What is contemporary style? If you love bold colors and graphic artwork and mixing patterns, this is the style for you and your contemporary self.

Welcome to Style Week day 5

Monday we talked about coastal style and Tuesday we talked about traditional style and Wednesday we talked about farmhouse style and Thursday we talked about transitional style.

And now it’s Friday.

The end of the week.

Today is all about bold and graphic and color and pattern and painting your ceilings the color of the sky and finding artwork that makes a statement and decorating with plants that have better haircuts than you.

Welcome to colorful contemporary style.

And now? This is the part of the journey where you might turn away. I get it. I understand. Most of you are probably farmhouse or transitional. I can hear you thinking—what does contemporary have to do with me? It’s not my style. It’s too bold. It’s so much random color mixed with random pattern. But before you click away here’s the thing.

There might be a design idea here for you.

Truth? I’m not really all about contemporary. I’m more of a classic and timeless girl myself. But when we went to photograph Carmel from Our Fifth House’s home, I discovered something about myself. There were ideas here. And sometimes—just sometimes—adding a single element of contemporary style can freshen all the other designs up.

Are you ready to find fresh?

Oh, good.

Me, too.

If this is your first day with us, I wrote a book all about style and how to find it called The DIY Style Finder. We traveled all over the country photographing different houses with different styles—like this amazing living outdoor space from my friend Carmel. I thought it might be fun if we took a style a day and talked about it and how to create it and what you can buy to get it and how it looks in pictures.

I wanted to feature some of the pictures from her home that we took.

Especially all the photos that didn’t make the book.

Are you ready to talk contemporary style?

Let’s go.

Elements of contemporary style

Before we get started—I have to explain something. There are so many different types of contemporary (actually there are so many versions of all the design styles—way too many to get into in a five-day series). For sake of this discussion, I wanted to embrace Carmel’s style of contemporary. It’s not too stark or distant or plain or monochromatic. It’s colorful. It’s bold. It’s liveable contemporary. It’s the type of contemporary that can fit into a home and still leave room for LIVING.

Here are a few of my favorite elements of contemporary style:

  1. bold color choices
  2. black and white stripes
  3. mix of design styles
  4. heavily patterned accessories
  5. graphic prints
  6. contemporary art
  7. shiny metals
  8. architectural greenery
  9. wallpaper
  10. contrast with paint choices

Contemporary style is all about being bold

(total aside: aren’t these pictures beautiful? These are some of the ones that we didn’t include in the book)

Contemporary style isn’t for the faint of heart. If this is your design style, you are following the beat of your own design drummer. There’s an instinctive flow with contemporary style that gives it vision and personality.

Contemporary style is all about being bold—and then?  Being bolder.

Here are a few ways to bring boldness into your contemporary design:

  1. mix patterns like leopard and stripes and polka dots
  2. paint a wall black and contrast it with a single color accessory
  3. add black stripes to every room
  4. juxtapose another design style with modern, like mid-century or traditional to create design harmony
  5. add a vivid color to the ceiling
  6. choose light fixtures that are over-sized and architectural
  7. add greenery to every room
  8. introduce sculptural organic elements to the space
  9. use at least four patterns on your dining room table
  10. red makes the boldest of statments

How to set a contemporary style table

Sometimes it’s easy to talk about a style with specific examples. I think the way we set and styled Carmel’s dining table is the perfect example of all of the elements of contemporary style. It’s bold and colorful and graphic and starts a conversation. Want to see the elements of how to set a contemporary style table?

Come sit by me.

Here are a few suggestions on how to set a contemporary style table.

  1. Set the tone of the table with a bold runner. Here, we used a red and white striped runner.
  2. Next start designing the place setting. Anchor the place setting with a neutral charger.
  3. Build a foundation with white dishes.
  4. Next, introduce pattern. Here we layered in patterned dishes with different patterns with a bold leopard plate.
  5. Change it up. Notice that every place setting is different.
  6. Choose linens that are bold and colorful. We used pink and gold polka dot napkins for this place setting.
  7. Don’t forget about the whimsy. These butterfly napkin rings are the perfect accent.
  8. Choose colorful flowers.
  9. Using a glass vase instead of a patterned one, allowed the flowers to be the star of the table.

