New York City–based interior designer Rian Smith describes contemporary design style as mixing modern and transitional elements in a warm and fresh way to create a cohesive space. In her experience, it's all about achieving a balance between these two styles—which is easier said than done. If you're looking to add some contemporary flair to your home, start in the living room—a space that tends to lead the design style of the rest of a home. Think "soothing, calm, tranquil, and cool, but not cold," says Smith.
Before you begin picking out new furniture and debating paint swatches, take a look at these contemporary living rooms. They're the perfect mix of warm and cool, varying in color palettes, layout, and artistic embellishments.
According to Smith, white walls allow the furniture pieces to pop in a contemporary living room. Here, an abstract rug provides the perfect pop of color in this otherwise neutral space. The design is far from traditional, but it feels entirely of the moment.
White walls and a white ceiling to match give this room an effortlessly clean feel. There's something so intriguing about the way the different materials between the walls and the beams in the ceiling match in color, playing with the pure white couches. Interior designer Tessa Neustadt has mastered the contemporary vibe in this room.
When Smith pictures a contemporary living room, she thinks, "nothing too fancy or decorative but rather clean looking and fitted." This room certainly fits the description. Straight lines and raised furniture create a linear environment that's entirely contemporary. Plus the unique overhead lighting makes a statement without creating clutter or overpowering the room.
Smith recommends using geometric patterns and subtle colors to create texture. Take note of the texture of the throw pillow in this contemporary living room and how it interacts with the patterned rug and the geometric wall art. The mix of brass, wood, and black accents also creates a dreamy space that is so "now."
Though the walls in this room remain neutral, the furniture and decor are far from it. "Contemporary is about balancing the trends that are going on while integrating those modern touches," says Smith. Here, subtle furniture mixes with a dynamic rug to create a balance of styles. It's all tied together with this brass legged glass table—the epitome of contemporary and modern.
Smith pictures wooden buffet tables and tv consoles for a contemporary living room. The style is timeless, but when it's arranged with intricate wall hangings and a mix of patterns and textures like this BHDM-designed space, it becomes seriously contemporary,
This living room features a portrait set in a black frame, a design element that Smith calls out for being distinctly contemporary. "Black-framed portraits with soft landscapes—nothing super colorful or eye-catching," Smith says.
A bold green accent wall creates a dynamic environment where wood flooring and a crisp white couch are challenged by a bright pop of color. While the wall is extreme, it works as a balance between the subtle and the daring.
When it comes to contemporary furniture, basket woven material is on Smith's list. This living room pairs two woven chairs with a warm earth-toned rug and a deep blue sofa. The elements come together to create a contemporary space that seems to flow right up the staircase.
This living room is utterly sophisticated, boasting a statement marble fireplace and linear furniture. The space feels open yet full of character and rather inviting, thanks to ample seating options and a coffee table that ties the space together.
According to Smith, a modern lighting fixture works especially well in a contemporary living room when grounded in the space through soft fabrics and light colors. This white-on-white space allows the lighting fixture to make a statement while not feeling out of place. In addition, the black-and-white marble fireplace elevates the entire room.
You can also use plants to update any living room into a contemporary oasis. "I'd recommend a large fiddle-leaf fig planted in a simple colored pot," says Smith. According to her, the size of the plant can help create balance in the space.
When it comes to fabric choices, a light leather piece screams contemporary design. Smith suggests going for anything in a chestnut, camel, or bone colorway. This unique light brown leather couch creates a warmth in the space and plays well off the deep purple-toned rug.
Pops of creams and natural wood tones abound in this contemporary living room. This color palette, paired with linear furniture and clean shapes strikes the perfect balance of fresh and warm. Plus, the high ceiling and large windows make the entire space feel open and inviting.