What is Contemporary Design? 7 Features You Should Know

Evelyn Long

Jan 23, 2023

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Contemporary design has a fluid definition, essentially referring to the latest and most popular home design trends. Features that are modern and align with the culture’s current styles fall under the umbrella of contemporary design. So, what is contemporary design in today’s world? Here are seven features that you should look out for in 2023 and beyond.

1. Neutral Colors

Neutral colors dominate the realm of contemporary design. Black, gray, brown and everything in between are easy on the eyes and help create a calming environment. You won’t find many bright and energetic features here. Black is often the most heavily utilized, creating a dark foundation to allow the other colors to pop more effectively.

A contemporary room’s primary paint color should be a cool shade of gray with a white or pastel trim. The floors and furniture are usually brown, gray or white. These colors are common for furniture in other design styles as well, but they stand out more in contemporary rooms because of the neutral background.

2. Accentuated Lines

Lines are extremely important in contemporary design. Strong visible lines must be present throughout the room – on the walls, the floors, in furniture designs and in artwork. Establishing vertical and horizontal linear planes makes the room appear taller and wider and helps fill up empty spaces.

You can also use curved lines to add another dimension to the room. Round tables and chairs complement the straight features and naturally draw attention to themselves. Small unintentional details like cracked bricks and exposed pipes – two popular features of industrial design – also give some individuality to the otherwise geometric walls. 

3. Recessed Lighting

The light fixtures in contemporary design shouldn’t be immediately apparent. Recessed lighting that hides in the floors, walls and ceilings is the best way to go. These types of fixtures create more of a subtle glow than a bold shine, which is much more appropriate for neutral contemporary spaces.

Other viable options are thin vertical fixtures, namely pendants and lamps, that fill up the room’s empty space and add more lines to the mix. Cove lights and indirect lights are other types that you might use. The key is to make your light fixtures subtle, not bold.

4. Geometric Furniture

Contemporary style furniture almost always comes in standard geometric shapes. There shouldn’t be any oddly-shaped chairs or tables. Keep things simple with squares, rectangles and circles. You should also avoid fringes, tassels, floral prints and other unique furniture accessories. Those features are better for mid-century modern style rooms.

Even the smallest furniture items, like cabinets and stools, should help maintain the room’s symmetry. Contemporary design is all about satisfactory organization. Everything should fit together like a puzzle.

5. Minimalistic Flooring

Flooring in contemporary design is always hardwood, tile or vinyl. These surfaces are bare, smooth and fit with just about anything. They also tend to be neutral colors, so they match perfectly with the rest of the room. If you’re going to add carpets, follow the geometric rule and choose something with a line-heavy design.

6. Hard Surfaces

Besides the hard flooring, other hard surfaces like stone, metal and glass are common in contemporary design. They have neutral colors and provide some life in a room full of artificial materials. Marble and metal countertops are practically non-negotiable for contemporary homes at this point, and glass has become more widely used to let in more natural light.

7. Heavy Artwork

When we say “heavy” artwork, we don’t mean that contemporary rooms should be filled with artwork from floor to ceiling. In this context, “heavy” is literal. Heavy artwork made of stone and metal is the best style for contemporary homes. Paintings and pictures should have metal and hardwood frames.

Symmetry is a big part of contemporary design, but art is an exception. Now is your chance to implement zany asymmetrical designs with postmodern art. Just one painting can offer the perfect contrast with the room’s many lines and geometric shapes.

Contemporary Design is Always Evolving

There is no concrete answer to the question “what is contemporary design?”. This style is always evolving based on the culture’s attitudes and behaviors. Neutral colors and symmetrical designs might be popular today, but bright bubbly colors and asymmetrical shapes might be the new contemporary styles in a few years. In any case, today’s style looks amazing and you should work to add some of the above elements to your living space.

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