Design Style Guide: Contemporary

Last month I announced the start of my new series “Design Style Guides“. Each month I will be bringing you a detailed guide to popular design styles which will include the time period, how to spot the style, and notable designs or designers. To kick off the series, I’m covering Contemporary – a style that took hold in the late 1990’s and is still popular in homes today.


Contemporary typically refers to whatever style is currently popular. However there was a period, from the late 1990’s through the early 2000’s where there was a very clear, identifiable aesthetic that was happening in homes. What is considered “contemporary” is ever evolving, so this article focuses on the style that took hold in the late 20th/ early 21st centuries.

The word ‘modern’ is often used interchangeably with ‘contemporary’, however in the design world, we use ‘modern’ to refer to a distinct style from the middle of the 20th century. To help eliminate confusion, designers often refer to this period as Mid-Century Modern – which I will cover in a future article.

Peak Popularity  

End of 20th Century – Present

Spot the Style  

Contemporary style came about as an answer to the gaudy look of the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s. The 80’s were known for dark rooms, bold prints, oversized furniture, and a lot of oak. The contemporary style brought us bright rooms in soothing earth tones, simple-lined furniture, and wood that was either light tone (such as maple) or a dark finish (such as espresso).

Beige, pure white, and stone gray were the core colors, accented by pops of bold colors such as teal, orange, or lime green. The accent wall became a must-have. Where brushed gold was the metal of the 80’s, polished chrome and stainless steel became a key element of contemporary style. Wall-to-wall carpeting was replaced with hardwood as the flooring of choice. While the homes of the 1980’s felt cramped, the contemporary style of the late 1990’s focused on open, airy spaces.


Designer Scott Thomas, an HGTV Professional, has a vast portfolio from commercial to residential designs. Check out his “High End City Oasis” – a perfect example of beautifully executed Contemporary style.

Where to Shop Style Guide Mood Board showing examples of funiture, finishes, colors, and patterns used in contemporary interior design style

1. Avington Slipper Chair from Target

2. Simplice Chrome Faucet from Kohler

3. Geometric Contemporary Area Rug from Overstock

4. “Whole Wheat” Paint from Sherwin Williams

5. “Connor’s Lakefront” Paint from Sherwin Williams

6. Maple Wood Flooring

7. Espresso Finish Wood Flooring

8. Table Lamp from Bungalow Belt

*No sponsored content: My blog is 100% sponsor and advertiser free! When I tell you about a product or company I love, you can trust that the opinion is mine and not paid for.

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