What is the Contemporary Style of Decorating?

Sheri Cyprus

The contemporary style of decorating incorporates current trends into its design, but a few common elements are always present. Contemporary decorating is all about a minimalist, uncluttered look with clean lines. Although neutral colors are usually used in a contemporary decor, there is always room to add a strong accent color.

Contemporary decorating leaves room to add some bold colors as accents.
Contemporary decorating leaves room to add some bold colors as accents.

Contemporary decorating pieces for a living room may include a sectional sofa in solid colors and a clean-lined coffee table. The coffee table may be very creative, such as a base made from a few pieces of recycled metal with a glass top, or it may be a simple geometric shape made out of wood with only four legs and a top. Tables in the contemporary style of decorating don't have fussy details such as carvings or a lot of drawers or extra details. Plain, yet dramatic bookcases may also accent a contemporary living room. A few well-chosen larger accent pieces such as vases or lamps that impart the style of the times are the perfect accents for the contemporary living room.

Minimalist bedroom furniture is often simple in shape and design.
Minimalist bedroom furniture is often simple in shape and design.

Contemporary decorating pieces for a dining room include a clean-lined table and chair set. Tall, straight-backed chairs work well in a contemporary dining room, but any chairs that are not overly ornate will work. The dining cabinet should fit with the clean lines of the chairs and table. An ornately-carved medium-toned wood would look out of place with the hard lines and plain surfaces of a more contemporary look. Many contemporary decorating schemes use either very light woods or very dark woods as medium-toned finishes could make the look too traditional.

Kitchens in the contemporary style of decorating usually don't have wallpaper or printed fabrics. If they do, the look is bold and sophisticated without too many competing colors. Uncluttered countertops are an important consideration when you're trying to maintain a contemporary kitchen decor. Look for larger items such as a huge clear glass canister jar in a simple shape. Glass-paned cabinet doors can look great in a contemporary kitchen, but overly-detailed molding accents and clutter showing through the glass can ruin the clean look.

Bedrooms in the contemporary style of decorating look minimalist and the furniture should be kept to a few pieces in simple shapes. If you have your heart set on a four-poster bed, make sure the finish is plain and the shape is not carved or detailed. Mirrors can be any geometric shape in a contemporary setting and several large mirrors can add drama on a wall or when used together as a headboard.

Different accent pillows can compliment other pieces of furniture.
Different accent pillows can compliment other pieces of furniture.

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Discussion Comments


When you're redecorating or decorating your first home, you have lots of ideas that need to become cohesive and need to say something about who lives there. When I got married and wondered how I'd manage the task of decorating a home that blended my love for antiques and my husband's desire to create a contemporary design style, I knew we'd find a way to keep it uncluttered and still beautiful. I just didn't know how.

I'd lived all over the world and had the most eclectic decorating style. My husband grew up in the south and hated antiques. Hah! He wanted his own contemporary style and I understood.

We found that blending contemporary and eclectic home styles could still be uncluttered and clean, but dramatic. Minimalist doesn't have to be barren. It can be striking and simple.


When I was shopping for my contemporary living room decor, I couldn't for the life of me find just the right coffee table. I realized that I wanted something clean and uncluttered, but unusual and with a bold statement.

I gave up looking for just the right piece after awhile. I tried to just enjoy the process by stopping into antique and consignment furniture stores on a whim, not on a time table, if you know what I mean.

In one antique store I found a gorgeous wooden cocktail table frame. I'm talking the legs and the overall wooden frame, missing its top. I saw something so contemporary in its frame, even though it was ancient and very dark, I had to buy it.

Later on, in another store, I found a slab of marble that fit so perfectly on top of that cocktail table frame, it was like they had been married in some other life.

The total picture? Contemporary, sleek, uncluttered. But interesting and full of character because two pieces blended and married in perfect harmony.

This is what I find so fun about decorating.

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