How to Incorporate Contemporary Style into Your Home

While contemporary interiors used to be considered cold and minimalist; in today's homes, they can be both comfortable and welcoming. Today's contemporary style is equally appropriate for cottages and terraces as well as warehouse apartments and large period homes.

What embodies contemporary style?

Fundamentally, a contemporary style of decorating is defined by simplicity, sophistication, and clean lines with a deliberate use of texture and colour. Interiors tend to showcase the surrounding space rather than pieces.

Pieces that are modern, current and “of the moment” are a solid starting point as you develop your concept. However classic, timeless designs often suit this type of scheme, those where the designer is almost as famous as their statement piece.  By focusing on colour, space, and shape, contemporary interiors are minimal and clean. To achieve the look of a contemporary home, it's important to reference to some basic principles.

Line and Space

The most obvious and distinctive element of a contemporary style interior design is the line. Whether straight, vertical, or horizontal, lines or curved shapes, strong visible lines are evident in any contemporary-style home. The line is found in architectural details, use of bold colour blocks, high ceilings, bare windows, and geometric shapes shown 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 the choice of objects and art. In contemporary interiors, less is more. Each carefully chosen piece stands out as individual and unique and talks to the narrative of the overall scheme.

Take advantage of structural elements within a room. Coving, windows and other architectural touches can all be considered, bare bricks and plaster provide texture and stability, and exposed plumbing pipes and air ducts are all perfectly acceptable in a contemporary interior. To draw the eye, paint these structural details in bold contrasting colours, or, to diminish their importance, blend them with the walls.

Use of Colour

Neutrals, black, grey and white are the main colours in contemporary style interiors. However, in a more modern approach to this scheme the basic palette is often accented with bright and bold or warm and soothing colours that work with the neutrals. Once walls are painted in a neutral base colour, you have a readymade backdrop for highlighting with coloured accessories. Of course, using colour this way also means it is easy to switch the effect of these accessories to create an instant update with the seasons or simply for changes sake.

Contemporary-Style Furniture

Contemporary furniture is easily recognisable for its simple and sleek lines. It is very distinguishable from a more traditional style furniture with minimal detailing or carving. Furniture pieces should make a bold statement but at the same time they will be simple in shape and uncluttered, without decoration. 

Smooth, clean, geometric shapes are essential. Upholstered furniture often wears black, white, or other neutral tones, but you can choose the natural fibres found in wool, cotton, linen, silk or tweed to add textural appeal. 

If your room scheme is the neutral background, you can incorporate your favourite colour in a statement piece of furniture that really stands out. Less is always more. Sofas, chairs, and ottomans have exposed legs and omit the skirts, trims, fringes, or tassels often found on more traditional pieces. Tables have strong sleek lines and can feature tops crafted from statement materials such as slate, metal or marble. This design scheme embraces all things basic, bold, and structural.


Floors in a contemporary style home should be minimal and smooth, consider using wood, polished cement, stone, tile, or vinyl. If you need to carpet for aesthetic reasons or sound control, choose quality natural fibres and add colour and texture with plain or geometric-patterned area rugs and consider animal skins as these often add an element of nature which will add warmth to the overall effect.

Lighting and Art

Track lighting and recessed lighting help to create interest across a neutral wall. In both home renovations and new construction, consider installing cove lighting or indirect light. Include colour or metallic elements on the light fixtures to add interest to your scheme.
Use spotlights where possible or direct additional lighting towards a painting or sculpture. These will help to draw the eye to the pieces you want to focus on. Contemporary style sculptures or framed art can be placed at eye level by positioning them on a column or pedestal.

Sleek frames in high-gloss or matte black, natural wood, or metal finishes are great for artwork. If you need to place several pieces together, hang them close together, so they create the feeling of one large piece. In contemporary interiors, space is often just as important as the pieces you put in the space. Take inspiration from modern and contemporary gallery spaces where they curate their spaces with a focus on the artwork and the relationship to the viewer. 

Design Scheme Elements

Generous use of metal, stone, and opaque or clear glass works well in a contemporary style scheme, to soften and warm-up space, and you can use heavily textured fabrics in plain colours for window treatments, throws, cushions and rugs.

Colourful or fussy art should be avoided since they confuse the blank space that is key to a contemporary-style home. Two-tone pictures work well. Think about a zebra-print cushion on a black leather chair, a large geometric-print cushion thrown on a plain floor, or a bold, heavily textured striped rug to anchor minimal furniture.

In contemporary rooms, plants and flowers should be large and dramatic in simple containers. Large, interesting leaves, branches and blooms work better than smaller arrangements. If space allows place upward-focused lights around a large plant on the floor or spotlight from the side or above. Keep the arrangements neat with substrate arranged over the soil in the pots for a sleek look.

Keep dinnerware contemporary, too. There are many geometric shapes, bold colours, and interesting styles available. Bring in texture with napkins, placemats, and centrepieces. Again a good rule is to stick with two tones so as to keep the overall effect simple and clean.

Of course, these are just guiding principles and you will have your own strong sense of design as you create your personal take on contemporary style. Share your designs with us @granaryhome

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