Contemporary Decorating for Real Life

Update your space with a nod to contemporary style. Sure, the look is sleek, but today's contemporary rooms are casual and eclectic with an emphasis on comfort.

Alicia Warden


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black and gray dining area with green plants
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It's Only Natural

    What is it? Contemporary style is often defined by clean lines with a casual atmosphere, open spaces, neutral colors, and elements and materials inspired by nature.

    In this photo, green foliage brightens up the steely gray color palette of this dining room. The shades of gray, along with glass and metal elements, lend an industrial feel.

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Updating a Classic

    While the bones of this room are traditional (crown molding, lead glass windows), the furnishings are decidedly contemporary. A sleek leather sofa is paired with spare tables and a taupe and white color palette. Doses of eye-popping orange establish focal points without overpowering the room.

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Let the Sun Shine

    The hard edges of contemporary design can feel severe. But with plenty of sunlight and rich textures, the space becomes warm and inviting. The simple creamy-hued sofas are dressed up with brown and pink throw pillows. The accents coordinate with the modern painting on the wall.

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Cooking Up Style

    Contemporary design is often pared-down design. From the flat-front cabinets to the sleek stainless-steel appliances, this kitchen is a series of simple planes. Contemporary design often relies on materials, rather than color, to give a space visual interest. Granite, stainless steel, wood, and rattan are visually compelling elements in this kitchen.

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Shades of Gray

    This kitchen dispels the notion that gray is boring. Many shades of the neutral are served up including the subtle wall color and gleaming stainless-steel cabinets, appliances, counters, and kitchen accessories. The monochromatic color scheme creates a serene and sophisticated space.

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Style Infusion

    Nature and geometry combine to create an intimate contemporary dining space. The rich mix of hardwoods is an ode to nature. The sleek table and chairs speak of structure and geometry. Primitive pottery and sculpture create a pleasing contrast.

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Shaping Up

    This contemporary sitting area is centered around a Mondrian-inspired art piece. Red from the painting is infused throughout the space. The artwork's geometry is echoed by the shelving unit and furniture.

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Soothing and Sophisticated

    Rich textures pair with neutral colors to create a space that invites relaxation. Shades of beige and cream are calming, while soft fabrics on the sofa and pillows are comforting. Oversized artwork and a contemporary coffee table dress up the space, making it suitable for both entertaining and down time.

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Remember Your Lines

    The sloped ceiling of this bedroom crowns a contemporary space filled with clean lines. Black and white create a neutral stage for sleek furnishings and rich accessories, such as velvet throw pillows on the bed.

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Wide-Open Spaces

    An open floor plan carries the contemporary vibe into this home's furniture and décor. The combination living room/dining room is ideal for entertaining and family time. Neutral hues relax the space, while contemporary materials such as teak and frosted glass add a Scandinavian touch.

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Bath Time

    Contemporary spas are a wonderful inspiration for bathroom retreats. White walls paired with light wood on the floors, woodwork, and tub surround make the space feel airy and light. Unique accessories and a touch of blue and yellow add visual interest. All of the space's elements are subtle so as to not to disturb the serene vibe.

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Fun in the Kitchen

    While most contemporary spaces are neutral, a bold splash of color is not uncommon. White, gray, and black comprise most of this kitchen's color scheme. But a vibrant blue makes a bold showing on the walls. Surfaces -- metallic backsplash tiles, shiny counters, and a textured area rug -- also add character.

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Contemporary Masterpiece

    Soaring ceilings and walls of windows set a dramatic stage for this contemporary living room. Neutral color, bold furniture, and contemporary finishes all play a part in the space. Soft tans and dark browns are accented with red accessories. Simple armless furniture allows the view to command the space. The geometric stainless-steel window mullions break up the large expanse of windows.

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Retro Revival

    Contemporary style takes a nod to the past with an infusion of 1970s avocado green and golden yellow. The clean lines of the furniture and touches of white serve as a backdrop for the bold and funky colors. The contemporary style of the room also keeps the colors from looking dated.

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Blackout

    Painting a wall black is a bold and daring move. The contemporary design choice needs to be carefully executed for a smashing result. Consider what other colors and elements you will bring in. Here, an adjoining green wall, touches of stainless steel, and light wood soften the dark wall. Also consider the room's light sources. Black rooms demand adequate lighting.

