If you’ve heard the term Contemporary Décor too often and don’t fully get the import of the phrase, here’s a simplistic way of looking at it. Contemporary by definition means “existing, occurring or living at the same time; belonging to the same time.” And that is what it means when we use the term in interior design. Contemporary design refers to what is popular and in vogue right now. To that extent, Contemporary design can be very eclectic, because it is as ever changing as styles and a design are and has the capacity to synergize styles from different styles and periods.
Let’s now see what constitutes Contemporary interiors today. A Contemporary home (though difficult to describe) is kind of plain and yet very modern. A contemporary home might incorporate straight, clean lines, sleek plain furniture (v/s ornate), large windows, open plan and harmony with the surrounding landscape. The finishes would use a lot of natural elements & material that are comfortable to use and maintain and are sustainable.
The next logical question would be how to achieve Contemporary looking interiors without having to junk and do away with all legacy pieces that you own. While a complete re-haul is an option if you are moving to a new place, the genius (read fun) is in figuring a way into the ‘Look’ without major re-hauling and by incorporating clever changes, making small buys and readjustments.
The most critical is the contemporary color palette.
Soothing color palettes are in vogue. Simple, cooler, neutral, softer colors are bringing a sense of contemporary tranquility inside homes – white, blue, gray, charcoal, mauves, dusky pink are some. These colors have universal appeal and are, in a way, gender-neutral.
For the choice of wood – blonde, paler natural timber colors are in, use of metal and chrome in frames and lining gives a touch of smart elegance without confusing the color mix.
In short, the brief is to limit your color palette. For a home with a lot of different surfaces, minimize competition between patterns by choosing a restricted color palette. The more limited the palette the more elegant and cohesive is the look.
Limit use of multiple patterns and prints:
Create a calm, elegant Contemporary look by steering away from bright prints and patterns (barring perhaps the kid’s bedroom). Huge transformation can be achieved by overhauling a home’s furnishings and by working within a limited spread of patterns, textures & fabrics. We often forget that mixing vibrant colors and using bold patterns in tight spaces makes the space feel smaller, busier and less tranquil.
Tip: To convert an existing décor that has a predominately warm palette, choose beige, off-white or cream seating. Choose white, grey or charcoal for a home with an existing cool palette. If you miss the drama of bright colors you can add cushions, throws or rugs in all their color-glory as these can easily be replaced when the next new color trend treads in.
Tip: If you really feel a colorful sofa will work in your home, choose one in a block of color that will be easier to style as trends change over time.
Tip: If you are working with space constraint underplay the colors. In practical terms it could be by way of having a few furniture pieces in the same color palette as the walls themselves. This can work well even with large pieces of furniture and the synchronous walls will blend into the seating area, thus visually enlarging the space.
Tip: If you have a special bright piece like a console or an ottoman, retain it as a standout piece. Avoid neutralizing all pieces of furniture. E.g. adding just a bright accent-chair can provide a dramatic center-stage in your living area.
Walls can tell a Contemporary story:
Choose neutral wall colors but play around with textures, get walls with organic patterns in a muted and neutral color palette, and allow natural light to shine on it to reflect the elegance of the texture.
Kitchen and Lighting:
For me a contemporary kitchen is perhaps one of the best looking kitchens. Steel finishes and tabletops, granite countertops, matte gray or white cabinetry, industrial light fixtures, maple work surfaces, exposed wood finishes - all play into natural color palettes.
Lighting can be one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of a design scheme. The most gorgeous chrome and metal finished light fittings are widely available in some of the most innovative designs. Take a look at your existing fittings and replace as many as you can for transformational impact.
Art and Paintings certainly make a definitive statement in the overall look of the interiors. One piece of Contemporary art, an Abstract, a special Charcoal Painting, Line drawing mounted on a streamlined, sleek frame as a wall-centerpiece could be the one big addition you can make to get a Contemporary boost to your interior décor.
While the above iterations can effectively transform the look of your interiors, there are some additional aspects that you could keep in mind:
1. Avoid heavy wood and teak furniture.
2. Keep the color of wood close to natural e.g. natural Oak or Maple (Mahogany, Walnut, Cherry are all dark colors).
3. Keep an open plan look in mind and minimize partitions and walls as much as possible.
4. Choose light curtains and sheers that allow a lot of natural light in.
5. Use of leather, glass and steel in furniture, tabletops, and frames will add to the contemporary flavor.
6. Go for streamlined, sleeker furniture that look easy to maintain (and move around) without compromising elegance and aesthetics.
In short, get the look without changing too much. In another twenty years, something else will be considered Contemporary. Just remember Contemporary is dynamic and simple and so quite effortless to achieve inside your homes.
Nivedita Das Narayan