People often use the terms contemporary and modern design interchangeably and, although they have a few similarities, they are different styles.
Contemporary design basically refers to what is popular at present, what is “in” now, whereas modern design refers to the design style of the mid-1900s, when furniture and room layouts became more streamlined, with less detail and low lines, a neutral colour palette and very minimalist in appearance. It is a design that does not change — the elements remain constant. It is also known as Mid Century Modern.
Contemporary design, on the other hand, is forever changing — hence the confusion, as what was contemporary two years ago can today look dated. The style can be very eclectic and is great for people who over the years have collected items they don’t wish to dispose of. They just need to tie those disparate items together with something that is currently in vogue.
Working with the premise that contemporary design is the style of today, to achieve this look it is vital you connect the inside with outside, creating a seamless transition between both areas, often by emulating the same finishes both internally and externally.
In Australia, this suits our climate and way of life perfectly, especially with the advent of outdoor rooms, woodfire pizzas and outdoor heaters becoming must have items. I am currently in the process of briefing builders on an outdoor room, which has an outdoor kitchen, open fire, TV, fans, stereo and both eating and lounging areas, and is directly connected to the kitchen and pool.
As a generalisation, today’s definition of contemporary design would include simple lines and planes, and open space creating a generous feel that is welcoming and inviting.

Key elements of contemporary design
Open plan living with the kitchen, living and dining room connected, very streamlined, often with square set walls instead of cornices. If cornices are used they are likely to be stepped.
Theatre rooms with oversize screens, dark walls and curtains, often with tiered floors and sound proofing for those with the budget, are taking the place of formal lounges and dining rooms.
Architraves, skirting and window sills are very minimalist with little detail. Doors to outdoor rooms are more likely to be stacker than bi-fold or sliding designs.
Although carpet is still generally found in bedrooms, living areas and family rooms are likely to be tile, timber or timber-like products, with rugs to create texture and provide colour to the space.

Colour palette
Neutral tones with grey undertones, and often with a white trim, can be broken up by large statement feature walls of wallpaper. Colour is added through throws, cushions and decorating items, with blush and turquoise popular at present.
Kitchen detail
Very streamlined, no handles and flat profile on doors and drawers. Waterfall edges on island benches are still popular, with usually a two tone colour palette. Cupboards are overhead with an integrated rangehood, dishwasher and refrigerator.

Furniture still tends to be low lying and adaptable, with the modular lounge still a favourite especially in family rooms where you are trying to sit several people at once.
The materials can be leather or fabric and are often paired with a feature chair. These chairs are often brightly patterned and contrasting with the wall colour and surrounding furniture. Built-in storage to reduce clutter and to continue the streamlined look is dominant.
Fireplaces — gas, wood or electric — are popular and often are used to create ambience rather than be entirely functional. The use of a two-way fireplace is an excellent way of creating different zones in an open plan home.

Lighting has progressed from being entirely functional to including statement pieces to designate the use of a space and for purely aesthetic reasons. In a contemporary home, you would see a pendant light over the dining room table or the island bench in the kichen.
Floor lamps as well as table lamps are also part of the contemporary style.

Window treatments
Block-out roller blinds with sheer curtains are taking the place of shutters as the preferred window treatment. According to Lucia van Gerwen from More Than Curtains, there is a resurgence in the use of curtains due to their insulating quality, with Roman blinds making a comeback in the last few months.
Instead of sheers behind lined curtains the trend is to have a coloured lining with the sheer in the front to add a sense of luxury. Roller blinds are the most popular choice for large stacker doors with pelmets to hide them when not in use. Newer homes are also embracing technology and installing remotes to control blinds and curtains. •