Discover the keys to getting this clean-lined, uncluttered look in any room
In a nutshell, contemporary style is current and new — it’s what today’s designers are creating. Of course, newness isn’t the only defining feature of this popular look. If you think of a spectrum of ornament, with the most embellished being traditional style, contemporary would sit firmly at the opposite end. This style embraces negative space, strong shapes and clean lines, while leaving room for interpretation and experimentation. Contemporary spaces are often minimal and white — but not always: They can also be vibrant, playful and full of color and pattern.
- Clean. Think crisp, clean and sculptural. Shapes are strong, with clearly defined lines, curves and planes. Excess embellishment is considered a distraction and is to be avoided.
- Current. Contemporary style is of-the-moment, incorporating cutting-edge designs and ideas. Exploring trends is a possibility but not a requirement.
- High-contrast. Because the focus is on line and space, this look tends to be high-contrast. Black and white is a classic combination that works well here.
- Cluttered. Furnishings are chosen with care, and accessories are kept to a minimum for a clean, spacious look.
- Heavily adorned. You won’t find ornate moldings, billowing drapes or heavy trimmings. Surfaces tend to be smooth and free of extra adornments.
- Rule-following. Since this style is of-the-moment, the “rules” are constantly being remade. There is plenty of room for interpretation.
Modern and contemporary styles share a few important features: Both emphasize clean lines and minimal adornment. But while contemporary style is influenced by the here-and-now, modern style is firmly rooted in another era: the middle of the 20th century, from the mid-1940s to 1970. Also called midcentury modern, this look includes iconic pieces by a host of innovative designers like Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Eero Saarinen. And while the influence of these pioneers of modern design is certainly felt to this day, contemporary style is not solely defined by this era.
Contemporary style is just as much about the space between objects as it is about the objects themselves. Think of crisp, clean white walls punctuated by simply framed art; sleek chairs atop bare floors; or a few sculptural vases on an otherwise empty tabletop. The open space between objects (also called negative space) increases the visual impact.