Clinching Contemporary: Open Up Your Space with Lines, Movement, and Color

The word ‘contemporary’ refers to the here and now, the current era, or to things existing alongside each other. In interior design, however, it refers to a specific set of decor trends and ideals, focusing on space, clean lines, and neutral colors. Not to be confused with ‘modern’ decor, which typically refers to styles from the mid twentieth century focused on themes of industrialization (like art deco and midcentury modern) contemporary design announces an about-face from more traditional types of design. If you want a space free from clutter and you believe that “less-is-more”, contemporary could be the look for you.

A lot of contemporary decor is creating negative space. (By Rodriguez Studio Architecture PC)
A lot of contemporary decor is creating negative space. (By Rodriguez Studio Architecture PC)

I couldn’t say precisely why contemporary design has evolved to put an emphasis on negative space and open-plan rooms. Perhaps as our lives become more complicated, we take comfort in simplicity. As our world gets more crowded, we naturally want to search for a way to consolidate our space. Certainly as technology progresses more and more of our work and possessions exist in cyberspace, and thus we require less storage space and less surface area.

Whatever the answer, one of the mainstays of the contemporary design is learning to balance your space. Less is almost always more.

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Exposed brick, steel, and glass all say contemporary. (By Shaping Your Space)
Exposed brick, steel, and glass all say contemporary. (By Shaping Your Space)

Unlike the ornamentation of more traditional styles and the geometric shapes of modern decor, contemporary is all about the lines. Furniture is typically clean, low, and very unadorned. Patterns are rare in contemporary design, and when they do appear they are typically very simple. In the picture above, the texture of the exposed brick breaks up the design and keeps it from getting monotonous. Materials in this decor are typically modern and industrial–glass, steel, leather–and colors tend to be neutrals–blacks, grays, whites.

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Other materials can be contemporary as well--think form and lines. (By John Lume Architecture, inc. Photo by Sharon Risedorph)
Other materials can be contemporary as well–think form and lines. (By John Lume Architecture, inc. Photo by Sharon Risedorph)

Of course, as with all forms of design, rules are really only there to be broken when necessary. They are more like guidelines than anything else. Wood is one of the most traditional materials there is, but sanded smooth in neutral tones, it fits right into contemporary rooms. The molded wooden chair hails from midcentury modern decor, but it matches the aesthetic. Embracing a decor theme is more about creativity than rigid adherence to standards, especially in your own home where you make all the rules.

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http://www.houzz.com/photos/103381/Sproule-Rowen-contemporary-bedroom-san-francisco
Add in little pops of color to draw the eye and break up monotony. (By J Design Group)

White is the base color for contemporary decor, most definitely. Perhaps it’s the simplicity, or the fact that white is the key to making a small space look larger or for making a dark space brighter. Whatever the case, too much white can quickly become overwhelming, leaving a room looking sterile or unwelcoming. In fact, if you aren’t careful, contemporary decor can go from sophisticated to downright ascetic. That’s why it’s important to break up the landscape with little hints of warmth. For instance, in the picture above, throw pillows and houseplants are used to draw the eye. A couple discreet uses of color are often all you need to keep the neutrals from becoming too monotonous.

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Increasingly, more and more spaces are embracing the contemporary style, going with the less-is-more attitude. With the ever-increasing prices of real estate, many of us are looking to minimize the space we inhabit, and this design trend is perfect for preventing a small space from becoming too cluttered and unlivable. Whether this holds true for you, or you are just looking to simplify your life, the contemporary style combines harmony, unity, and balance.

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