Contemporary Décor 101: The Philosophy and Basic Elements of Contemporary Home Décor
We inhabit a world full of temptations. One of instant gratification and EXCESS. One-click checkouts, swipe-right dates, and double-tap validation. It’s a dopamine rush like no other. Except it cannot be satiated.
It is in a world such as this, where plenty, plentiful, and I-want-it-now are the norm, that we find an oasis in clean lines, uncluttered textures, and neutral colors.
Yes, we’re talking about a love affair with all-things-contemporary. An antithesis to the clutter that weighs us down. It’s almost as if being simple is rebellious in a world obsessed with more.
What is Contemporary Home décor?
The word “contemporary” comes from the Latin con which means “together with” and tempor which means time. Together, contemporary means “of the moment” or “of the time.” This makes contemporary design rather fluid in nature. Since it is defined by its ability to remain current, defining it as a set style becomes a rather cumbersome process. What was of the moment a hundred years ago is vastly different from what’s of the moment now. We’ve seen trends changing our entire lives. The hippie floral psychedelic 70s, the pop-culture-obsessed 90s (remember that purple wall trend thanks to FRIENDS and the beaded curtains?), and the minimalism of the 2020s. That’s what trends do - they change. And with that, what it means to be “contemporary” changes as well.
Modern versus Contemporary Interiors
While it may seem like “modern” and “contemporary” are the same, and yes, we can agree that the terms can be used interchangeably without anybody having committed blasphemy, they are not the same in interior design.
Contemporary design may be defined by two words:
- i) Current (of the times), and
- ii) Evolving (since times are constantly changing)
Modern design, on the other hand, is used to refer to a reflection of the modern art movement within spaces. It was popular during the middle of the 20th century, roughly from the 1940s to the 1970s.
So how does this translate into interior design? Well, for one, unlike the modern style of interior design, contemporary design does not refer to a specific period. It is constantly evolving.
Here are some ways in which contemporary design is different from modern design:
- Inclusion of earthy tones
- Curvier furniture and leaning into the obliques
- Combining natural material with steel, chrome, and such
The SEVEN Defining Elements of Contemporary décor
With that said, we’ve scoured the internet and magazines to come up with a list of features that define what makes décor uniquely contemporary. And here are the seven defining elements we’ve come up with. Take a look for yourself.
1. Focus on opening up spaces
We love how contemporary interiors are all about the art of simplifying. Contemporary décor uses the basics of line, shape, and form to create an experience that frees the mind. A person entering a contemporary space mustn't feel cluttered within - on the contrary, there should be an almost “sighing out a breath held in for a moment too long but they didn’t realize it until now” moment when one comes in contact with contemporary design.
2. Focus on functionality
Contemporary furniture embraces the idea of purpose and function. With that said, lines, shapes, and forms that are used are simple without running the risk of being boring. Contemporary décor embraces curvatures, jagged lines, and yes, the eclectic at times too. While it is about balance and minimalism like modern interiors, it does so without being rigidly minimal. The idea is to free up physical space and mental space. The art of the essential is the mojo of the contemporary.
3. Neutral colorways
Contemporary interiors tend to embrace contrasting colorways. Unlike modern design, whose bread and butter are monochromes and blending colors, contemporary design takes pleasure in juxtapositions. Stark contracts and monochromes can often be seen in contemporary homes.
So which colors are we talking about? There is, of course, black, white, and grey. Other than these, neutral colors, such as earthier tones, that are not jarring find their way into contemporary design. Yes, we’re talking browns, greens, nudes, and blues.
4. Patterns and textures
Contemporary interior design is all about creating more space and keeping things simple. It does not shy away from using obliques, curves, jagged lines, and geometric patterns. Of course, it is crucial to make sure one doesn’t overdo it with the patterns and goes easy on the, if any, ornamentation. Keep in mind: contemporary is about freeing up space while being bold. Oh, contemporary, constantly keeping us on our toes.
5. Material used
Contemporary home décor almost always embraces natural materials. Wood, marble, limestone, cotton, wool, and linen, are found in plenty in contemporary homes. These are often placed next to materials made of steel, copper, or chrome.
6. Finished to perfection
Since less is more in the world of contemporary, the less needs to be finished to perfection. If there was one term I had to cook up to define the contemporary style of interior design, then it would be “understated affluence.” The idea is to fall into the la la land of luxury without loudspeakers blaring from the terrace screaming “I’m rich!”
7. Emphasis on Light
Contemporary home décor focuses on opening up spaces and allowing natural light to flow in. You may have seen the photos of gorgeous L.A. homes online that feature floor-to-ceiling windows with natural light streaming in plenty. These large windows, along with skylights and translucent glass are used to allow for natural light to enter.
So To Sum It Up
While we would, in an ideal world, like to pride ourselves on writing comprehensive blog posts, summing up everything that makes a home contemporary, and that makes contemporary a home, is not the job of one blog post written by a mere plebeian. Over the next few posts, we’re going to be discussing other elements that go into contemporary interiors. What is the L.A. home vibe? Soft furnishings in contemporary homes? What happens when Contemporary meets Bohemian? And, of course, the future of contemporary in the post-COVID world?
New blog post out every Saturday and Tuesday 5:00 PM. Stay tuned.
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