Contemporary Interiors – Are They Trendy or Timeless?



Dear Laurel,

I love your blog, witty banter, creativity…

I could go on.. however, do you really want me to go on with this fictional email where you’re praising yourself? ;]

[Uhhhh… Maybe we should just get to the point] ;]

Okay. Yes. You’re right, as usual, Laurel.

[I’m not always right, but please go ahead]

It’s this.


And, I hope you won’t take it the wrong way.


[I won’t] :]

But, while I can appreciate most of the designers you feature; like Mark D. Sikes, Miles Redd, James T. Farmer, Gil Schafer, etc., they’re still too traditional for me. Or, I guess you call them “classical.”

I prefer interiors that are earthier, more organic, devoid or nearly devoid of pattern; well, on the fabrics. And, more minimal than most of the rooms you feature.


Although, you HAVE featured some contemporary interiors that I love.


For instance, this post featuring a contemporary home in Bahrain was one of my favorites. And, I enjoyed this post where you showed how to mix modern and traditional furnishings.

So, what I’d love to see is a post which goes over your idea of classic contemporary interiors. And, then please explain the difference between modern and contemporary interiors.


In addition, what do you see happening for the future of contemporary interiors? Any designers we should be looking at for inspiration?


In other words, is there such a thing as a classic contemporary interior? I guess, like your more new-traditional interiors, they would be able to stand the test of time.


Wunuvyur Reeders


Thank you so much Wunuvyur. And, thank you so much for your kind words. ;]

Okay, I’ll try to stop being silly. We have a lot to go over.


I decided to do this post about contemporary interiors, because of a phenomenon that happens about a dozen times a month.


In my inbox sits an email from someone on my subscription list. And, that’s wonderful. But, in these cases, the email wasn’t meant for me. It was meant for someone else. uh oh… Raise your hand if you’ve done that. I know that I have!

Maybe her name is Laurie, Lauren, Laura, or anything. But, for whatever the reason, you didn’t realize that your computer had put in *my* email address, not your intended email address.


However, no worries whatsoever. Like I said, we’ve ALL made this embarrassing mistake.


Sometimes, there’s no note at all. And, sometimes there’s a sentence or two to their intended. Frankly, I’ve never read one that said anything unkind. Recently, someone did make a comment that one of my favorite designers wasn’t their style. But, they did love his use of color.

Of course, I don’t know if that meant that they liked MORE going on in their rooms or LESS.

However, I do know that a lot of you have told me that some of the rooms that I post make you crazy. You simply cannot have a lot of stuff around. No “dust catchers.” And, definitely no books on the coffee table!

You know, it’s fine. You do not have to have any books on your coffee table. :]

That is what gave me the idea to go over classic contemporary interiors.


So, let’s go over Modern interior design vs. Contemporary interior design


We’ve discussed this before, but I’m happy to go over it again.

Today, the terms, modern and contemporary are frequently used interchangeably. And, that’s where the confusion lies.

Modern or modernism is a period of time spanning from the late 19th century through around 1980.

This link will take you to a good article about modern architecture.

And, this link will discuss modern furniture.

Beginning in the late 70s through the end of the 20th century is the post-modern period. The post modern period is one that tried to fuse classical elements with modern. And, often with not-so-great results.

Everything after that is contemporary.


Contemporary interiors means design that is going on right now.


So, that means it could include young-traditional designs as well as what we typically think of when we say contemporary or modern. And, in fact, it does. And, it includes the term “transitional,” which many of you know I’m not a fan of.

The reality is, that what we call a particular style of architecture and furniture is dependent entirely on who we are talking to. And, what their perception is.

However, when we say contemporary or modern, these days, most people are talking about a style that has little resemblance to anything you might find for instance, in Buckingham Palace.


Still, if you wish to call a contemporary interior a modern interior, that’s fine.


But, in my not so humble opinion, (just to be my cheeky seff.) the best contemporary interiors have elements of both modern/contemporary styling AND some traditional accents. But, it is never 50/50.

Like most things in life, the 80/20 rule is a good ratio. But if it’s 90/10, that’s okay too.


So, now, it’s time to go over what I think makes for the most beautiful, classic, timeless contemporary interiors.


However, there is still one issue. Contemporary interiors have many subsets. And, the factors that can affect the design of the interiors include:


  • Location.
    For instance, is the home in the city? If so, what is the architecture like? You can have a contemporary design in an architecturally traditional setting.


A beautiful example of that is by this talented designer I discovered on instagram.


via @timlabenda on instagram - contemporary interiors

Via @timlabenda on instagram

Please check out his feed. His interiors are quite fetching. But, for me, what makes them so spectacular is the exquisite architecture. I have and will always maintain that the most important element in a room is its architecture.


Of course, I realize that most of us will not have these wonderful high ceilings and huge windows.


But location can be outside of a city. These could be the country, mountains, coastal, southwest, tropical, etc. All of these different geographical locations will impart their own unique flavor on the design of the contemporary interiors.

Of course, we won’t be able to go over every one of these. However, I’ll do my best to go over the main design elements that I think broadly apply to most contemporary interiors.


These are the Design Elements of Classic Contemporary Interiors:


Although some may not be as prevalent.


Organic. And, this runs the gamut of elements found in nature. Natural fabrics, nubby textures, stone, driftwood. It can include organic shapes, as well. For example petrified wood.

Earth tones. This ties into organic. Again, contemporary interiors can also be very colorful. However, we’re talking classic. And, color trends come and go. Therefore, most contemporary interiors use color as an accent.

Presence. Pieces that make a statement or evoke an emotion. The best contemporary interiors do that, but not in an obnoxious way.


Tying into that is a sense of drama. This ties into scale.


