At its core, contemporary style is simple and sophisticated. It’s not exactly minimalist, but it does follow a “less is more” philosophy. Clutter, too many patterns, or any other visual “noise” detracts from the light, clean feeling of a contemporary space.
Contemporary design is full of natural elements in fabrics as well as building materials. Quite often, a room’s architecture does much of the talking. While it may look simple, a lot of thought goes into styling and creating a contemporary room. Choosing the right colors, patterns, and more are key elements in nailing this style.
If you’re interested in how to style a contemporary home, I’ve created a handy how-to guide that includes everything you need to think about including into your room’s design. Think of this as the ultimate guide to styling a contemporary home.
Contemporary Color Scheme
When it comes to color, contemporary style is all about bold balance. The most often-used colors in contemporary style are black and white, along with soft neutrals. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a bright shade, but too many vibrant colors can become cluttered, which is the opposite of a contemporary scheme.
Make a statement with a bright, bold wall color and choose neutral furniture and accessories that complement the wall. Because contemporary style is simple, you don’t want too many statement hues competing for attention. That’s where the balance part of “bold balance” comes into play.
When introducing patterns into the room, stick to two-tone prints. Animal prints are an easy choice, but stripes or a geometric design work well too.
You may also enjoy: Mixing Fabric Patterns and Colors Designer Tips
Lines and Space
Contemporary style is all about lines. Everything is well-defined, clean, and simple.
This doesn’t mean everything has to be all angles! In fact, a curved white sofa would fit in perfectly in a contemporary style home. As long as the overall effect of the sofa is clean curves, not overstuffed or designed with superfluous details, it’s perfect for a contemporary living room.
If your home already has features like exposed beams or air ducts, lucky you! These structural elements provide an excellent foundation for a contemporary home. Include them in your design instead of trying to cover up or hide them.
You can also play with lines adding wood on your walls. Hanging wood paneling horizontally on your walls adds a contemporary touch, especially when you look for wood that has a subtle grain. You can carry the hardwood shade that you used on the floors into your walls or pick a complimentary shade.
Another way to play with lines and space is in your staircase and fireplace if your home has them. Experiment with different angular balusters on your staircase – there are vertical and horizontal options to choose from! I especially love using balusters that run horizontal to the staircase to draw your eye up in an unexpected take on this practical element of design. When it comes to your fireplace, look for stones with angles rather than a round and polished natural feel.
PHOTO SUGGESTION: Exposed beams or ductwork in a design
You may also enjoy: Transform Wood Paneling in Your Living Room into a Beautiful Space
When it comes to furniture in a contemporary style home, look for natural fibers and smooth surfaces. Wool, linen, and silk are excellent choices for a contemporary home. They provide some texture without the distraction of a print. For the most part, the main upholstery of your furniture should be solid.
If you choose to use a pattern, keep it graphic or geometric. This is no place for florals or anything cutesy. Throw pillows are an excellent way to incorporate patterns into your design as are blankets if they make sense for the room (living room, study, bedroom, and so on).
When it comes to the construction of the furniture, keep the bases smooth and fuss-free. Wood is an obvious choice here, but metals (or glass for the right piece of furniture) also provide a sleek, smooth foundation.
You may also enjoy: 7 Easy Ways to Mix and Match Throw Pillows [From a Design Pro]
Flooring for Contemporary Homes
I might sound like a broken record here, but again: contemporary style is smooth. Wood, tile, or vinyl are the best choices. If you’re going to choose wood, select a species with a low grain that will be consistent from plank to plank. Wood adds a nice amount of warmth to a contemporary home while keeping the natural elements. An area rug can also warm up a room and reinforce geometric patterns, muted, or be the pop of color in an otherwise black and white room. Animal hides are another contemporary element you can use in your design in lieu of a “traditional” area rug.
If carpet is completely necessary for your space, keep it basic. Ideally select black, white, or neutral in a commercial grade or similar pile.
You may also enjoy: A Guide to Parquet Floors Patterns and More
Natural Light and Light Fixtures
If you’re building a contemporary style home, natural light is key. Lots of big, well-placed windows (with clean lines, of course) can help you achieve this look. If you have the option to add more natural light, do it. A renovation is another great time to add more natural light. Add in a skylight when re-doing your roof, for example!
Now, not everyone has the option to renovate their home to add more windows. What can’t be done naturally can be done with the magic of electricity! For a contemporary style home, one of the most popular lighting options is track lighting. Not only is this an easy way to add lots of light, but the linear nature of track lighting follows a contemporary style.
If you’re using lamps in your room, follow the same principles as furniture: sleek lines, smooth surfaces, and natural fibers for shades. Try to stay away from patterned shades and any decorative elements on stands and bases as much as possible.
You may also enjoy: How to Choose the Perfect Modern Chandelier
Choosing Contemporary Artwork
Everything in contemporary style is very purposeful. Naturally, when it comes to art, don’t overload your walls! One or two pieces that provide a pop of color is enough for a contemporary style home. If you’re hanging multiple pieces on one wall, it’s best to hang them close together to create the illusion of a single piece.
Frames of course follow the other rules mentioned above: keep them fuss-free with clean lines. You can highlight artwork with cans or spotlights, setting a dramatic tone while keeping things (literally) light.
Another way to incorporate contemporary style is by using artifacts, statutes, and sculptures. Fuss-free is best, of course, but you can really play with lines, color, and your own personal decor when selecting these pieces of art to use in your design.
A houseplant can be a work of art, too. For a contemporary design, choose plants that are large, with plenty of drama. Containers should be simple but stylish and sophisticated. Keep plants well-pruned and maintained to preserve the sleek spirit of contemporary style. Read up on some of my favorite plants for improving air quality here!
You may also enjoy: 7 Big Artwork Design Ideas to Make Your Room Pop!
Of course, a key element of contemporary style is that it is of-the-moment. These “rules” aren’t hard and fast and are subject to change with the times. But right now, when choosing ways to style your contemporary home, keep things clean, smooth, and clutter-free!