Contemporary Living Room Design Ideas

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Design Concept

In the interior design world, the terms "contemporary" and "modern" may conceptually overlap, but they are not necessarily synonymous. While modern living rooms reflect a particular style, the word "contemporary" is a more general description for design concepts that are trendy and in the moment. Some contemporary styles may incorporate elements of modern design such as minimalism, for example. Unlike modern design, however, you have more flexibility with a contemporary look and feel. With modern décor, for instance, natural and earthy tones tend to look out of place. With a contemporary design, a variety of color tones will enhance the space.

(For more information on modern living rooms, read Modern Living Room Design Ideas.)

With a contemporary living room, there is no cookie cutter method to create an attractive space. Instead, you should experiment with different looks that you find attractive. Like any fashionable trend, contemporary designs involve incorporating the big ideas of the moment to create an aesthetically pleasing look and feel. The style is also about reinventing elements of past concepts - reviving the old to create something completely new.

Trends in contemporary living room designs have more than just an aesthetically pleasing purpose - they also have functional value. Technology, for example, is a factor that influences trends in modern interior design. Once upon a time, households were places without high definition televisions, surround sound, of video game consoles. When the radio reached consumers, it was large and clunky, but it was a focal point of a family's entertainment center. Then came large and bulky televisions that eventually became thinner and thinner to the point where people could hang them like paintings. One by one, wires disappeared, and wireless technology became accessible to the everyday consumer.

Historically, living rooms have served as a home's entertainment center; however, the idea of how we entertain ourselves has evolved with technology. Sure, board games are a blast, but are they an everyday activity? The more likely scenario is that your television fills that role.

When you think about the themes that influence contemporary design, think about technology as well because the reality is that in today's society, it's impossible to separate the two.


The idea of minimalism is a concept that prevails through today's trends in interior design. Minimalism is aesthetically pleasing because it enables you to create an environment that is spacious, relaxing, and attractive at the same time. At one point in history, the best living room was the most ornate one, and there was significant pressure upon homemakers to splurge on luxurious and ornate items. With minimalism, the trend is not about purchasing power; rather, it's about efficiency and making the most with what you have.


Bathroom Window Bathroom Skylight


To achieve an aesthetically pleasing design through minimalism, you don't need expensive artwork, and you don't need to incorporate elaborate designs. Instead, you make more out of less and strive for the most efficient and functional design possible. The room should derive beauty from its everyday elements such as the furniture, colors, lighting, and floors.

The concept of minimalism is also in line with today's trends that place considerable value upon health. Believe it or not, a minimalist design approach can help you stay healthier. By eliminating clutter and excess décor from your room, you create a space that you are better able to keep clean. Surfaces will be easier to wipe down, and you will have much less stuff available to accumulate dust. Especially if you have allergies or asthma, a contemporary living space will help you breathe better.

(For more information on minimalist design, see Minimalist Interior Design Tips: Clean & Simple Living Rooms.)

Colors & Balance

Contemporary designs emphasize the idea of balance, and one of the biggest ways to establish balance is through colors. You want a color scheme with some degree of vibrancy and variance, and at the same time, you don't want to crowd your room with too many shades and tones.


Bathroom Window Bathroom Skylight


One basic rule of contemporary design is to choose three colors. One can be the brighter, dominant shade while the other two may be neutral. All three shades may be equally prominent as well. With the rule of three, you won't risk a space that is too plain, and you won't risk creating a space that is too chaotic. Especially if you are new to interior design, the rule of three will keep your room's color organized, simple, and streamlined.

Furniture & Efficiency

When shopping for contemporary furniture, you'll soon realize that you have a number of options. Your search will help you see that there is no such thing as a distinct contemporary style. The design concept is vague enough to accommodate a variety of preferences, whether you prefer items that are ornate or minimal. With a balance of color, light, and minimalism, any furniture can complement a contemporary style.


Bathroom Window Bathroom Skylight


In addition to the idea of minimalism, the most important furniture design concept is efficiency. Don't cram your room with more than you need, and at the same time, don't fill your room with less than you need. Common examples of furniture found in a contemporary living room include entertainment centers, bookcases, couches, loveseats, foot rests, accent chairs, and coffee tables. The biggest challenge for any interior decorator is to determine how to fit everything efficiently.

Lighting Techniques & Your Mental Health

Contemporary designs are all about adapting to your various needs and moods. Color and lighting are two of the main factors that you can control to produce desired effects. Sometimes, you need a bright room to help you stay alert and focused, and sometimes, you need a dark room to help you space out and relax. One way to achieve varying effects is to choose bright colors with lights that you can vary. Bright colors may help you feel at peace after a long day of being confined within gray cubicles and white walls at work. If you choose a bolder or darker color, you can make it brighter by shining a light on it.

By choosing different types of light for your living room, you'll put yourself in the best position to control effects so that they adapt to your different moods. Choose a combination of sconces, table lamps, floor lamps, and overhead lights to create a vibrant or dim contemporary look and feel. Chances are, you won't want one or both extremes-you'll also want the effects that happen in between the two opposite ends of the spectrum.

To keep your family feeling fresh and healthy, be sure to include plenty of natural light sources with large windows, patio doors, and skylights. Cover up with curtains when you need softer mood, but allow bright light to set the tone of your space throughout the day. The biggest mental health benefit-a lower utility bill when you light your living room more efficiently.

Last Updated: March 22, 2012
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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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