Rules Were Made To Be Broken
When grabbling with the question, “How to stay contemporary but avoid cold and sterile?” it can be helpful to understand how contemporary design evolved.
Contemporary design is an off spring of modernism which came out of the Industrial Revolution of the 20th century. During this period new technology reined over all aspects of life, social and physical. Use of metal, glass and concrete revolutionized construction. Bigger, more open spaces where constructed affordably. The idea of the natural world entering our living spaces evolved with the use of large expanses of windows.
At its most extreme modernism rejected all ornamentation, all allusions to earlier design and all past styles. Modernism grew from the idea that function was the key to good design. Linear form became central to modernism rejecting the past with all its curves, detail and extravagance.
So, if contemporary design is an extension of modernism, then by its very nature a contemporary design can lead to a stark environment. This takes us back to our original question, how to avoid cold and sterile without losing the basic principles of this style?
In my mind, first and foremost one needs to soften hard linear lines. This can be simply done by adding different shapes to straight edges. Throw some pillows on a contemporary sofa. Put a few irregularly shaped objects on shelving.
Next, add warmth with organic materials like a wool throw or a fun fur carpet!
Then, introduce a colour of nature to add life and brighten an otherwise neutral and cool pallet.
My Benjamin Moore colour picks for this month are Ballet White, OC-9 as my white, Kendall Charcoal, HC-166 to ground the room and Chartreuse, 2024-10 for a zing of fun.
So in answer to the question, I guess the best rule of thumb in keeping contemporary warm is break a few modernist rules! After all, rules were made to be broken.