Contemporary-What? Your Guide to Making Sense of Design Styles
If you’ve ever shopped for furniture online, especially for a couch or rug, you’ve probably seen the familiar list of categories to narrow in on, like the one below for Macy’s rug page. At this point, you probably pause and think something along the lines of, “Wait… is it modern I’m looking for or contemporary? What is the difference anyway?”
If this dilemma sounds all too familiar, then you’re not alone. There are a lot of terms that get thrown around with interior design; some of them are so similar that they’re practically indistinguishable, while others are actually subgroups of bigger design styles.
Get this tangle of terms straightened out! Read on for a quick run-down of the major design styles (pictures included!) and how they influence today’s trends.
According to Design Shuffle, the traditional style uses the antique furnishings, rich colors and symmetrical room layouts first created in 17th-19th century European and American designs. Formal in feel, traditional rooms are very balanced and often use pairs of chairs, lamps, or tables.
Another characteristic element of the style is the use of detailed ornamentation; nail head trim, crown molding, button tufting, and other finishing touches are used lavishly. These details are often used in original and innovative contexts in the other design styles.
Designers to Know: John Fowler, Michael S. Smith, Mark Hampton
The Modern Style took the first step away from the ornateness and formality of the styles that came before it. It technically encompasses a lot of smaller movements, including art deco and art modern.
After mid-century modern exploded on the scene, clean lines and industrial materials became the face of the modern style. Open space, bare windows, and white-walled rooms are dotted with molded plastic, leather, chrome, and glass furniture to create the bare, serene feel of modernity.
Designers to Know: Mies Van Der Rohe, Karim Rashid
According to Design Shuffle, Mid-Century Modern is characterized by simple, clean lines and organic forms and textures, and is the most popular manifestation of the Modern Style. Especially associated with American and Scandinavian design, the style features a lot of walnut, teak, chrome, and stainless steel. Many famous pieces of furniture emerged from the period, including the Saarinen Tulip Table and the Eames Lounge Chair, and they’re still wildly popular today.
Designers to Know: Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Eileen Gray
Contemporary Style is sometimes confused with modern style, but, according to Relish Interiors, contemporary is defined as design that’s of-the-moment, whereas modern refers to 20th century designs. Anything that is innovative falls under this catch-all label, but there are certain trends that can be identified; contemporary styling often uses unexpected materials like cardboard, resins, or reclaimed wood.
They often continue along the same lines as modernism by using lots of space and making simple, bold arrangements. However, contemporary designs sometimes borrow the organic lines, details, and materials of past styles as well.
Designers to Know: Sir Terence Conran, Philippe Starck, Michael Graves
According to Interior Design Pro, Transitional Style blends contemporary and traditional designs into a harmonious look. Classic furniture shapes and styles are often mixed with current materials and finishes; for example, an antique Louis chair might be reupholstered in a graphic print.
Occasionally this formula is reversed, and contemporary furnishings are given a traditional fabric treatment. Another popular variation on the style is mixing traditional furniture with bold, modern art.
Designers to Know: Billy Baldwin, David Hicks, Nate Berkus
Eclectic Style is very similar to transitional style, except that it borrows from any and all styles to achieve a diverse mélange of other looks. For example, an eclectic living room might feature antique portraiture, French country side chairs, a modern rug, and Chinoiserie cabinets. The style is prevented from being too chaotic by using similar colors, shapes, or textures throughout.
Designers to Know: Sheila Bridges, Kelly Wearstler
After the long supremacy of the still-popular Modern style, many designers have rejected the cold and impersonal feel that a completely modern design has been known to create. So while it certainly still has its place in the interior design world, it’s Eclectic and Transitional styles that are really in their heyday.
Designers are incorporating elements of history in their work, but in fresh new ways that mingle with innovative concepts, materials, and construction. This adds a lot visual interest that couldn’t be achieved with a “pure” style from times past. By combining the ergonomic science of modern design with the softness of traditional materials, designers are creating livable homes that are as functional as they are interesting and beautiful.
All photos via Shutterstock
Today’s post was a guest blog by Alyssa Ennis.