A perfectly chic marriage of minimalism and modernism, it is impossible not to love Contemporary design. It has a kind of effortless sophistication that elevates any space. Those captivatingly clean lines along with a bright and airy style are what defines the 21st century. But, how do you actually define what is Contemporary decor?
Let’s start with the basics and break it down to room by room design principles. Here is your ultimate guide to Contemporary decor today.
What is Contemporary Decor?
Contemporary decor is one of the hardest styles to define. By its dictionary definition, the word Contemporary simply means “of the moment.” Of course, what is “of the moment” changes over time and so does the nature of Contemporary decor. What was Contemporary in the 1990s is considerably different from what we see today. Unlike industrial, French Provincial, and other popular styles, the core characteristics simply can’t be static.
In the 2020s, Contemporary is all about neutral colours and minimalism. While Modern design is focused on clean lines, Contemporary design takes it to the next level by flirting with a starkness but never crossing that line. The shapes and lines border on boxy but take a nod from the Art Deco and add a playful French-inspired twist that softens the style.
While it’s easy to spot Contemporary design, it’s rare to see it in isolation. By its nature, the decor creates a neutral palette for playing with accent designs. It’s a gorgeous backdrop for making glam elements pop or adding a modern flavour to retro styles. You can easily play with shabby chic or farmhouse styles while maintaining a refined look, thanks to the elegance of a Contemporary foundation.
Where Does Contemporary Design Come From?
While being “of the moment” creates an ever-evolving concept, Contemporary decor does originate from a specific period in time. Nestled between the Modernism period that began in 1875 and the Post-Modern era that started in the early 1980s, the new and much-loved style was born.
During the 1970s, the concept of Contemporary design came to the forefront. Looking back at Modern, Traditional, and Art Deco influences while embracing Futuristic concepts, the style creates its own unique aesthetic.
What Defines Contemporary Design?
Want to create a fresh looking decor at home? Decorating with a Contemporary flair is all about being strategic and incorporating just the right amount of the right elements. Familiarise yourself with the core elements of a Contemporary space so you can make it your own.
Designer Tip: When you are learning about home decor, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the different periods of design and architecture. Reading a laundry list of famous names in interior design and popular designer furniture brands can start to feel a bit intimidating — but this isn’t a uni class! Remember what is memorable and forget about the rest. We promise there is no quiz at the end. Style is about having fun and finding what you love.
Creating a Contemporary Vibe with Colour
For a space that feels at “of the moment” in the 2020s, stick with neutrals. It’s the foundational rule for creating that modern feeling. For all of your core elements look to shades of white, grey, and beige. You can add depth with black and experiment with cool and warm tones.
Neutrals don’t have to be boring so make it your mission to add interest throughout your space. Pastels are still on-trend so experiment with them. In fact, pastels have been in style for so long that they themselves have become a new neutral. Incorporate them wherever you want without worrying about them becoming dated.
When you are working with a primarily neutral colour palette, it is crucial to get to know colour theory. If you have forgotten those art concepts from your old art classes, pull out your colour wheel.
To create a luxurious and current looking decor, spend the time getting to know how to play with analogous colours (the ones that are next to each other on the wheel) and complementary shades (the ones that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel).
When you are layering and want colours to generally feel like they match each other, go with those analogous shades. A simple way to think about this is to stick with a warm or cool colour palette. So, for example, if you want to go with grey as your primary neutral, make sure that all of your neutral shades have those blue, green, or purple bases. Love a warmer, more ivory tone? Make sure that your primary pieces have that slightly yellow, orange, or red base. Again, don’t be shy to move to a pastel tone. This will still come across as a neutral.
As you are dealing with neutrals, you’ll find it is hard to immediately tell if you are looking at a cool tone or warm tone. When in doubt, hold up the colour between a block of pure blue and pure red (or just right in the middle of your colour wheel). Unless it has a pure white base, you will see it learning one direction or the other.
Creating a primarily neutral colour palette makes texture a central focus. In fact, having that mix of texture is just as important as having a range of colour. The more that you stick to the same tone, the more essential that it is to play with textures. Go wild with leather, fur, wood, rattan, and anything else that catches your eye. Having that visual interest is essential and it is what creates a professional grade look.Expert Tip
Types of Contemporary Design
Contemporary decor rarely exists in isolation. That tricky thing about having a space feel current is that it needs to subtly embrace key trends of the moment. Keep reading for a few decor blends that are becoming quintessential 2020s looks.
