This term is probably the most misunderstood in the world of interior design. Contemporary, unlike the other types of design is not really a definitive style. It is often used synonymously with modern, which is tied to a definite period in history and is a design movement with specific rules. Correctly used, contemporary style actually means of the momentu2014so it is constantly changing over time.
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Contemporary design is all about whatu2019s hot right now. If you want to get more specific, it could be defined as a departure from traditional decorating principles. Contemporary is considered a fluid style that would rather break the rules than make them. In fact, contemporary design even draws from other periods in history, borrowing elements from a variety of styles to create its unique look.
Contemporary style emphasizes lines and angles, as does modern design. And like modern design, contemporary interiors rely heavily on minimal furnishings, open spaces and natural light. While these similarities contribute to the confusion between the two styles, contemporary is more comfortable and welcoming than its modern counterpart.
While it may be difficult to pin down contemporary design, we can isolate a few general traits that differentiate it from other styles. Contemporary style is identified by its simplicity. While it leans toward linear design and minimal ornamentation, that doesnu2019t mean you canu2019t create a sense of warmth through natural fabrics, pops of subtle color and curvy shapes. A good rule of thumb for creating contemporary spaces is to go with a neutral color scheme, casual feel and nature inspired accessories.
In contemporary interiors, empty space is also considered part of the design. In other words, contemporary design values negative space as much as it does whatu2019s in it. Although, a large space with too few furnishings can make a room feel too cold and impersonal. In an expansive room with soaring ceilings, choose furnishings, art and accessories that fit the overall scale of the space.
Color and Fabrics
Neutral colors like white, taupe, beige, brown, cream, black and gray create the foundation of contemporary design. Consider monochromatic or tone-on-tone color palettes to create the quintessential contemporary space. Choose neutral shades with interesting undertones, such as gray with blue, creamy pink or beige with a hint of ochre. Focus pops of color on an accent wall, artwork, area rugs or an upholstered chair.
Natural fabrics like linen, silk, wood and cotton add texture, warmth and visual interest to open floor plans, which are common in contemporary homes. Solid fabrics are preferable, but you can still bring in pattern through geometric and abstract prints in the form of decorative pillows, rugs or a throw.
Furnishings should reinforce the clean lines and smooth surfaces inherent in contemporary design. Avoid furniture with ornate carving or over-ornamentation. Keep profiles slim but substantial. Brighten things up by using light wood tones and stains in shades like blond maple or natural birch.
Glass and metallic surfaces also keep the mood light. Stainless steel, nickel and chrome are popular, but polished and brushed brass, gold and copper achieve the same effect while adding visual warmth. Stay away from loose slipcovers and skirted seating. Upholstered furniture should look tailored and free of fuss.
Lighting and Flooring
Lighting design is of utmost importance in a contemporary interior. Table and floor lamps make an artistic statement with angles, arches and straight lines. Metallic finishes contrast with natural linen or burlap shades. Recessed and track fixtures are used for task and accent lighting. Simple chandeliers and pendants will help diminish the height of a tall ceiling.
Flooring options in contemporary design favor hard surfaces versus wall-to-wall carpeting. Natural stone tile, dramatic dark wood planks or stained concrete ground a contemporary space much the same as area rugs and carpet. However, in colder climates, throw rugs may be a necessity. Avoid traditional styles like Orientals or overly feminine florals. Natural fiber rugs such as seagrass, jute or sisal give contemporary rooms a relaxed, inviting look and feel.
Green and Adaptive Design
Eco-friendly design elements and materials are popular in contemporary home design. Flooring such as sustainable bamboo or recycled glass countertops are ideal choices for contemporary architecture. Soaring windows and skylights help cut down on electricity usage. Solar panels and other energy-saving features are the perfect complement to contemporary design.
Increasingly common in contemporary homes are adaptive features that evolve with a familyu2019s needs. Moveable walls and partitions, pocket doors, first floor master suites, wider halls and doorways, easy access showers and finished basements give homeowners the opportunity to occupy a single residence for a lifetime. Adaptive design is well suited for young families, accommodates multi-generational housing needs and allows homeowners to age in place.