Wanting a home that looks stylish and photo-worthy is a common goal. But how can you keep up with the trendsetting interior spaces of the moment? Contemporary design trends often find inspiration from existing styles, and combine them to make the look we see on TV, Pinterest and in interior design magazines.
In order to grasp the right interior design techniques, you'll first need to understand what contemporary design is. Then, you'll be able to take the trends and make them work in your home.
Here are eight ways you can incorporate contemporary design trends:
- Clean lines.
- Combined styles.
- Simple colors.
- Exposed imperfections.
- Comfortable furniture.
- Hard floors.
- Additional decor.
- Function and form in the right places.
Understanding Contemporary Design
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how you can make contemporary design work in your home, it's important to note the difference between contemporary design and other styles, which may sound similar and intersect in certain trends or details, but are in fact distinct.
Contemporary design. Contemporary design reflects the design trends of the moment and is often a combination of other existing design styles to mirror the common preferences of the current time. Contemporary design is often misrepresented as modern, and while it can – and often does – incorporate the modern design style, there are more details at play. Because it follows popular styles of the moment, contemporary design looks current and doesn't immediately evoke thoughts of a specific time period or style exclusively. Contemporary design of today is characterized by an overall clean look, with simple decoration and subtle variations in color and texture throughout a space.
Modern design. Modern design is defined by a specific time period – namely, the mid-20th century – and is embodied by its focus on function, minimalism, clean lines, geometric patterns and the emergence of plastic as a material for furniture and decor. Contemporary design does pull from midcentury modern design aesthetics, but contemporary design goes beyond to include other design styles as well.
Traditional design. Traditional design, on the other hand, embraces more ornate decor, incorporates rich colors and has a distinct European influence. Traditional design focuses closely on details, with claw foot furniture, overstuffed couches and chairs and architectural elements like crown molding, columns and built-in cabinets and shelves.
Read on for the lowdown on contemporary design trends and ideas you can add to your home.
While not quite as simplistic as midcentury modern style, contemporary trends are aimed at avoiding an overcomplicated look. You want the eye to naturally flow from one object in the room to the other, rather than getting overwhelmed looking at a space.
If you shop exclusively at one store to decorate your home, it'll likely capture a specific style. Ikea, for instance, will give your home a clear Swedish modern feel, while West Elm furniture tends to focus on midcentury modern. Keep your space contemporary by including multiple design aesthetics, rather than sticking to one.
Purposely mix different styles and periods in one room, says Adam Meshberg, founder and principal of architecture and interior design firm Meshberg Group, based in New York City. "Mix it up and maybe put some graffiti art in a painting mixed in with a washed Persian rug," he says. "It gives it a unique style."
Neutrals are the go-to color scheme for contemporary design, with bright colors used as accents. Often walls and main pieces of furniture in a room are kept neutral, allowing for pillows, blankets, wall art or tabletop decor to offer one or two accent colors in the room.
But the choice of grays or beige doesn't have to be boring. Rising in popularity for paint colors are the shades that have undertones of warmer red or pink, or even opting for a more metallic gray, says Tina Nokes, co-owner of Five Star Painting in Loudoun County, Virginia, part of the Neighborly network of home service companies. "Those warm grays and silvery grays are still the most popular thing we do," she says.
In some cases, you can even make your walls the accent color – either with a single wall or even the entire room – by focusing neutrals in the furniture and other decor. "A lot of people like the teals, (and) the blue-green that looks like water," Nokes says.
An exposed brick wall or uncovered air ducts and pipes coming from the ceiling often work well in contemporary design. Ductwork and piping can be left in their natural state, or they can be painted to help them blend in (or even stand out more) with the rest of a room. The exposed look pulls from industrial design, which is becoming a larger part of contemporary design trends in recent years.
"People love the story of the old bones of houses or buildings," Meshberg says. Even if your home is relatively new, he says you can expose a concrete wall or even bring in reclaimed wood that wasn’t there before to offer up a look that makes the space feel unique.
In June, the online furniture company Joybird examined the top-searched interior design styles by state through Google Trends. The findings, released in a report, note that industrial style was most popular, with 12 states seeing it as the most commonly searched design aesthetic, including three states in the Midwest, much of the Mountain West and additional outliers like Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
Contemporary furniture follows the same rules of simplicity, without too much decoration or complication. But the pieces should also focus on comfort and function – a couch and chairs that make it easy for family and friends to sit for hours adheres to contemporary goals.
The most popular furniture choices stick to neutrals for the main chairs, couches and coffee or side tables. Select pieces that show the legs of the couch or chair, rather than having a skirt around it – a style that is now considered dated.
Because the focus of a contemporary design is on clean lines and a clean space overall, you're more likely to see hardwood, tile or vinyl floors in a contemporary home. Carpeting doesn't line up well with contemporary styles, and while rugs are used, they're often used sparingly and as accent patterns or colors.
In an open floor plan, continuous flooring throughout the space is common to make the area look big and cohesive, but to help break it up and establish more intimate spaces, consider introducing additional materials.
In designing the lobby space of a Brooklyn apartment building, Meshberg inlaid tile in the area of the business center, breaking up the concrete flooring of the entire lobby area. "It juxtaposes a handcrafted look with an industrial look," Meshberg says.
Contemporary trends in previous years have centered around a more minimalist look to focus on clean lines, but more tabletop or shelf decor has become the emerging trend. You can also personalize the space with photos, vases, candles and plants that speak to your individual style in a room.
Family heirlooms on display or a collection of vintage items that appeal to your tastes – cameras, books or even dishes – show personality, but also follows popular love of vintage items. In the Joybird report, the second-most popular interior design style by state was vintage, which is the No. 1 style among searches in Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.
Vases, planters and tabletop decor should follow contemporary rules for clean lines – go for the simpler design rather than one that introduces an overly complicated pattern or ornate silhouette.
Function and Form in the Right Places
While you may tend to lean toward the most simplistic details of contemporary design to avoid making a decorating faux pas, there are certainly parts of your home where you can be a bit more adventurous with color, pattern and texture.
If you have more than one living space, for example, embrace more traditional European details in a formal living room. "If it's formal, you can do more drama because it’s not used as much," Nokes says.
Additionally powder rooms or half bathrooms are a perfect place to showcase a patterned wallpaper – it may be overwhelming in a larger space, but walls covered in palm leaf or flamingo designs can be a fun surprise for guests who pop in to wash their hands.
It may be time to update your decor.
You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.
Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Zen dens break up floor plans.
Zen dens break up floor plans.
Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.Master suites expand.
Master suites expand.
As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.Inside and outside continue to blend.
Inside and outside continue to blend.
Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.Organic elements are here to stay.
Organic elements are here to stay.
Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.Velvet becomes a staple.
Velvet becomes a staple.
Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.Blue is the color to incorporate.
Blue is the color to incorporate.
Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.Say goodbye to gray.
Say goodbye to gray.
If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.Minimalism moves over.
Minimalism moves over.
People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:
Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:
- Zen dens break up open floor plans.
- Master suites expand.
- Inside and outside continue to blend.
- Organic elements are here to stay.
- Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
- Velvet becomes a staple.
- Blue is the color to incorporate.
- Say goodbye to gray.
- Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
- Minimalism moves over.
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She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.