Blending Contemporary and Mid-Century Modern
A Contemporary Mid-Century Modern fusion is such a fun way to create a retro vibe without it feeling too heavy-handed. Look toward those mid-century trends that you love and pull in their details. Think shag rugs, wooden elements, and maybe even a splash of that iconic mustard yellow. It adds life and character while staying anchored by your classic Contemporary pieces.
Contemporary with Traditional Elements
Traditional decor style is another incredible but slightly dangerous trend to play with. As beautiful as those classic pieces and antique elements can be, few of us want to create a replica of Nana’s house. That’s why establishing crisp and cool Contemporary styles before adding in Traditional elements like antique metallic frames or floral prints is important.
Adding Eclectic Fun to Contemporary Spaces
Not sure what to do with that rug from Turkey? Have a lamp from Bali? It’s all too easy to create a cheap tourist shop vibe when you go a bit too ethnic (read: souvenir heavy) with your decor. On the other hand, once you have established a classic and classy decor style, eclectic pieces feel expensive and intriguing.
Adding a Rustic Feeling to a Contemporary Room
While too much wood will transport you to a discount hunting lodge, adding just the right amount makes a space feel warm and inviting. Create interest with a rich wood grain or play up the modern lines of your space with Scandavian inspired natural elements.
What Is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Decor?
One of the biggest questions many people have is about Modern vs. Contemporary design. So, what is the difference exactly between the two styles? Well, frankly it is quite difficult to say. Truth be told, there is a lot of crossover between the two styles. On top of that, defining Contemporary style is a moving goalpost.
That said, one of the biggest notable differences in 2020s decor is that Contemporary leans more to a purely neutral palette. In many fully Contemporary spaces, we are talking about a colour continuum of blacks, greys, and whites. Meanwhile, Modern design tends to embrace more earth tones. It’s common to see those olive greens and rusty reds that would usually just be accent colours used throughout a Modern home space.
Creating a well-appointed space is never a simple copy and paste process. For an elevated decor, you want to create a space that is completely curated. It should reflect your life and who you are. It’s easy to fall in love with the tailored feeling of a Contemporary space but you’ve gotta make it your own. Never limit yourself to one style. Shop the decor styles like you’re walking through a grocery store and only grabbing what you need and want.Expert Tip
How to Create Contemporary Decor Styles
Figuring out how to redecorate your space doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Bringing in a single piece or even simply removing one can change the feeling in a room. Keep reading here for a breakdown of how to style each room, along with some tips that won’t break the bank.
Contemporary Decor on a Budget
Home remodels can get seriously expensive and, in many cases, it’s a completely unnecessary expense. If the bones of your space are in good shape, you don’t need to start from scratch. The old if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it adage is actually a solid design principle. When you are just looking to freshen up your home, start small.
Here’s a quick and easy to-do list for refreshing your space:
- Declutter: Let’s face it. A messy space can quickly overwhelm even the chicest of homes. This is doubly true when you’re working with a modern style that embraces minimalism.
- Paint: Brighten and lighten your space with a coat of paint. From furniture to walls to ceilings, freshen up anywhere in need of a facelift.
- Change Your Light Fixtures: This is the fixture that tends to show its age the fastest. Find something that reflects the atmosphere you want to create.
- Update Your Window Treatments: This is another easy place to brighten and modernise your space.
- Upgrade Your Hardware: It might seem small but the hardware on your cabinets and doors can play a major role in how modern your space feels. Even those electrical plugs and light switches make a surprisingly big difference.
How to Style a Contemporary Bedroom
Contemporary bedrooms are truly underrated. That’s because people often associate the decor with a cold and overly stark space. This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth though! In fact, if you want to capture that luxury hotel feeling, this is the best style to embrace. Utilise the neutral colours, bright space, and airy atmosphere to create a tranquil retreat.
Of course, it all starts with the neutrals. Create a clean palette of colour then play with textiles to create a truly lush space. Pull in those delicate rosy blushes and subdued mint greens to design a space that is literally easy on the eyes. Layer up with as many textiles as you reasonably can to create a luxurious and cosy feeling. You spend a whole lot of time in bed and it is the place to unwind and rejuvenate yourself so really treat yourself here.
If you have heavy drapes, consider upgrading to wooden blinds or a modern curtain style that features a thermal light-blocking panel hidden in the back. Again, think minimalistic and light. Be sure that you can fully open them in the morning to create brightness. For an evening ambience, look to a modern lighting fixture. This can be the place for a real statement piece that elevates your space so start with a totally open mind and look far and wide for the perfect one.
Wood is a perfect way to add warmth while maintaining a Contemporary vibe. That might mean swapping your bed frame or headboard for a modern wooden style or just adding a timeless wood storage chest. Again, simply look to whatever calls out to you but be wary of anything overly fussy or ornate.
