Recognized by its clean lines and bold shapes, contemporary style projects a sleek, sophisticated aesthetic.
Often confused with mid-century modern, a post-World War II style, contemporary design emerged in the late 20th century. While it’s always evolving to reflect present-day trends and tastes, many of its concepts remain the same. Minimalist furniture, splashes of vibrant color and eye-catching accessories are must-haves in contemporary interiors.
From achieving the right lighting to finding the perfect art to hang on the walls, there are plenty of tips and tricks for creating a contemporary style that you’ll love coming home to:
You have a range of options when it comes to contemporary lighting. Your choices are only constrained by imagination and budget.
Choose floor lamps with strong shapes such as a tree lamp with globe fixtures.
The base of your table lamps should replicate shapes and finishes found throughout your space. For example, if you have a sofa and chairs with squared arms and a rectangular dining table with a sleek stone finish.
Ceiling-mounted light fixtures can depart from the other lighting in the room. These overhead fixtures have the ceiling to themselves, so let them shine. The ceiling is the best place for a contemporary chandelier that acts as a statement piece.
Contemporary design is free of clutter and fuss. Spaces are well-defined, and sightlines flow from room to room. Fabric and finishes are sleek and smooth. Homey or rustic materials, such as quilts, traditional tapestry or needlepoint, need not apply.
Open-floor plans are perfect for contemporary decor, especially spaces with high ceilings. Think of a Manhattan hotel lobby, with furnishings placed in grid-like precision. The look is semi-formal.
Choose bold furniture. Avoid sofas with skirts, lumpy recliners or any seating with vast floral patterns. Instead, opt for sofas with well-defined cushions and contemporary stylings, such as squared arms or exposed legs.
Large sectionals also work well in contemporary spaces.
Coffee tables and end tables can be round, square or rectangular with surfaces made from glass, wood or stone.
Round glass tables with geometric-shaped chrome bases are the hallmark of contemporary dining spaces. However, you can choose tables with glass tops, metal or wood base. A concrete table flanked by modern wooden chairs is a timeless look.
Go bold. Contemporary design typically consists of neutral colors serving as a backdrop for bold, vibrant hues. You can typically find high-contrast color pairings such as black and white, pink and green, or garnet and gold in contemporary interiors.
If your walls are white, add contrast by painting the baseboard or trim in black or dark gray. Contrast adds drama. Balance deep purple pillows on a royal blue sofa with similar colors on the wall or lampshades.
Accessories and art
When it comes to accessorizing contemporary interiors, quality trumps quantity. Choose bold, significant pieces instead of collections or knickknacks. A contemporary sculpture made from materials present in the rest of the room adds interest to console tables or credenzas.
A large blown-glass bowl, glass teardrop sculpture or set of metallic orbs make for stunning centerpieces.
Select large-scale art with bold content. Abstract or modern paintings complement the elegant simplicity found in contemporary design. Black and white photography in a metal frame works, as well.
Make sure any art you mount is large enough to cover at least half the size of the furniture it hangs above.
Windows & floors
Wooden floors with wide planks or large tiles are well-suited for contemporary spaces. Choose wood with minimal grain and tile with little to no texture.
Rugs are another way to add texture into a contemporary space. A shag rug or faux animal skin provides added character without interrupting the minimalist vibe in contemporary design.
The same holds true for window treatments. Choose window coverings with clean lines, such as sliding panels, an updated more stylish version of outdated vertical blinds. Roller shades are another option. If possible, mount solid-colored roller shades inside window frames.
When choosing curtains for a contemporary space, keep it simple. Avoid treatments with fringe, tie-backs or swags. Box valances with clean lines work in some contemporary interiors. Rods, finials and rings should be made from materials similar to those found in other pieces in the room. You can attach a marble ball finial to a nickel curtain rod to complement a coffee table with a marble-like surface and nickel base.
Contemporary kitchen and bath
Influenced by modular European design, contemporary-style kitchens are gaining popularity in the United States. However, to achieve that minimalist look, you may have to get custom kitchen cabinetry.
If you just want to renovate a dated kitchen, you can purchase contemporary hardware, including new hinges. Look for chrome or nickel door pulls. Consider replacing formica or granite countertops with stainless steel or quartz.
Contemporary bathrooms feature floating vanities and large mirrors with clean lines. Bath fixtures, including showerheads and lighting, are linear.
