Contemporary Design

Essentially, contemporary is simplicity, subtle sophistication, texture and clean lines help to define contemporary style decorating.

Use of Colour

Neutrals, black, and white are the main colours in contemporary style interiors. The palette is often punched up and accented with bright and bold color. Black is often used to ground and define a contemporary style room. With walls painted in a basic neutral, you have a wonderful backdrop for bold coloured accessories. If the walls and windows are painted in pastels, the trims should be neutral. If a wall is a bright, bold colour, neutrals should be used everywhere else.

Lines and Space

  • The most obvious and distinctive element of a contemporary style interior design is line. It’s found in architectural details, use of bold color blocks, high ceilings, bare windows, and geometric shapes in wall art and sculpture.
  • The bare space, on walls, between pieces of furniture, and above in upper areas, becomes as important as the areas filled with objects. In contemporary interiors, less is more. Each piece stands out as individual and unique.
  • Take advantage of structural elements. Air ducts may hang from a ceiling, broken bricks provide texture and stability, and exposed plumbing pipes are perfectly acceptable in a contemporary style interior. To draw the eye, paint these structural details in bold contrasting colors, or to diminish their importance, blend them with the walls.

Contemporary Style Furniture

Furniture pieces should make a bold statement but at the same time be simple and uncluttered, without curves or decoration. Smooth, clean, geometric shapes are important. Upholstered furniture is typically black, white, or other neutral tones in textured natural fibers found in wool, cotton, linen or silk to add textural appeal. Pillows add a shot of color and texture in clean geometric shapes.


Floors in a contemporary style home should be bare and smooth in wood, tile, or vinyl. If you must use carpet for sound control or warmth, choose commercial grades. Add color and texture with plain or geometric-patterned area rugs.

Lighting Considerations and Art

  • Track lighting and recessed lighting help to wash a wall in light.
  • In-home renovations or new construction, consider installing cove lighting or indirect light. Add color and metallic elements on the light fixtures. By using spotlights or can lighting directed towards an art piece will help to draw the eye to the pieces you want to focus on. Contemporary style sculptures or art on a stand can be placed at eye level by using a structural column or pedestal.
  • Frames in high-gloss or matte black, natural wood, or metal finishes are great for artwork. If you must put several pieces together, hang them close together so they give the feeling of one large piece instead of many small pieces.
  • Avoid putting up too many art pieces. Open space is equally important as the pieces you put in the space.

Other Design Elements

  • Generous use of metal, stone, and opaque or clear glass works well in a room decorated in a contemporary style.
  • To soften and warm up space, add heavily textured fabrics in plain colors for window treatments, pillows, or rugs.
  • Colorful, and overly patterned items should be avoided since they confuse a plain space that is key to a contemporary style home. Two-tone prints work well. Envision a striped black and white pillow on a black leather chair, a large checkered pillow thrown on a plain floor, or bold, heavily textured striped rug to anchor solid colored, sleek furniture.
  • Keep dinnerware contemporary, too. There are a number of geometric shapes, bold colors, and interesting styles available. Bring in texture with silverware, napkins, placemats, and centerpieces.


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