Before we begin, I’d like to make this very clear: contemporary design is not modern design. From a design standpoint (and the dictionary) “contemporary” is defined as “belonging to the present.” While “modern” is basically “relating to the present.” Clear as mud, right?
Let me see if I can clarify. Contemporary is “in the now.” As if it exists in its own space/time continuum. Contemporary today will not be the same in 2 or 3 years. As it is known right now, the design is very open, airy, linear, and uncomplicated. Simple, clean, and bright.
Modern design is styled after a specific time period; the mid 1900’s. At one point, yes, this was contemporary. But since 1950 is not now, modern is no longer contemporary.
It’s common to confuse the two, so don’t feel alone if you thought they were the same. There are a few concepts that are interchangeable in both, like the clean lines and low, slim couches. But make no mistake, they are not the same. Tell your friends.
What is Contemporary Design?
Contemporary design in homes is very popular and has the ability to transcend fads. The distinguished angles and lines, the specific and purposeful pops of color contrasting with a neutral palette, and the combination of light wood and simple metal accent pieces makes this style great for large or smaller spaces.
This is a lovely design for the living room because, well, you spend more time living in there than most other rooms in the home. The simplicity of the uncomplicated colors and lines as well as the openness inspires a certain feeling of Zen Something we all need these days.
So, how do I get a contemporary living room?
I’m glad you asked! Here are the key elements to designing your own contemporary living room.
Contemporary Living Room Colors
A contemporary living room will have gray, brown, cream, or white for the majority of the couches, chairs, and walls. As a general rule, if it’s cloth-like, it’s neutral. It’s important to note that by and large, there will not be any pattern or character in these colors.
The softness of the textiles are complemented by light colored woods. The wood used in this design has minimal character in itself, like the cloth, so that it does not compete with the other elements.
But don’t you worry! Boring it is not. While there are not a lot of bright, popping colors in a contemporary living room, there’s absolutely color. The amount of said color really depends on the stylist’s preferences. It can be as simple as some cheerful pillows or a bright geometric patterned area rug , or as extreme as an entire wall of bold color.
Just remember, the key is balance. The accent color is not the star of the show. If you want that to be the case, you might need to rethink your design choice.
Contemporary style is very humble. You won’t see adornments, frills, or the statue of David carved into an armrest. There will be no 17th century French inspired couch. The lamps and lighting fixtures will be straight, clean lines. And the furniture will be sturdy, but slender, with distinct angles. Seemingly confident in their simplicity.
Now, this sounds like the furniture elements are harsh and unforgiving, and who wants that in their living room? But don’t forget that textile is a game changer. In addition to adding some subtle texture and the strong, neutral, color of the design, fabric will soften these angles and lines; both tactility and to the eye.
Contemporary Living Room Lighting
Lamps/lighting are very important. If you don’t have light to shine on your brand new contemporary style living room, what’s the point?
Here is where your pop of metallic comes in. A simple, metallic lamp will accentuate the soft tones of a wooden table and simple couch. By having a sleek, unadorned fixture, the piece will be complementary to the room instead of making its own statement.
Alternate forms of lighting, like track lighting and free standing lamps, offer subtle, yet different ways to include your metallic accent pieces.
Contemporary Living Room Accessories
The rule here: “less is more.” The fewer trinkets, the fewer Himalayan salt bowls, the fewer the books, the better. Remember, the name of the game is “simplicity.” Unnecessary clutter is not part of this design.
But you don’t want the room to be sterile.
As a living room, it does need to feel welcoming and comfortable. I’m not saying don’t have any personal items around, I’m just saying be conscious of them. For family pictures put them in a nice, simple frame and only have 3 or 4. Save the rest for your hallway where you can do a lovely large wall of pictures. But that’s for another post.
The beauty of a contemporary living room style is that it’s focused on “the now.” Meaning, if you want this look, you need not spend a lot of money because the style is happening right now and is a compilation of most of the styles that came before it.
You can just as easily find a contemporary living room couch in a high-end furniture store as you could in a second-hand store.
It’s a versatile style because it’s always evolving. What was once “contemporary” is now “traditional” or “rustic” or “vintage.” So mixing and matching these styles is totally OK. As long as you remember balance. You could very easily go from “contemporary” to “mid century modern” without even knowing it.
Take time to really think about your style, your dislikes and likes, and what you want in your home. There are many, many resources on the internet to help you figure out your likes and dislikes.
And don’t forget the human element. People go to school just so they can help you make your home the comfortable, stylish place that you’ll love until your contemporary style is no longer contemporary.
The bottom line is don’t be afraid of a contemporary living room. This style is very humble. But in it’s humility, there is exquisite beauty.