own unique characteristics and inspirations.

Mid-century modern, as the name suggests, harks back to the mid-20th century, particularly the 1950s and 1960s. It’s characterized by iconic furniture pieces like Eames chairs, teak wood furnishings, and atomic-era designs. This style emphasizes functionality, sleek lines, and a blend of contrasting, man-made materials like metal and plastic with wood and fabric. Mid-century modern spaces typically feature bold, vibrant colors alongside neutral tones, and often incorporate geometric shapes and patterns. 

In contrast, organic modern aesthetics – while also valuing clean lines and functionality – is a design trend that focuses on the harmonious integration of natural elements. While it shares furniture shapes and silhouettes with mid-century design, it’s not pigeonholed into this specific aesthetic. Instead, it merges design eras and ideas to create a more fluid and contemporary blend of aesthetics and styles. 

It places a strong emphasis on the use of organic shapes and natural materials, creating a warmer and cozier atmosphere. It also leans away from the bold color palettes of mid-century modern in favor of neutral, earthy tones. While both styles share some commonalities, such as their appreciation for simplicity, their inspirations and the overall ambiance they create are quite distinct.


image source: the spruce

Organic modern interior design offers a beautiful marriage of contemporary aesthetics and the soothing essence of nature. By embracing natural materials, minimalism, and a neutral color palette, you can create a contemporary, inviting, and livable space that harmonizes modern design with the serenity of nature. 

This is my favored style as an interior designer! I design luxury homes in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, and the serene red rocks provide the perfect landscape to celebrate nature and bring complimentary organic elements into your living space. 

Whether you're looking to revamp your entire home or add a touch of organic modern to a specific space, this design style allows you to create a truly timeless and calming sanctuary. Head to my portfolio or Instagram to see examples of the organic modern interior style in action.

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