Two books and a TV show that can guide your contemporary-style journey:
Merlisa Lawrence Corbett is a writer for BestReviews, a product-review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
How to bring hygge style into your home
The Danish concept of “hygge,” pronounced “hoo-gah,” means cozy, warm and comfortable. Here are some ways to incorporate it into your home.
Create ambience through scents
In tandem with light, scent can be used to create a variety of moods. Aromatherapy offers a host of scents for any mood, and an essential oil diffuser can create aromas that may inspire, focus or relax. For example, lavender scents are known to help soothe and aid in sleep, while lemongrass may alleviate anxiety, and peppermint can help mental acuity. Essential oil diffusers are diverse in design, allowing you to find a style that matches the decor. Some may also glow, change colors and gently hum. Look for high-quality oils made from natural ingredients.
Candles offer both pleasant sights and smells, creating a calming ambience. They can be used almost anywhere in your home, from the living room to the bathroom.
Neutral and natural
When it comes to colors, try to avoid cold, harsh tones. You can use neutral colors to emphasize simplicity. If you like, you can choose lighter pastels or warm options for calming and peaceful vibes.
For appliances and cabinets, opt for natural woods or rustic exteriors if possible rather than cold stainless steel and metal finishes.
Hygge is also about resourcefulness and finding value in the old, so don’t be afraid to repurpose items or keep antiques in circulation. Display pieces, pictures or trinkets that bring you joy and recall happy memories.
Add simple decorations
Less is more when it comes to hygge. Space can be decorated, but avoid creating a space that feels cluttered or overwhelming. A few rustic items work well, especially when paired with textures that are soft or cozy.
Blankets, throw pillows and rugs can be strewn about — faux fur is also particularly hygge. Allow room to cozy up on the floor just as you would on a couch.
Hygge in the bathroom
With the right touches, your bathroom can feel like a spa. It’s another place you should actually want to spend time.
If you have a bathtub, regularly draw baths as a means to decompress, opting for bath bombs and employing candles, calming music and perhaps a good book.
A bath caddy can help you get your accessories in order, including perhaps a nice glass of wine.
If you don’t have a tub, shower bombs can help you relax, as well.
Create a calming bedroom
Through hygge, the bedroom can be a place where you can retreat to relax and enjoy a comfortable, restful night’s sleep. You may even create a space so inviting you want to read, nap, meditate or simply escape from the workday in your bedroom. Of course, breakfast in bed and sleeping in are very in line with a hygge lifestyle. Avoid putting a TV or other screen in the bedroom if you can.
A weighted blanket, though, is a great addition to help you feel warm, cozy and restful.
Embrace outdoor spaces
Consider your outdoor space if you have one. Remember that hygge isn’t an escape of winter weather but an embrace of it. Create an outside space that’s functional and fun in the colder weather.
A firepit or heater allows people to gather outside, and large, comfortable chairs make for a perfect place to enjoy fresh air and a hot drink.
Use lighting to create moods
Lighting is especially important in hygge. It should match your mood and needs, which means you’re likely to want refreshing light in the morning and relaxing light at night. Smart lighting systems offer complete control when it comes to brightness and timing, allowing you to effortlessly create the environment you need throughout the day.
Don’t be shy about exploring color either. Strip lights can be useful to enhance various moods, particularly in places like the kitchen that tend to be fixed when it comes to lighting. We also like sunrise lights to help invigorate as you get moving in the morning. Warm glow string lights can provide a special feeling for the evening.
- Opt for natural candles. Natural candles like beeswax and soy candles are better for a hygge environment. Paraffin wax candles often produce too powerful an aroma, and they don’t burn as clean as other types of wax.
- Create social spaces. Part of hygge is spending time with friends and loved ones, so as you decorate and design, be sure you have spaces for guests to feel comfortable and relaxed, as well.
- Stay organized. Spaces should be tidy and simple. Get into the habit of regularly disposing of things you don’t want or need and embracing what you cherish.
- Avoid screens. Engage with your home and the ones you share it with by putting down your phone and avoiding screens. Crafts, books, yoga, meditation, puzzles and board games are a terrific way to escape electronic devices and soothe your mind.
- Socialize! Enjoy evenings with lively conversation, natural or calming lighting, and of course, a warm drink or two. Good drinks, sumptuous meals, and even outdoor picnics are part of the hygge spirit.