Add a contemporary paint color


Yes, please.

One of the easiest ways to add a little contemporary style to a room is with paint. You can transform a room in a weekend with a new coat of paint in a contemporary color. When choosing a paint color for your space, think of color. Layer in color with painted furniture and painted floors and painted rooms.

Here are some of my favorite contemporary paint colors:

  1. SW Real Red (the perfect red to add drama to a space)
  2. SW Exuberant Pink (this reminds me of confetti)
  3. SW Oceanside (a brilliant almost blue/almost turquoise)
  4. SW Sunny Veranda (brilliant yellow)
  5. SW Slate Violet (almost gray—good neutral for contemporary homes)
  6. SW Extra White (perfect for trim with all this color

Add contemporary style with painted wall treatments

One of the simplest, most inexpensive way to add a little contemporary style to a space is with a painted wall treatment. All you need is a can of paint, some painter’s tape and a little imagination. If you choose to go bold with a colorful painted wall treatment, you can keep the rest of the accessories and furniture in the space relatively simple.

(total aside: this is one of the best ways to save decorating money that I know of)

Here are some ideas for painting your space with a graphic design.

  1. Cube wall—paint your walls with this dramatic painted wall treatment that looks like a piece of contemporary art. You can find the entire how-to here.
  2. Herringbone wall—if math is your friend, this is the painted wall treatment for you. Go bold or go home. You can find the entire how-to here(total aside:  Here’s the cutest math love story EVER.)
  3. Ombre hexagon wall—this painted wall treatment combines bold, graphic design with graduated color. You can find the entire how-to here.
  4. Raised panel wall—this painted wall treament uses bold color and architectural features to make a one-of-a-kind wall. You can find the entire how-to here.

If you like the contemporary look, here’s a little inspiration to get you started

Click the photos below to shop the look

If you are all about contemporary I celebrate you and your wonderful style.

You are the life of the party.

You grab every minute of this wonderful journey and never let it go.

You are funny and witty and creative and bold and you use every crayon in the box and you paint in all the colors of the rainbow.

I love your style.

Let’s be friends. 🙂

PS Be sure and check out the rest of the styles and how to get them in my new book, The DIY Style Finder.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Mona Mona

    I love your blog. :) And I appreciate your own style, aesthetically, so much that I keep coming back for more-that and your awesome writing. ;) But this -Contemporary Style- is where I live! Thank you for including it. I love your friend Carmel's style too.

  2. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    You do such a great job explaining the differences between styles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Love, Love, Love how you explain everything!!!!❤️!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Image for Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree

    You know what? I love your style whatever it is! You know I have this traditional kind of all American home with a coastal/nautical vibe that I share on my blog. Every now and then my husband and I escape to our high rise condominium with a downtown skyline view right on Lake Erie in Cleveland. That place is so different! The building is REAL mid-century, just over 50 years old now. Our interior is contemporary mixed with mid-century. I am SO LUCKY to get to live in two different spaces with two entirely different looks! I have enjoyed this series this week! Thanks!

  4. Image for Marty Marty

    How fun is this. I have loved seeing all the styles. So pretty. I am a mix of Transitions, Traditional and Contemporary. It totally is me, just mix of old, classic and new like I think of myself. haha

  5. Image for Pat Pat

    Love your blog and your style. But I love the Contemporary style. These photos are exactly how I’d like my home. Love bold color and am a little weary of all the white, gray and beige. Everyone has their style and that’s what makes the world beautiful. Thanks Karianne!

  6. Image for Crystal Crystal

    Love this series! and think it's fun and very interesting how we all tend to label styles differently, I call her style Contemporary Country. :) Keep the styles coming, in every style I find inspiration. Truly enjoy your blog, it's one of my favorites, it's never stuffy or same ol, same ol. I look forward to seeing it in my inbox!

  7. Image for Yvette Yvette

    I have really enjoyed Style Week. Even tho I am Transitional, there is something in every one of these styles that I love and have a little something from each in my home. In the Contemporary style today, I love the red and the animal print. Thank you for sharing all the different styles this week. 🥰

  8. Image for Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap

    I love your choice for this design style. Typically contemporary style is thought to be the black and chrome industrial type of look and I like how you showed a completely different concept for this style with all the color and bold patterns.

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