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.
An October 2018 report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projected that remodeling spending is expected to grow to more than $350 billion in the third quarter of 2019. While it’s certainly an increase from the $331 billion of remodeling spending during the same period in 2018, the expectation shows a slowing in growth compared to recent years. Whether you’re renovating your home for yourself, updating your home to sell or looking to spice up a living space that you rent, you’ll see some new trends entering the interior design field this year – and others easing out of the spotlight. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in 2019.
Updated on March 8, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Trends are getting a longer shelf life.
Trends are getting a longer shelf life.
An interior design trend, by definition, is the temporary popularity of a style, pattern, color or approach to decor. But as the cost of homes continues to climb and the cost of renovating spikes as well, trends are sticking around longer, explains Anna Starmer, U.K.-based author of “Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With” and founder of color and trend forecasting company Luminary Colour. “The interesting thing about trends right now is that they are slowing down,” she wrote in an email. “A colour family is popular for longer than (one) season. This is down to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that people are living real lives – they do not have enough time to redecorate every (six) months.”Well-being comes into play.
Well-being comes into play.
The Danish concept of Hygge – being cozy and content – has been popular in the U.S. for a couple of years, particularly in the cold winter months when people bundle up to stay warm. But Starmer suggests that the current social or political mood is also encouraging people to make their home a comfortable safe haven of sorts: “(I)t is no surprise that in recent times of uncertainties in the world, we are all starting to favour comforting shades and warming colours in the home.” That extends to softer textures in furniture, pillows and blankets, rich scents like pumpkin or citrus and a setup that encourages relaxing.Design in all spaces and sizes.
Design in all spaces and sizes.
Whether you’re still holding onto your dream of a tiny home or you simply can’t afford a bigger apartment, interior design is trending toward emphasizing conscious design in all spaces – not just the palatial homes of the wealthy. For example, Pottery Barn launched its small space collection, PB Apartment, in early 2018 to cater to customers who have less space to deck out. You’re also likely to see a growing number of companies offer furnishings and design aesthetics that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of rooms.Don't be afraid to be bold.
Don't be afraid to be bold.
Everyone’s comfort level is different, but those who are willing should feel free to embrace a bold, eclectic look at home in the coming year. HGTV star and interior designer Taniya Nayak says to go for bright accent colors, such as jewel tones and colors that contrast – think blue and orange – and don’t be afraid to layer. “I love doing paint techniques, and I love wall coverings too, but some people are really petrified of wall coverings,” says Nayak, who partners with FrogTape painter’s tape. When in doubt, make your statement by adding color with different types of wall decor (not all photos and prints), painting an accent wall or layering throw blankets and pillows in bright, contrasting colors to create a new focal point in the room.Shades of green will pop up everywhere.
Shades of green will pop up everywhere.
Expect interior designs to pull more inspiration from nature in the coming year, bringing lively green into the foreground. Starmer is predicting different shades of green to be more visible not just in interior design, but in fashion as well. However, she warns that you should keep texture and light in mind any time you select a color for a space. “A shade of emerald may look fabulous on a velvet-covered chair but hideous on the wall of a bathroom,” she says.Neutrals are warming up.
Neutrals are warming up.
Gray, stark white and the gray-beige combo color “greige” have been go-to neutrals for a few years. But Starmer says neutral shades in the home are going to warm up as people look to evoke the feeling of more natural settings in the home. “Neutral and natural colours now need to be soft and warm like a favourite cashmere sweater – or the colour of a baby deer,” Starmer says. Capturing these neutrals with natural items like wood, real stones and ceramic pieces help “counteract our very unnatural lifestyles,” she says.Floors are getting more natural.
Floors are getting more natural.
In 2018, dark wood floors have been on the decline, according to Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looking forward to 2019, wood floors should continue to stay on the lighter side, but many manufacturers are noting that a matte finish is gaining popularity, which makes the floor look more natural. Recycled and engineered wood remain a more sustainable alternative to the typical wood floor, and manufacturers are even increasing the variety of tile or vinyl floors that convincingly look like real wood.Mixed metals are officially a look.
Mixed metals are officially a look.
Finding the perfect match to existing hardware in your bathroom or kitchen can be difficult, which is part of the reason why mixed metals started trending to begin with. But now it’s not just about convenience. With the right balance, you can bring multiple metals into a room and create a rich, glamorous look. Nayak notes that metals don’t have to be restricted to fixtures, lamps and coffee table legs; opt for metallic paint colors and incorporate geometric shapes on the walls to tie metals into other parts of the room.Trends are catering to comfort levels.
Trends are catering to comfort levels.
Some of the looks Nayak expects to see more in the coming year vary widely, from soft, romantic pastels and textured palettes to bolder jewel tones and metals. Rather than focusing on one widely accepted trend, you have the opportunity to embrace what works for you and keep it more unique than in years past. How do you know which trend to embrace? Look at your closet. “Whatever your wardrobe says about you is very much how you should approach your design,” Nayak says. If you’re big on patterns and bright colors, the eclectic trend can make your house feel like home again. If you’re a solids-and-neutrals kind of person, working in more of a natural look at home can provide the update you want and need.Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.
Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.
Interior design trends that will be big this year include:
- Longevity of trendy pieces, colors and patterns.
- Comforting shades and warming colors.
- More furnishing options for smaller spaces.
- Bold accent colors.
- Shades of green on walls, furniture and in fashion.
- Warmer neutral colors with less focus on gray.
- Lighter wood floor finishes for a more natural look.
- Mixed metals to make replacing kitchen or bathroom fixtures easier.
- Focus on comfort in design choices.
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 email@example.com.