Monday, April 2, 2012

So Your Style Is: Contemporary

By: Lisa Frederick (Courtesy of Houzz)

What's contemporary style? Strong lines, smooth forms,
minimal accessories — with room for rule breaking

What it is: Technically, contemporary design is rooted in the moment (as in this moment, here and now — how's that for having to think on your feet?). But in broad terms, it represents an about-face from the conventions of traditional décor.

Less is more: smooth profiles instead of ornamentation, solid or subtly patterned fabrics in lieu of colorful prints, minimal accessories rather than big collections. While it doesn't have the overt warmth of older design styles, it won't cast a chill either.

You'll often hear the terms "contemporary" and "modern" tossed about interchangeably, but they're not exactly the same thing. Modern refers to a specific design movement that arose in the early 20th century and follows stricter guidelines; contemporary, by definition, is more fluid and tolerates a bit of rule-breaking. (Keep an eye out for a guide to modern style in the near future.)

Why it works: A strong emphasis on line and form — two essentials of good design — gives contemporary style its energy. These rooms are designed with abundant open space and natural light in mind, which makes them feel airy and expansive. Because there isn't any clutter, every piece has to count.

You'll love it if... At art museums, you gravitate to the abstract works. You have more than two books with the word Simplify in the title. Heavy curtains make you claustrophobic. Geometry class was the high point in your school day. You're tempted to stash most of your stuff in storage and redecorate all in white.

Style Secret: Simple Lines

Repeat after us: lines, planes, angles. Now make it your mantra. Contemporary design is oriented along a strong horizontal-vertical axis, from architecture to furnishings. The structure of a space becomes an integral design component on its own.

But also consider... Does that mean everything in your home must have square corners? Of course not. Balance the look with a few curves; the key is to stay true to simple geometric forms: circles, orbs, cylinders, waves. Leave the scallops and curlicues to your more
traditional friends.
Style Secret: Sophisticated Neutrals

Cream, white, tan, beige, black — these are the bedrock upon which contemporary design lies. Monochromatic and tone-on-tone schemes allow the lines and shapes within a space to take center stage.

But also consider
... Neutral is a pretty broad term. Choose a shade with undertones that add interest (the stony gray-blue shown here, for example). Try cream with a hint of pink, gray with a touch of green, or beige with some gold. If you want a jolt of brighter color, keep it judiciously focused: an accent wall, say, or a bold piece of furniture.

Style Secret: Open Space

Contemporary design celebrates what isn't there as much as what is. Empty space takes on an almost sculptural quality, carved out by the strong architecture. Because of their openness, contemporary interiors are especially well suited to large-scale furnishings, art and accents.

But also consider... Too much space with too little to anchor it makes a room feel lost and forlorn. Break furnishings into groupings to help divide up a large room. Chandeliers or
pendant lighting can visually pull down a high, cavernous ceiling.

Style Secret: Unadorned Floors

If you're wild for the feel of bare feet on cool tile, you're in luck. Contemporary design eschews rugs and carpeting in favor of sleeker, harder surfaces: bamboo; blond woods such as maple or ash; stone; ceramic. Ebonized planks or dark-stained concrete can ground contemporary rooms (as long as you're prepared to make friends with your dust mop).

But also consider... That's not to say you can't have a rug in a contemporary home; it's just a matter of choosing the right one. You wouldn't necessarily want to throw down a fringed Oriental, but a geometric design or a textural weave might be just the ticket. Or experiment with a grid of carpet tiles. If you must have wall-to-wall carpeting, choose a solid color and a very low pile.

Style Secret: Serious Shine

Contemporary rooms are nothing if not polished, and that means high-gloss surfaces fit right in. Chrome, steel, lacquer, glass, plastic, tile and more all work in tandem to help bounce light around a space. Mix materials for contrast and depth.

But also consider... Too much reflectivity will make your eyeballs quiver. Break up the gleam with matte elements — check out the beautiful interplay of glossy and honed surfaces in this bath. Or temper shine with texture, such as ribbed glass or brushed nickel.

Style Secret: High-Impact Furniture

Contemporary furnishings have clean lines and striking profiles. You won't find a lot of skirts or slipcovers — even the most tailored versions can look too soft and full. Instead, focus on pieces that show a little leg.

But also consider... An overdose of long-legged tables and chairs can make a space feel awkward and unsettled. A low-slung sofa, a simple ottoman or cylindrical end tables will offset the spindliness of their counterparts.

Style Secret: Center-Stage Windows

Can you picture tasseled draperies or a balloon valance in this space? Neither can we. Windows in a contemporary milieu are usually abundant, and they're often left undressed to highlight their crisp lines and let natural light flood in.

But also consider... If privacy's an issue, or if you just don't like feeling that you're on display, integrate sleek window treatments that won't stop the eye: sheers or solid panels that blend into the wall color; narrow blinds; mesh shades. As long as they're done in a neutral solid or barely-there print, and kept very tailored,
Roman shades are another possibility.

Style Secret: Minimal Accessories

Remember how we said "less is more?" Eschew eclectic groupings, fussy finds and bric-a-brac; keep accessories simple, few and well-chosen. In this pared-down arrangement, every piece adds drama without detracting from the streamlined feel.

But also consider... Collectors, take heart: You're not doomed to a series of garage sales. While this isn't the setting for the family Staffordshire, simple objects that feel of a piece — such as white porcelain vases or glass fishing-net floats — fall in step with the aesthetic. Arrange them in a tight, uniform manner that enhances the space rather than detracting from it. Bookshelves should be filled with hardbacks; paperbacks are better suited for traditional rooms.

Style Secret: Overscale Art

Walls in contemporary rooms don't usually have much in the way of adornment: no heavy moldings, no plate collections, no family photo groupings. So they're a perfect foil for large works of art that shine best amid gallery-style simplicity. Canvases should be framed very cleanly, if at all. Streamlined sculpture, black-and-white photography, glass and prints also work. And if you like your art a little edgy, it'll feel right at home.

But also consider... Art shouldn't compete with an accent wall or another attention-stealing focal point. Torn between one or the other? In our book, art wins.

Confused on how to put all of these style secrets together for your remodeling project? Call Cabinet-S-Top 330-239-3630 to set up an appointment to meet with one of our designers.  Or just stop by our showroom located at 1977 Medina Road, Medina and let us assist you in creating a contemporary style for your kitchen or bath.

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