Last but not least, clear out your space. From getting rid to clutter on the nightstand to knocking down a wall to create an open floor plan, consider all of the ways you can make the space feel more free-flowing.
Creating a Contemporary Kitchen at Any Budget
Polished minimalism is the name of the game here. The perfect Contemporary kitchen is simple but endlessly chic. We are talking sleek stainless steel everything and fresh white countertops often offset by dark cabinetry. And that kitchen counter clutter? We’re hiding it behind closed doors.
Quick Kitchen Upgrades
Craving a weekend kitchen makeover? Stock up on storage supplies and take a long hard look at what you’ve got sitting out. If you’re like most of us, it definitely might include a random mix of worn-down essentials and stuff you actually don’t use at all. If you don’t use it all day long, it probably doesn’t need to be constantly accessible.
Designer Tip: While we often talk about styles where form follows function, Contemporary decor definitely prioritises form. That means what is on display should be worthy of display. If you can upgrade simple things like your toaster or coffeemaker, do it. If you can tuck away the blender, find a place where it’s easy to access but not an eye-sore. Sometimes the best way is to find creative beautiful storage fixes. Search Pinterest for inspiration that works with your home. You won’t believe what a difference the right storage solutions can make.
If you have any spaces that can be painted or scrubbed down, now is the time. Kitchens tend to take a serious beating so simply wiping down the walls and freshening up areas of paint can really go a long way. If it’s doable, upgrading your kitchen backsplash can be truly transformative but relatively inexpensive.
Once you have a clean and white space, make it pop. Here is where you can get dramatic with colours. Put up a bright turquoise wall hanging. Go for fire engine red towels. Having just a handful of accents allows them to truly shine.
Full Kitchen Makeover
When you are ready for big changes in your kitchen, go sleek and modern. Look to marble or granite in white or another very light shade for both the countertops and the flooring. Swap out any dated appliances for stainless steel pieces. If you’ve got kids and are worried about fingerprints on such a shiny surface, go for a matte stainless steel finish.
To make your newly white surfaces shine bright, interior designers often look to dark cabinetry. This can be a risky choice if you have a small space so proceed with caution. On the other hand, if you have a good-sized kitchen with a fair bit of natural light, embrace it. It will keep a timeless and elegant feeling for decades. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge, you might consider looking at new cabinet doors or even just hardware to mix things up.
For larger kitchens, an island is worth its weight in gold. It creates a perfect gathering space and adds storage. Add some bar-style seating and you have an easy informal space for meals.
Essentials in a Contemporary Living Room
As with any room in a Contemporary home, you will want to start by creating that base of neutrals. Play around with pastels and shades of whites. If you already have a sofa that you love, take a cue from it. You can go with almost any colour of sofa but you will need to keep it restrained in other areas if your couch is a darker tone.
If you have any dated wallpaper or fussy drapes, pull them down. Look to sheer or semi-sheer window treatments beside crisp and clean wall colours. Anything that is floral, fringed, or fussy has to go. If your light fixtures are dated, upgrade to track or recessed lighting,
Designer Tip: Remember that design styles are often defined by their lines. For Contemporary decor, it is all about that strong straight line. This standout feature can get easily lost as you layer pieces in your living room. Always keep an eye out for maintaining those bold vertical and horizontal lines whenever you can. If your space lacks it, add art and wall hangs that create a more dramatic structural line.
For living rooms with carpet, consider an upgrade to wood or tile. Your investment will last for ages and it will keep the space feeling fresh. For added comfort, you can always add an area rug or two, but that wall-to-wall carpeting will instantly date any home.
How to Do a Contemporary Bathroom Remodel
Clean, simple, and elegant. When you are designing a Contemporary bathroom, your goal is to make it feel like an oasis. To create that spa-like feeling, you already know what you’ve got to do. Get rid of that clutter! If you find the right kind of shelves and storage boxes, you can literally stack your stuff up to the ceiling and have it look good. Meanwhile, crowding toiletries around your sink will always make even the biggest space feel cramped.
Play around with neutrals and pastels then ground the space with black cabinetry. Again, keep an eye out for maintaining those clean lines as you pick out minimalistic fittings. Floating sink basins continue to be a major trend so it’s worth considering too. One of these will instantly create that Contemporary vibe but think it through before you take the leap. If you absolutely need that storage space, you might end up creating a cluttered look but storing everything in the open space below the sink. If you have space to store without using that area under the sink, embrace the trend.
So, what is Contemporary decor going to look like for you? Share this post with that design-savvy someone in your life and start planning your masterpiece.