Contemporary Style Decorating

how to create the clean, modern look


If you love Contemporary Style Decorating you’re in good company! My philosophy is that styles of home decor fall into four basic categories…


…and the clean, crisp and Contemporary look is one that draws many followers.

What defines Contemporary Style Decorating?

Clean, straight lines, solid neutrals, bold colors, organic elements and the lack of clutter are present in a modern styled space.

CONTEMPORARY: What are some of the synonyms for this look? Let’s consider these, to help us visualize

New, Current, Voguish, Up-to-the-Minute,  Leading Edge, Now, Ultra Modern, Today, Fresh

As with any style interpretation, you can take the contemporary look in a variety of directions, as you can see by the alternative descriptions above. But one thing is for sure, and that is the consistently fresh, ‘today’ look of contemporary style decorating, whether the mood is bright and colorful or soothing and neutral.

Create the Contemporary Look


We are going to create a Contemporary Style room from the ground up:

  • colors
  • floors
  • wall
  • furniture
  • accessories/wall/decor/window treatments

1) Color, Texture & Pattern Set the Tone

Like any other project or decision, it helps tremendously to have a plan of action before making decisions that cost both time and money. Home decorating is no different.

 Your plan with Contemporary Style Decorating should begin with the color palette decisions and selections:

  1. What colors will I use?
  2. Where will I put them?

Now is the time to determine which color path your interpretation will take. Will you utilize a neutral palette as in the photo above? Or, will bold splashes of color found in the image at the top of the page be more suited to your taste and lifestyle? Using color in decorating can be a cost effective choice, particularly when affordable home decorating ideas are at the top of your list.

Contemporary Neutral Colors: Black, Gray, Brown, Tan, Taupe, Cream, White. Choose 2 neutrals to be the primarily palette selections, with 1 additional neutral (and a bold accent color or 2) to complete the palette.

Textures and finishes are so much a part of the Contemporary room designs as well. 

Study the photo above showing the Neutral Living Area. How many textures do you see? Look at everything, from the floor on up to the ceiling. I count at least a dozen unique textures in this small area, with a very quiet, neutral color palette.

Cool, Stylish Contemporary Style Decorating. Bold Colors in the Contemporary Palette: If you decide to use some strong tones in your style interpretation, think about where you will place them. As accents, to provide the dramatic finish to a neutral foundation? On a wall (or walls) for that WOW factor?

Contemporary Bedroom with bold, vibrant colors

How dramatic is the bedroom shown above? I don’t know how restful it may be, but it’s a great example of using bold color on the walls in a contemporary styled space to create the big WOW.    image source

Eclectic office space with contemporary and vintage styling

A deep shade of brown on the walls creates the mood in this modern office space with just a touch of vintage.I love the accents of plum, subtle but eye catching. (photo source unknown)

Bold red, black and white in this Contemporary Style Bedroom

RED! Bold! Black and White! If this space could talk, that’s what it would say.Clean style, thoughtfully placed accents, just the right balance…very cool

                        image source

2) Floor Selections in Contemporary Style Decorating

Floors in this clean, modern, updated look can be the quiet foundation for your space or become more involved in the style and mood of the room.

Let’s take a look at some examples. I love visuals!

Tile with both color and texture sets the tone in this contemporary style bathroom.The overall subdued color palette creates a spa-like, relaxing atmosphere in the space.

Subtle mid toned wood flooring plays in the background beautifully, while the walls, counter tops and accents create the personality in this contemporary kitchen.I love the patterned rug and roman shade, and the shimmering tile back splash is awesome!   

Medium toned wood floors with natural textures/knots create interest in this contemporary living area.Simple, straight lines in the sofa, chairs and case goods, along with a textured area rug, complete the look.

Neutral carpet does it’s job in this space while letting the mix of furnishings and accessories grab your attention in this ‘Modern Meets Beach’ styled Living Room.

3) What to do with the Walls in Contemporary Style Decorating

Contemporary Style Living AreaContemporary Style Living Area

Decide what your approach is going to be with regard to color and the walls in your room or space.

