Free Yourself From Confusing Terms


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How to Reduce Confusing Terms: Contemporary

What do you think of when you hear or read the word, “contemporary” to describe a design style?

Perhaps the word simplicity comes to mind. Functionality, minimal, maybe less ornamentation. This actually better describes the basic foundation of classic modernism that gained significant momentum in the early part of the 1900’s, through the middle part century, and continues to evolve.

For some unknown reason, the retail industry continues to use the word contemporary when we really mean Modern. This has caused a bit of confusion in the minds of the consumer. Contemporary, more accurately, is an umbrella term to refer to whatever is being made now or in the style of the present or recent times. Pick any trendy style that you’ve seen recently, like the fascination with Tuscany, and call that contemporary.

Like the fashion industry, the interior design industry gets caught up in creating trends to satisfy the appetite of the consumer. Style trends come and go and sometimes come back again. As an example, this past High Point market event displayed an abundance of gold metal finishes replacing yesterday’s brushed nickel and chrome. I suppose that powder coated gold lamp I bought there is going to look dated by the time my freshman graduates from high school.

If we’re in agreement that terms, rules and trends can be a bit puzzling, can we consider a different approach? As I see it, our environment has a profound impact on our daily lives. Our habitat contributes to and reflects our peace of mind. There are two ways to achieve comfort and happiness. One way is to enhance the sensual beauty of our surroundings. And finding value in having everything neatly in it’s place. Another is to remove the clutter and fussy decoration that can be subliminally stressful.

In lieu of identifying with a particular style, I’m an advocate of starting with contemplation. Giving some thought to how we ultimately want to live will be of great benefit in the long term. Ask yourself questions like; What truly makes us comfortable? Is it peace, harmony, simplicity or reverence for nature? Conversely, is it nostalgia, status, display of wealth or homage to history? Can we be mindfully aware of all aspects of the scene, without distraction from superfluous adornment? Or do we sometimes mindlessly repeat what our peers have done or even make decisions based on resale value of the home and, in effect, design for the next unknown homeowner?

The central question should be; How can this space, kitchen or bathroom help me live better? Thinking this way does not always come naturally to us. But once you’ve taken the time to examine what is truly important in the way you want to live, you have a starting point and will begin to more easily discover the resources and professional assistance available to help create enlightened and lasting contentment.


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