HistoryThe phrase "contemporary" has been used in interior design since the mid-20th century. However, the earliest contemporary design did not feature the industrial elements of metal, chrome, or glass that are more common to 21st century modern style.
Contemporary Style FurnitureModern style furniture design evolved post World War I, in part due to social trends and the economy. Homes were becoming more compact, and appliances took over the functionality of living spaces. The splurge of inventions, such as toasters, washing machines, refrigerators, and televisions, meant that there was less living space, and money, for decorative and formal pieces of furniture. Smaller, inexpensive, and easier to move pieces of furniture attracted a wide customer base. Mass production and nonorganic materials, such as plastic and laminate, fit the bill and modern design was established.
Modern furniture is constructed from more man-made materials in comparison to solid wood pieces from Old World or traditional design. For instance, a modern piece will often be made from molded plastic, plywood, or pleather. However, the value of modern furniture comes from its aesthetically pleasing design.
One of the most impressive and iconic pieces of modern furniture is the Eames lounge chair. Made from leather and molded plywood, when this chair was released in 1956, it became the most sought after piece of furniture on the market. Today the Eames chair design continues to be reproduced for markets in the US and Europe. The price starts at $4,500, which indicates the value given to highly desired modern style furniture. Other popular furniture makers of modern design include Frank Lloyd Wright, Jean Michel Frank, and Warren McArthur.
CharacteristicsUnlike traditional style, contemporary design evolves with fashion and design trends. The most common characteristics include sleek, curved lines, and premium materials. For example, you will not see heavily adorned hope chests or filigree molding in a contemporary style. Modern style also focuses on individual, high quality pieces to complete the artistic look. A style that is made for change, contemporary design typically features modular and sectional pieces that allow for movement and evolution.
Color PaletteFor contemporary design, think of an artist's painting that features single pops of color to focus the eye, while a muted backdrop sets the scene. The key to success is to use a muted color, such as gray, white, or beige, as the background of the room. Brighter hues, such as turquoise, orange, red, violet, and mustard, add a pop of color to the space. As trends and fashions evolve, expect the color wheel used for contemporary design to also change.
How to Use Contemporary Design in Your HomeAs you decide to go with a contemporary style in your home, consider the following tips:
1) For your bedroom, look for a quality platform bed that lacks finials, posts, or a decorative headboard. Featuring a clean and simple design, this style of bed ensures a minimalist look. Maintain the modern look by using solid colored bedding, and accent with a few brightly hued decorative pillows.
2) In your living room, opt for hardwood or tile flooring. Use throw rugs as accent colors that break up the open, uncluttered flooring. To make your living space more formal, choose quality furniture pieces, such as glass topped end tables or a sectional leather sofa.
* Create a contemporary style kitchen and dining area by maintaining a clean and open environment. Look for counter top islands and dining room tables that feature clean angles and strong lines. While white or gray is a typical color for cabinetry in a contemporary style kitchen, don't be afraid to use color. For instance, paint the fronts of the cabinet doors with a bright color, such as turquoise or orange. Create a colorful mosaic as a backsplash for your oven, or use decorative pendant lights made using silver tubing to brighten up the space.
Living in a Contemporary Style Living Space
Given the artistic quality of modern design, many of these homes look too clean to actually be lived in. This is a misconception. While many contemporary designs do feature lightly colored and clutter free spaces, this is easily achieved in the most active of homes. In order to keep lightly colored pieces, such as cream sofas or white bedspreads, in pristine condition, use preventive measures. Waterproof and stain resistant fabrics give you more leeway when using a modern style in a home with children. Lots of storage space concealed under seating, in ottomans, and beneath beds ensures you will have plenty of places for hiding clutter.
The benefits of having an uncluttered and open space outweigh the concerns with liveability. Once you have experienced the stress-free style of visually pleasing modern design, you will see how the contemporary and ever-changing style can work for you.