Contemporary Interior Design: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to interior design styles, contemporary interior design may be the most future-thinking. “What distinguishes it so much is that it is an ever-evolving design style, versus some of the ones in history where they have a very set time period and a very specific set of rules that they’re referring back to,” says Erin Sander, an interior designer based in Dallas, Texas, and founder of Erin Sander Design. Defined by clean lines, decorated minimalism, and current trends, contemporary interiors are distinctly of-the-moment—even when the moment changes. Found throughout homes, offices, and retail settings, below AD dives into just what makes this versatile style and how you can bring it into your space. 

History of contemporary interior design

“Contemporary design came out after the midcentury-modern movement,” Sander says. Starting in the 1970s, the style was first seen as more of an amalgamation of various popular aesthetics of the time, like modernism, postmodernism, and Art Deco. Slowly the term contemporary started to take on a meaning of its own. 

This contemporary home designed by Erin Sander features a concrete console paired against natural elements like wood and greenery. 

Photo: James Nathan Schroder

What is contemporary in interior design?

“From the 1970s forward, it has continued to grow just as a very current, very on-trend way to define a style that is moving forward,” Sander says. It could be understood as a design style that pulls from many popular styles of a given moment, creating a unique look that is undeniably “in.” This also means, however, that a contemporary home may look different at different times. “Other styles that frequently recirculate have many distinct correlations,” Sander says. A midcentury-modern aesthetic will almost always make use of walnut-toned wood, for example, in the same way a farmhouse aesthetic will frequently include rustic decor. “With contemporary, there aren’t as many reference points,” she continues, “and I think what you’ll see is contemporary borrows from so many different styles and combines them all together.” 

What does contemporary design style mean?

“Typically I would define contemporary more as a blending of styles,” says Brad Ramsey, an interior designer based in Nashville. “It’s a little more eclectic, but it’s trend-forward, so contemporary is usually what’s on trend right now.” Ramsey grew up in a contemporary house outside of Atlanta that was often well-liked by visitors for its uniqueness. “It had tall pitched ceilings that are all cedar slats inside with skylights at the top,” he says. “And when I was growing up, everybody always loved coming over to my house.” Even though his parents purchased the home in the ’80s, it’s kept its contemporary status through thoughtful upgrades and changes throughout the years. “If it stays in the trends of when they bought it, then it no longer really stays in that contemporary feel; you have to keep updating it,” he says. 


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