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Contemporary Furnishings

How to Revitalize Your Home with Modern Design

Last Updated on November 20, 2011

In designing any interior space, the key is to make sure the people using it will be comfortable, both physically and emotionally. Homeowners who prefer clean lines and uncluttered surfaces may find a contemporary modern style appealing. Most interiors lend themselves well to a modern treatment. The secret is simplicity: simple treatments of floors, walls and windows, simply styled modern furniture and spartan simplicity in decorative elements. A clean, minimalist, modern look can easily transform a dated room into an exciting living environment.

Contemporary Furnishings

Updating a room in a modern style requires a light hand with furniture. The overall look of a contemporary interior is clean and spare, with plenty of open space. Modern furniture should not be so large as to crowd the space, nor should it be so small as to generate clutter. The lines of the piece should be simple, and devoid of complex details that would detract from the overall effect. Colors should be predominately neutral with a strong emphasis on white, although dark or bright contrast pieces can also be effective. Surfaces ought to have textural interest, whether flat expanses of hard gloss like an enameled coffee table or areas of soft plush like suede upholstery.

Modern interiors often incorporate nature, either as a view through a window or as interior detail. Plants, preferably living ones (not plastic), can provide both a natural touch, a bright swath of green color and a textural contrast either bold or feathery. Best of all, they help keep interior air fresh and clean. The one thing to watch when selecting plants, however, is their size; plants in contemporary interiors must be large enough to make an impression and avoid a cluttered appearance, but small enough not to crowd the room. Bold plants like cacti, succulents or ficus species are particularly appropriate. Aquariums may also work in some rooms, either with a single showy fish in a tank just large enough to keep it healthy or a large tank with its own interior decorated in a contemporary minimalist style.

The arrangement of furniture in a modern interior can be as important as its selection. The overall impression should always be open. Even the large platform beds so dear to modern designers must be used with care to preserve a roomy look. In living areas, furniture can be arranged around the perimeter, leaving an open central area for an inviting atmosphere and a practical path for traffic. Dining areas in the modern style might feature a minimalist approach with only the most necessary furnishings in simple geometric shapes in a space flooded with natural light.

Surface Treatments

One important facet of any interior design scheme is the floor/surface itself. In a modern room, floor color is normally white; white walls, white ceilings and white floors (where practical) make a fine canvas for the best modern looks. Variations in texture can keep the feel of the room from becoming too stark. Plush fabric, sheepskin rugs and filmy curtains contrast with the flat expanse of white walls to create a fresh, uncluttered look that is welcoming as well as clean and open. If the homeowner is uncomfortable with white, another light neutral color can be used to good effect, such as milder cream tones.

Another background element in the most characteristically modern rooms is natural light. If the structure itself is modern in style, it should have huge expanses of glass windows to let light pour in, including skylights. Where privacy considerations permit, these can be left totally unadorned to admit both light and a view, whether intimate or expansive. Large mirrored surfaces will help the light to flow through the space. Those windows that must be covered present a choice between a glowing effect created by light-penetrating translucent draperies, or an interesting textural addition to the overall effect.

Floors present practical problems in a modern interior, as white floors can be quite difficult to keep clean, being that even a hint of grime can spoil the effect. So, many designers use polished wood floors in a relatively light color. Others go for dark colors of wood or tile for contrast. If the area is lightly used, like a guest room, or frequently cleaned, like a bathroom or kitchen, a white floor may be quite practical. Floors present another opportunity for textural contrast: a luxuriously deep rug or an area of carpeting can provide a visual separation between two areas of a room, or they can be used strictly for visual and tactile interest.


The bane of contemporary design is clutter. Decorative accessories should be few in number, and items like afghans, books, and magazines – and even remote controls – should be kept out of sight in drawers, cabinets, trunks and ottomans that harmonize with the modern style of the room. A large television may remain in view if its presence suits the homeowner’s lifestyle, but DVD players and game systems and the discs that feed them are best concealed in a discreet cabinet when not in use. Televisions require wiring, and a unit that does not sit on a stand able to conceal them should have some other way of hiding the obvious. One option is to run the wires through the walls, but the possibility of a fire hazard means an electrician should be employed to install them. Another idea is a cord cover, which is a small rectangular channel that runs along the surface of the wall to conceal the wiring. When painted to match the wall, the cover is so unobtrusive as to be almost invisible.

Even a minimalist room will have some decoration, but it is important to keep it in harmony with the overall style of the room. Artwork should be evenly distributed enough to avoid a cluttered look, and possibly big enough to be the focal point of the room. Colors may be neutral or bright, and the subject matter and style should be as modern as the room itself; timeless Picasso pieces would do as well in a modern interior design scheme as newer paintings from the 21st century would. Architectural drawings or black and white photographs work as well, and in some rooms the bright colors of pop art can fit quite nicely. Ultimately, which artistic accents you add to your home will depend entirely upon your own personal tastes!

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