Put these simple strategies to work to set your aesthetic apart
The best of contemporary design is all about celebrating what is fresh and new — while still remaining timeless. We captured some tried-and-true techniques here. This always-popular style can bring a crisp, unpretentious charm to any home. Explore our six tips to create a unique contemporary expression.
Contemporary design is perennially popular, in part because it can evolve and change with the times. But at its foundation resides a love of straight lines, natural elements, and a strikingly sleek aesthetic that draws you in. Done right, a contemporary look can transform a home into something truly special. Here are six things to think about when embarking on a contemporary design journey.
Inviting in the right amount of natural light is a signature feature of almost any contemporary home. The question is less about if and more about how, as there are a number of ways to create that environment. Maybe it’s opting for big expansive glass for wide, unobstructed views. More glass allows you to better blend indoors and outdoors.
Contemporary spaces are distinguished by bringing in lots of natural light.
But as you consider large glass with slim profiles, don’t forget to think about energy efficiency or comfort. Look for solutions that are coated in Low-E, which minimizes the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass — without reducing the amount of visible light that’s let in. Check for the ENERGY STAR® rating as well.
You could also explore updating a home with door options that include glass panels for extra natural light. These are especially desirable for exterior doors that connect to porches, decks, or other outdoor spaces.
2. Interior/exterior synergies
A seamless connection between interior and exterior style is a hallmark of contemporary design. We just discussed enlivening a home with large glass and bold doors. But as we also noted, interior doors have a role to play too and offer options enough to suit almost any style. To keep the design consistent, once a glass-paneled door has been chosen, try an interior door with similar panels — but without the glass.
Interior doors can play an important role in a contemporary design with options enough to suit almost any vision.
Color can be another effective way to build that fluid experience from inside to outside. For example, if a red door is selected, carry that into the interior of the home. Try using the same shade of color or a matching tone to link the two spaces. Or think about sharing some consistent accent ideas inside and out. Silver and nickel finishes are popular in contemporary design and can be shared among front and interior doors and windows.
3. Simplicity and minimalism
These are especially important features of a contemporary look. Take windows as an example. With a contemporary aesthetic, the glass is likely to be unadorned, without grilles. Low-profile square glazing is often used to allow the glass to extend all the way to the edge of the frame.
A focus on simplicity and minimalism is a defining feature of contemporary design.
Casement windows are another familiar element because of their design simplicity and effective ventilation. There’s also shape to play with. Incorporate geometric windows in squares or octagons to deliver a strikingly sleek result. When it comes to interior doors, think beyond just basic flush or six-panel options. Show off the desired style with one of the many panel configurations.
4. Tone-on-tone palettes
Contemporary design typically leans toward muted colors, focusing on depth and texture through the use of a tone-on-tone look. A great example might be a wood door that shows off three different stains within the same color family, instead of paint. Using multiple similar shades can bring a nice drama. But don’t mistake this element as representing plainness. That’s not its objective or its ultimate result.
To elevate the sophistication of your contemporary design, consider pairing colors in the same family.
Here’s one way to imagine tone on tone. Say the exterior of the home is a shade of gray. Choosing a charcoal gray for your front door could work well and capture that contemporary flavor. Carry it further by adding the charcoal shade to your clad. Fading shouldn’t be an issues, as exterior clad colors are typically polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)-protected against color fading.
5. Form follows function
In contemporary design, everything is selected for a reason. If it’s not functional to the homeowner, it’s eliminated. As noted, “simplicity” is a watchword. That means minimizing design clutter and overly elaborate draping. Adding anything means first establishing if and how it can maximize space and be purposeful.
Every element in your contemporary design should have a purpose, all with an eye toward maximizing space and utility. Barn doors offer a great example.
Barn doors can be a great choice. They not only save space but are also a great way to partition rooms. Bifold doors are also a good candidate as they’re able to save space and hide laundry or storage areas. To up the contemporary vibe for both kinds of door, incorporate a smooth style with the same panel designs.
6. An element of surprise
Finally, most contemporary design comes with an unexpected surprise of some kind or a whimsical touch. This is where one can really express their creativity. What about the front door? Maybe add a pop of color. Green is inspirational, is considered nature’s neutral, and works well with grays, blacks, whites, and browns. Or check out the Pantone Color of the Year for timely ideas.
One of the delights of contemporary style is its fondness for an unexpected element or feature that adds life and charm to the home.
If that’s not preferred, maybe try a stain. Go light to conjure that contemporary feeling. You can also add metallic accents or floating panels for visual interest. Try new ideas. Mix and match. There are virtually limitless opportunities to find a perfectly conceived expression of contemporary whimsy.
Make your design your own
The best of contemporary design is all about celebrating what is fresh and new — while still remaining timeless. We captured some tried-and-true techniques here. This always-popular style can bring a crisp, unpretentious charm to any home. To see if contemporary is right for you, take the style quiz and check out these style guides.
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