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Laura Hunt

Your First Home

Make Mine Contemporary Light

Copyright Deborah Marks 2003

Of the many styles, Contemporary Light is very conducive to young, modern living. It's simplistic in nature and provides the backdrop for the very busy lives of career-minded people. I have given this design style the name Contemporary Light because I want to distinguish it from the glass and steel contemporary of the 50's and the severe and austere Minimalist approach.

As the word "light" indicates, the furnishings and the surroundings should light in color, quantity, and design. The walls should be bathed in light tones to set the stage for the furnishings and accessories. Many first homes are condominiums, apartments, or smaller one-family homes. Increase the feeling of space by painting all the walls in the same light tone!

Another element which sets the stage is the flooring. Again use lighter tones, whether in carpeting, hardwood flooring, or tile. Uniformity in flooring throughout the home helps to enlarge the space and provide a subtle backdrop for the furnishings.
The colors for the furnishings and accessories are a very important part of this style. The tones can be cool and thus create a calm and serene atmosphere. Or they can be bolder and allude to a more exciting and outgoing lifestyle. They should be full hues or pastels; the muted tones should be used sparingly. A general rule of thumb is to limit your palette to two predominant colors and use a third for accent.

The furnishings should be sleek and simple; they can be casual or elegant. Sleek design means that the sofas and chairs are smaller, and the seating is somewhat lower. Such furnishings are proportionately correct and aesthetically pleasing in smaller homes. Moved into larger spaces, they can lend an air of sophistication.

Lightness also is achieved by placing fewer pieces in each room. It prevents clutter and reduces the number of items which have to be cleaned and maintained. Having fewer furnishings means that you can invest more into each piece you select!

There are many contemporary styles from which to choose. They can be quite angular, display pleasing curves; they can consist of several individual pieces or one sectional unit for the living room or family room. Whatever you choose, warmth and interest are added to the furniture and to the interiors through the selection of the woods, fabrics, and leathers that complete upholstered pieces.

Woods which are compatible with the Contemporary Light style are beech, cherry, maple, and pearwood. Wenge, a dark wood from Africa, has been popular the last few years either as solid wood or as a stain. It's a perfect choice for a contrasting color scheme.

The fabrics available today are fantastic for their range of color, quality, and durability. For the upholstery, throw pillows, drapes, there are silk-like materials made of polyester fabrics which wear better than silk and stand up superbly to the influences of the sun and heat. For contemporary interiors, solid colors and stripes work well. For the windows, there are very delicate sheers made of polyester in many colors to complement the upholstered pieces and contribute to the overall feeling of lightness.

For the upholstered furniture, choose from warm textured chenille to the relatively new and popular man-made suede. The suede is made of synthetic fibers, wears very well, and is available in numerous colors. Imagine an apricot colored sectional against buttercup yellow walls. It cheers you up each time you enter the room!

The leathers are quite different from the leathers of yesteryear. They are more supple, adjust more quickly to body temperature, and are dyed through and through. If you want durability, leather is the material for your sofa or chairs. Today leather comes in a wider range of colors, making an interesting color statement possible.

If you are interested in creating the contemporary light style in your home, I would suggest visiting a few showrooms in your area. You can see the furniture first-hand and talk to the sales consultants. You can begin to realize the possibilities for your own home. (Resources in the Bay Area and Seattle are listed at the end of this article.) Some of the retail stores are quite high-end; others are more affordable.

Look for future articles about the Contemporary Light design style at By Recommendation Only. I will cover individual topics like color, furniture, flooring, and window treatments in more depth.

I wish you all the best for your start in life as a married couple and for your start in the world of home design. Don't let the many decisions you have to make get you down. Always remember this can be be fun and exhilarating. Make it work for both of you!

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Marks Interiors


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