Are the walls going to be a focal point? Will you select more than one wall color? How about a faux finish?

In the image above, a wall unit is used for function as well as dramatic impact with the use of lighting. There is not a right or wrong choice when you are choosing to decorate in a Contemporary Style. It is a matter of preference. But, you want to make sure that your room is balanced in terms of where the color is placed, and the walls are a significant part of that decision.

If you are unsure, my advice is to use photos and images to help narrow down your decision. Study the photos below from Benjamin Moore paint and see what you are drawn to.

In this Bedroom, the bed and the wall behind it are the focal point, so the wall is bold and grabs your attention. The brick wall is interesting and adds texture as well as presence to the space.

This Living area uses a soft neutral on the walls to show case the furniture. Then, an accent wall is painted a deep shade for contrast and to show a visual separation between the Living and Dining areas.

 Natural, neutral and organic is the feel in this bathroom, almost zen-like, isn’t it? The subtle wall color contributes to the peaceful uncluttered feel of the Bathroom

A friendly shade of green on the walls companions with other colors in furnishings and accents to create a casual, playful contemporary style living area.

The bottom line when choosing how to use color in Contemporary Style Decorating? Decide if there is going to be a WOW factor, and if so, determine if it will be on a large scale such as the walls, on a medium scale with furniture, or as an accent burst of color.

If you prefer the quiet sophistication of a neutral palette, remember that texture and finish keep things interesting.

4) Furniture Selection in Contemporary Style Decorating

Contemporary Living Area in Dark Gray TonesContemporary Living Area in Dark Gray tones

A simple and easy way to remember how to furnish a contemporary space is to think of Lines and Shapes.

You will find that many times a piece, whether upholstery or case good, is linear, meaning that it has straight lines. The photo above is a great example. Notice the shape of the sofa, coffee table, end table..see a pattern there?

Most of the time, the legs on a sofa, chair, bed frame, coffee table, end table, accent piece, etc., will be straight. Soft edges and flowing designs are pretty much left to other styles of decorating.

Take a moment to briefly study all of the images on this page. Do you see a pattern? Simple, straight lines for the majority of pieces. That is the essence of Contemporary style furniture.

Now having made that statement, of course there are exceptions. How boring our decorating would be if every piece in a room looked the same!

There are ways to incorporate a rounded arm or back on a chair, for example, and retain the clean, cool contemporary look. There might be a slight outward turn of the chair leg – just enough to introduce a little bit of curve without crossing into a different style interpretation. 

The bottom line when choosing furnishings for Contemporary and Modern Style decorating? Keep it simple in both shape and pattern, utilize textural elements and most of all, select what you love! Whether your budget is unlimited or affordable choices in contemporary furniture and accessories is top priority, always strive to choose what will work for YOU.

5) Accessories, Window Treatments & Decor

The old adage “Less is More” is very true when it comes to finishing off a room that is styled Contemporary. Many times you will see just one or two striking, memorable pieces of wall art, with wide open wall space. Window treatments are also simple, clean and not generally found to be layer upon layer:

  • vertical blinds
  • roman shades
  • fabric panels
  • or, nothing at all at the window

The bright fabric pattern on the curtain panels makes a statement in this living area and feels at home with the other sunny selections, including wall color.

Roman shades in fabric that matches pillows on the built in bench provide a classy finish to this contemporary breakfast nook. (photo source) 

The artwork makes the statement in this living area, doesn’t it? Large scaled and placed in a dramatic way, you don’t need anything else to compete with it.

Create a display area for your contemporary artwork that is easy to change out, as the shelf above the bed shows here. I like how the colors pop in the pillow and artwork, while the rest of the space remains quiet.

photo source

Your home should ultimately be an expression of who you are and how you live, and these Contemporary Style decorating ideas and tips will hopefully help YOU in your journey to create the unique, inspired place that touches your heart.

As a business owner and webmaster of this site, I offer readers the opportunity to purchase home decorating products through affiliate links. When a reader clicks on a link and then purchases a product, I earn a small commission, which helps to offset the cost of owning a website. Thank you!

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