11 Contemporary Interior Design Characteristics


Think contemporary interior design could be the ideal style for your home?

Pinning down contemporary interior design can be difficult because it’s a design that’s continuously changing. Great contemporary design is never out of style, but is also never too trendy. If you’re someone who loves a space that’s considered sleek, and in style, it could be a great choice for your home or commercial space. 

Contemporary interior design’s main characteristic is that it has a timeless foundation to support emerging trends and new design movements. This style evokes serenity with a focus on architectural elements, decorative details, maximizes open spaces and utilizes a neutral yet personal color palette. 

Here are 11 contemporary interior design characteristics to transform your space. 

Clean lines can help create a contemporary interior design look in your home.

#1: Use Clean Lines

A signature contemporary interior design characteristic is clean, straight lines. Sometimes the lines are organic and flowing, while other times they are sharp and crisp. Whether a decorative wallpaper, an angular headboard, or sweeping lines on the back of a couch, contemporary spaces use line to create interest. 

Often, you’ll find rugs with geometric shapes. Furniture has exposed legs. Avoid bed skirts, fringe,or tassels that would take away from the simplistic lines in the room and make the space feel busier. 

#2: Make it Minimalist, but Never Cold

A contemporary space is never cold, or lacking warmth like other modern design styles. Rather, it uses intentional styling and thoughtfully curated pieces sparingly. It borrows from minimalism, in that each piece should have meaning and significance. Yet, contemporary spaces are never bare or lacking personality. 

These thoughtfully curated pieces help the space feel warm and welcoming. 

Tips to create a contemporary space.

#3: Capitalize on Modern Trends

Contemporary design is a celebration of the times we’re living in right now. These spaces always feel “in” or cool, and they’re regularly updated and maintained to capture current trends, without being too trendy. 

To do this, you’ll want to avoid bold prints or floral patterns. This can make a space feel dated quickly. Keep the design simplistic and make patterns or bold pieces exchangeable. 

The main goal of contemporary interior design is to stay in style as long as possible. 

#4: Use a Neutral Color Pallet and Pops of Color

White, cream, gray, and taupe are signature characteristics of contemporary interior design. The neutral color pallet helps to ensure the space never feels dated. You won’t find yourself chasing new paint color trends. If you want, you can use stark contrast to create interest in the room. 

Use solid hues and finishes throughout the space, employing texture to create variety.

Add color selectively in clever spaces. A splash of color gives a room a fresh feeling and breaks up a simple color pallet. Be strategic about where you add color. Rather than painting a wall, use color in the art, rugs, blankets, or pillows. 

These are easy to change in the future and can help keep the space feeling contemporary. 

Highlight the architecture.

#5: Pickpocket from Other Styles You Love

Contemporary design is a chameleon that can borrow from just about any other style. Don’t hesitate to combine your favorite aesthetics. 

If that’s bohemian, add in some bright colors or unexpected furniture with muted patterns. If you love a rustic feel, find some old world pieces that are simple. Is French cottage more your vibe? Add in cotton textures with simple patterns. 

When using industrial pieces, contrast the harsh elements with soft, organic ones. For example, a concrete table can be surrounded by velvety upholstery. Or, industrial shelves can be accented with plants to add balance in your space. 

#6: Highlight the Architecture

If the home already has unique or interesting architectural elements, like high vaulted ceiling or geometric staircases, it may be a good candidate for this style. High ceilings, big windows and unexpected lines should be highlighted rather than hidden.

It’s common to embrace structural elements like exposed bricks or pipes for added character. Use traditional flooring made of natural materials like tile, stone or wood.

Mixing textures to create a contemporary home.

#7: Invest in a High Level of Craftsmanship 

Since contemporary interior design has such minimal decor, the pieces that are in the room need to be of exceptional, artisanal quality. This style emphasizes intentionality. Curated pieces should include clean surfaces, and shouldn’t make the room feel busy or crowded. 

It’s best if the most striking pieces of furniture are also a talking piece because the rest of the furniture will pull your eyes to it. Take the time to find pieces you really love. 

#8: Mix Textures

With the neutral color pallet and minimal accents, a space can quickly feel monotonous without adding some variation. One way to do this is by mixing textures, which can straddle the line of industrial and natural materials. 

Some examples of mixed textures include:

  • Mixed metals with different finishes
  • Carved wood 
  • Soft fabrics 
  • Jute rugs
  • Stone
  • Exposed brick
  • Leather
  • Clear or opaque glass
  • Wool
  • Cotton 
  • Linen

Layer textures throughout the room to create a balanced space with multiple points of interest. 

#9: Maximize an Open Floor Plan

Sprawling, open spaces are common in contemporary interior design. Homes with large open spaces that flow from one area to the next are ideal for this style. You’re far more likely to see a dining room and kitchen combo than a formal dining room cordoned off on its own.

Despite having different purposes, each room should blend together seamlessly with one another. 

Maximizing the open floor plan isn’t just about knocking down walls. It’s also about using light to make the space feel bigger. Utilize lots of natural lighting, so no overhead lights are needed during the day. 

For an unobstructed view, use minimal window treatments that are easy to retract and give a clean or flawless look. Sheer curtains can add light during the day if a view isn’t desirable. Wooden blinds are often used for added texture when windows need to be blocked. 

#10: Make Your Lights a Statement

If you’re a fan of statement chandeliers and pendants, you’re in luck. Contemporary interior design emphasizes light. Look for simple lighting that’s effective in showcasing your decor and architectural pieces. 

This could be lighting that highlights architectural features or special furniture or art. Or, you could use unpretentious yet high quality lamps that serve a specific purpose. 

The fixtures themselves can be a statement and will often utilize another contemporary interior design characteristic like sharp lines. 

Contemporary interior design

#11: Add Your Own Spin

Since contemporary design has such a simple foundation, it leaves space for you to put your own spin on the space. This design style reflects the times in this exact moment, and that includes who you are in this moment, too. 

You could hang interesting art that you love and weave the colors of the painting throughout the room. Or, you could bring in old world finds that are clean and simple, not dingy. 

Keep in mind that even with your own spin, everything should have a very specific spot and function for this design style. Nothing should feel out of place. 

contemporary interior design

Need Some Help Creating a Contemporary Space? 

Contemporary design can be hard to identify because it has:

  • Fewer reference points than other aesthetics
  • Similar aesthetics to many modern interior design styles
  • Borrows from others styles regularly

It achieves harmony without being busy and is perfect for showcasing special pieces throughout a space. 

While these spaces do require continuous, minor updating, they always give the impression of capturing the moment we’re living in now. With contemporary interior design, your home can feel stylish now and 50 years from now.  

Want to make your space feel more contemporary? We can help. At Spark Interiors, we have experience working on contemporary spaces for our clients. 

Fill out a contact form to start a conversation. 

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