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Open and Inviting

    One of the most appealing characteristics of contemporary design is the use of open spaces. An open floor plan creates a spacious feel. Space can also be visually increased with the use of windows. In this living room, wall-to-wall French doors flood the room with light, making it feel large and inviting.

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Home Spa Retreat

    After a trying day, a well-appointed bathroom can provide a welcome escape. The pure lines of the free-standing tub set the contemporary tone for the room. Darker stone tile and flooring add texture and depth. A floor-to-ceiling window provides a beautiful view; a Roman shade can be pulled for privacy.

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Relaxation Central

    A monochromatic palette of soft tans is inviting and relaxing, perfect for a bedroom retreat. Textures and patterns add interest -- faux-finished walls, checkerboard-patterned bedding, and a hieroglyphic-inspired pattern on the throw. The sofa and the bed share geometry and scale.

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Completing the Look

    Great accessories are all the more important in a spare contemporary room. An abstract painting and sculpture set give this space a gallery feel. The arrangement of furniture is conducive to conversation, but also draws your attention to the dramatic reclaimed wood coffee table, a piece of sculpture in its own right.

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Keeping It Clean

    Geometric volumes give this bathroom an architectural presence. Note that the tub and the vanity are the same height, creating a modular look. A platform raises the vessel sink to a user-friendly height.

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Go Green!

    Although neutrals reign in contemporary décor an accent hue often takes the spotlight. To keep with the contemporary vibe, repeat your accent color in various shades and textures. An emerald sectional and a pair of celadon chairs enliven the living space, while a sculptural plant brings green into the dining area.

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Two Worlds, One Bath

    If you like both contemporary and traditional design, combine the two styles for a unique space. Marble floors, white subway tiles, and yellow accents recall the classics. A neutral color palette, modern fixtures, and the glint of metallic surfaces add contemporary flair. When combining styles, look for items that share common shape, line, color or scale.

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Tickled Pink

    A girly pink softens the clean contemporary lines in this living room. Using the color in various hues throughout the space keeps the eye moving. When adding color to your contemporary space, don't worry about your colors matching perfectly. Different hues -- from bubblegum on the area rug to eye-popping magenta throw pillows -- give the space personality.

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Garden Revisited

    Garden-influenced decorating motifs are traditionally reserved for cottages-style homes. But this room proves the look can go modern. Contemporary furniture contrasts beautifully with flowers, branches, and a tree. The spaces dark, dramatic furniture is balanced by the light coming from the French doors and windows.

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Parts of the Whole

    Thinking of a space as a whole, rather than in sections, will help create a streamlined contemporary look. Multicolored backsplash tiles encircle the room, and a countertop with similar colors tops the island. Stainless-steel accents unite both spaces. Simple cabinets frame the lively tile.

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Beach Cottage Update

    While this room has traditional elements such as a plank ceiling and classic mantle, contemporary touches look right at home. Accent chairs and a curvy coffee table are stylish additions to the room. Bright aqua and green textiles punctuate the neutral furniture. A coral-inspired sculpture on the coffee table and driftwood mirror above the fireplace complete the mod beach look.

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Curves Ahead

    Contemporary design isn't all right angles and hard edges. Curved lines create rhythm and flow. Here, serpentine lines define the tub and vanities. The look is all contemporary with slate floors, spare detail, and warm neutral colors.

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Compact Contemporary

    What this kitchen lacks in size, it makes up for in style. Light wood cabinets are accented with stainless-steel hardware. For a seamless look, the floors are finished in a similar color. Defining the cabinets, a black baseboard adds visual punch, paralleling the the dark countertops and backsplash.

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Working Together

    Open spaces, such as this dining room-living room, need to be unified by common elements. The leather living room chairs mimic the shape of those in the dining room. Unexpected, overscale accessories provide the wow factor.

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Back to Nature

    Natural elements warm up contemporary style. Corrugated steel, unfinished wood, and frosted glass mingle beautifully with rustic surfaces and accessories. A favorite item stands out more when placed against a contrasting backdrop.

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