#6 Main Characteristics of Contemporary Interior Design


Contemporary Interior Design is, by definition, an interior style that is occurring and happening at the same time. There is no definitive signature of a contemporary interior as it encompasses many styles through the last few decades. What is prevalent, however, is that the style is constantly evolving; taking bits of elements from previous styles and refining it to fit the current look and aesthetic.

Contemporary design uses popular materials from then and now in order to create a unique and adaptable look. Here are 6 characteristics of a contemporary interior and how you can create one in your own home.


Contemporary Design is by far, the most adaptable style there is. As such, the colors associated with this style are those that are transitional and can be easily adapted into other styles. The most common colors in this palette are browns, taupes, creams, and pure white; something of a muted earthy tone. This, coupled with several bits of a contrasting color, brings the whole room together.

You can achieve this look by painting your walls with light brown paint or for a more flexible color, an off-white or cream paint. You can even set aside one wall as your accent wall and paint in a contrasting color such as teal, gray, or even a darker brown.  Another idea is to employ a cream-colored sofa and accessorize it with different patterned pillows of the same pop of color. Or if you want to, you can even have the whole area in a singular color palette, with the accent color being on just one very bold piece. The only limitation is your imagination.



Furniture that is often seen in this style tends to have simplified lines and surfaces, without any intricate details. This evolved from older, more elaborate designs with several of the elements slowly taken away until all that is left is a simplified and more classic look.  Contemporary furniture may also be taken from pieces that were popular in their day and are now enjoying a rebirth of sorts in the new style. Most of the furniture is made from light wood such as birch and oak, glass, steel, chrome, and even metal.

There are many designs to choose from, but a very good tip is to prioritize practicality, then function and form. Or simply “function follows form”; a philosophy made famous by Louis Sullivan. Choose pieces that possess the characteristic of straight lines since these will easily be dressed up with various accessories and pairs. Consider also the shape and size of the room.

If you have a small room, opt for a sofa that is both small and comfortable. Avoid bulky-looking pieces as they will make the room appear smaller. If you have an open plan type room where two areas can be seen, choose pieces that balance one another in terms of size and materials. You can even mix material finishes together to create a really unique piece of furniture such as an entertainment center or even built-in bookshelves.



As stated earlier, the contemporary style is the most adaptable of all the styles. In this notion, it uses finishes and materials that are not only popular now but can easily be adapted into other styles shortly.

Fabrics, for example, have evolved from expensive, heavily woven brocades to light yards of silk, wool, linen, and cotton. These kinds of fabrics are abundant for upholstered pieces as well as soft furnishings like curtains and pillows. It also showed the sudden popularity of leather or leatherette. The same can be said for material finishes such as veneer, wood stains, stone, and even synthetic materials.

This is the part where you can get very creative. If you have an existing piece of furniture but would like to change its tattered and faded upholstery, go for solid-colored wool or cotton fabrics that can withstand wear and tear. A staple color would be neutrals, but you can opt for a different color; if you plan on it being an accent or focal piece.

Try experimenting with different patterns and textures in your fabric pillows. You will be surprised to see that plain-colored pillows lined with piping would complement pillows with geometric or minimalist prints.  You can even put a bold printed pillow on an accent chair. Opt for fabrics that are locally made like handwoven fabrics or fabrics made from natural resources.



The most common lighting used in contemporary interiors tends to gravitate towards it being a statement or focal point in the room. While there will be general lighting that illuminates the room, each room will have signature lighting that easily brightens not just the place but the overall aesthetic. Floor Lamps, Table Lamps, and Hanging Lights fall under this category.

Oftentimes, they employ the use of bright fluorescent bulbs, but for some, especially those who favor a more traditional ambiance, they would go for incandescent lighting or even both.  Most contemporary designs for lighting fixtures would have sleek straight lines and smooth metallic finishes.

When choosing a floor lamp for your living room, if you are considering getting a floor lamp for that extra task lighting, go for a floor lamp that is neither too tall nor too short. Opt for one that is at least eye level for you. This means its top should meet the level of your eyes.

Or if you are getting a floor lamp that arches like an overhang, make sure you get one whose lampshade does not droop further down. When in doubt, go for floor lamps that are solid black or chrome plated. Another contemporary idea is to have track lighting highlight a particular piece of art that you might have on your wall. You could even highlight a wall gallery.

If floor lamps or hanging lamps are not your cup of tea, you can use recessed or cove lighting as it provides that much-needed drama and light for your interior. The best part of using this type of lighting is that it is adaptable to any type of style regardless.



Unlike most decors associated with a particular theme, contemporary decors are popular with what the current trend may be. But that doesn’t mean that there are decors that can’t easily be adaptable. Sometimes, a little bit of creativity is all one needs for contemporary design.

Contemporary decors include contemporary art such as pop art, modern art, and even minimalist art framed on thin black frames; bright and exotic-looking carpets made from dyed cotton and yarn, soft furnishings like pillows and curtains and little statues and figurines. If you like to have a wall gallery showcasing your favorite artworks or photos, choose a wall where it can easily be seen like your hallway, your foyer, or even your living room. To make them look uniform, use identical frames or frames that have a similar element like color and texture. Hang your wall gallery in any way you’d like. There are many ways of hanging artwork. If you live in a condo, a good tip is to consult the property manager and its engineer if the wall that you are considering for your wall gallery does not have hidden pipes and wires that you might accidentally hit.

If you have tall windows, try hanging your curtains a few inches above your window. This creates an illusion of height. Choose curtains that are of the right length. Contemporary curtains will often made out of printed or plain fabrics. A very popular type of curtain is the blackout curtain. These are curtains that, based on their name, completely darken or moderate the light coming into the room. It’s also good for acoustic management.  As much as possible, avoid using curtains that are of a heavier fabric and print. You can also have, if you’re not a fan of printed or plain colored curtains, soft voile curtains that not only moderate the light coming in from outside, it can also give your room a very breezy and comfortable feel. Which is the end goal of most contemporary interiors.



If you are still feeling overwhelmed by all of this, you can always consult a designer. Most interior designers have spent years studying on how to make most of the space given. They will be more than happy to assist you in creating your contemporary interior. They will take into consideration how big the space is, how much your budget is and what you would like to see.

You can also give them a few requirements like what kind of special features or what colors you would like to see and they will provide you with various design solutions. If you are living in a condo and especially an hdb apartment, you can always check through a list of designers recognized and familiar with your property.

So there you have it. The takeaway from this is that when you opt for a contemporary interior, you are giving yourself several opportunities to try out different styles and looks. After all, variety is the spice of life, and having a basic canvas of sorts is even more fun.

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