The style of the homes in which we live tends, very often, to reflect the current attitudes of our society.
For example, the Eighties, a ‘me’ decade that was hard-working, power-hungry, money-oriented and harsh produced a style where labels meant everything, matt black and chrome were everywhere, designer names became iconic and technology was the superstar.
But then came the Nineties, bringing New age ideals, ‘downshifting’ and a softer, more inclusive atmosphere. Gradually, values have changed and a calmer, more subtle look has taken over.
Right now there is a sense that ‘anything goes’. We’re taking inspiration from any number of historical looks -- freely adapting them to suit our lifestyles -- while also placing increasing emphasis on the work of young, forward-looking designers; in line with this way of thinking, contemporary developments show a strong trend towards simplification, function and versatility.
Contemporary homes are light, bright and airy, with fresh colors, clean-lined furniture and tactile fabrics. An emphasis on informality (particularly in Southern Californian homes), practicality and good looks results in a style that is easy-going, easy to live with and exceptionally attractive.
Open-plan interiors have become desirable once again and modern, domestic architecture seeks to emphasize space and light above practically everything else.
The standard palette of today’s architect-designed house includes white walls, blond woods, fresh colors, plenty of glass and steel, large windows and double-height living areas. Such homes are clean-lined and uncluttered, furnished with carefully chosen pieces and sensual textiles that reinforce the idea of the home as a comfortable, pleasurable retreat.
Minimalism has played a part in creating this look, but it is rarely taken to its utmost extreme.
The open-plan aesthetic is also a solution to some of the demands of modern life. The flexibility of movable screens as opposed to solid walls allows us, if the need arises, to work or study at home, install a game or a children’s playroom, or care for an elderly or disabled relative.
An Ethnic Look
Another huge influence on contemporary interiors is the ethnic look, but an east-meets-west sophistication with a considered approach that differs absolutely from the “hippy clutter” of the Seventies. Instead, quality, genuine artifacts are employed to impart a certain personality, even spirituality, to a home. Their honest good looks working harmony with other pieces even through their origins are totally dissimilar.
Just as it affects every aspect of our day-to-day lives, ‘Green’ themes have affected trends in interior design. They have made themselves felt and are bound to play an evermore important role as we are becoming more aware of the scarcity of certain natural resources and the damage done by some manufacturing processes.
Solar panels, water butts and ozone-friendly fridges are just one aspect of this movement. For example, furniture made from recycled materials, the growth in popularity of salvaged architectural antiques and the ability to re-use the components of worn-out items are all manifestations of a desire to live in a way that is not just pleasant for us, but also kind to the planet.
There are few rules to contemporary style -- a hi-tech look might comprise colored plastics, stainless steel, rubber and inflatables, while a more elemental approach would invoice natural wood, stone, raffia and fleece.
Whatever you choose, the aim is simplicity, streamlining and subtle sophistication.
Remember the importance of texture, of pared-down shapes and of emphasizing space, creating a sense of pleasurable modern living.