In an ideal contemporary room these are some common elements:

  • Ceilings are high, but of course, we can’t always have that.
  • Windows are large
  • Spaces are more open, light and airy. (but to fix a too open floor plan please look here
  • Art is BIG (at least some of it)
  • Seating is low.
  • Coffee and end tables are low. And, the former tends to be large.
  • Light fixtures tend to be bigger but not heavy.
  • Fabrics are solid.
  • However, sometimes tribal and/or African themes may be found in throw pillows and/or area rugs. They are frequently used as accents.
  • There may be some industrial aspects to the architecture and/or furniture
  • Often there are some more traditional or classical piece in the furniture, art or area rug, if there is one.
  • Furnishings are never cramped.
  • There is always some black and also some white. But often, the walls are white.
  • Upholstered pieces have simple lines.
  • Materials like rattan and wicker are used
  • There may or may not be some mid-century modern pieces in the mix
  • There is a relaxed attitude to the furnishings. Art may be layered. Or, it might be leaning against the wall or in front of another painting.


Of course, there are numerous designers who’s style I would classify as contemporary. But, there’s one designer who flies high amongst the rest, in my opinion.


And, that is the young artist and interior designer William McLure. Well, technically, William Rankin McLure IV. This guy is ridiculously talented. I’m excited to see where his career takes him.

William has a vibrant instagram account. In fact, I’m sure he’s on my list of #onetofollow– some of the top design and lifestyle accounts on instagram.

What’s so much fun about his interiors which usually feature his own homes is this.

  • One, he doesn’t seem to stay in one place for very long. But, even when he does, the environment is like a revolving door of change.
  • The furniture moves from wall to wall and from room to room.
  • The walls get painted- frequently. As do the floors.


He paints just about EVERYTHING.


That probably because he began his career as a fabulous artist of large abstract paintings. His work is reminiscent of mid-century abstract masters, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. But, it’s uniquely his own. You can commission a unique piece of art from William here.


So, let’s get into some of William’s contemporary interiors and art.

In his rooms, you’ll see expressed, every element I mentioned above. Or, if they aren’t in these photos, you can find all of them on his instagram account.

William McLure contemporary interiors - white on white living room - custom abstract artLove this elegant white on white color scheme. And, the fabulous Twombly-esque abstract art.


via @william_mclure - beautiful styling - contemporary interiors

Williams styling is always elegantly spare and includes fresh flowers, artfully displayed.

Please notice the gorgeous tapestry in the background. Remember when tapestries were talked about here?

William McLure - minimalist classic contemporary interiors

I adore this dining area. Please note a few things. This is a crappy floor that he painted white.  White painted floors have become a trademark of his. But, lots of designers such as the legendary Albert Hadley are known for white painted floors. Me like!

A reader wrote in the other day bemoaning many disparate and cheap finishes in her home. She doesn’t want to have to deal with the mess of painting.

Believe me, I understand completely


However, I didn’t want to deal with giving birth to my babies, either. But, if they were going to come out, there is no choice.


In other words. Yes, it’ll be painful. But, in the end, paint is a wonderful way to fix a myriad of evils.

Please check out this post about how to paint your floors.

And, if you love white on white, you’ll love the home of Charlotte-Anne Fidler, featuring painted floors.

Oh, and one more gorgeous home featuring modern interiors is done by my friend and colleague Susan Serra.


But, getting back to the dining area in the image above.

Please note how carefully it’s been edited. That kind of restraint requires a lot of discipline. but, I think it’s the key as to why this space is so fabulous.

William also used those same dining chairs in his previous home which you can see here.


via @William_McLure on instagram - large abstract art with Ran

That is Ran, William’s beautiful Weimaraner.


@william_mclure on instagram - loft living space - abstract art

Yes, William uses books when he styles his coffee table. You don’t have to like it, but I do. The books make terrific coasters!


via @william_mclure on instagram - blue and white abstract art in the manner of Cy Twombly

Another exquisite abstract in the manner of Cy Twombly. This one has a blue-print effect which I love.


via @william_mclure on instagram - contemporary art

And, I adore this green abstract with a very subtle pattern.  And, notice that these organic lamps have moved. But, again, EVERYTHING moves in Williams interiors.

I did find a similar lamp. The Bodega Table Lamp in Whitewash from Arteriors


via @william_mclure on instagram - contemporary interiors - abstract artAn earlier iteration of the sofa, before it was reupholstered.


via @william_mclure on instagram - classic contemporary interiors

This is an older home that William lived in a few years ago. Many of the furnishings are more typically traditional. But, the feeling is still that of a contemporary interior.

William Mclure abstract art - contemporary interiors

Another gorgeous vignette featuring one of Williams glorious original art pieces.


Even though William’s rooms tend to be in neutral tones, that isn’t always the case. If you look through some of these older William McLure posts, you’ll see plenty of saturated color.(particularly at the bottom of the page


If you guys are interested, I can add a widget of furnishings that are in the manner of William Mclure. I didn’t have time today. But, those are fun for me to do, if you’re interested.





PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

***PPS: BIG NEWS!***

I’m going to the Design Influencer’s Conference (formerly Design Blogger’s Conference) In San Francisco March 1-3rd. The line-up of speakers is amazing this year! It’s one of the best opportunities for interior designers to network with colleagues and brands. And, learn how to grow your business.

Who wants to join me? There are still some spots open, but it’s filling up rapidly.

***You can find out more about the Design Influencer’s Conference here.***


5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Mary E - February 6, 2020 - 8:08 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I’d love to have you show products that evoke W McLure’s style. Or contemporary style in general.
    I used to think I favored Traditional but after I added some contemporary & modern pieces, it made my home feel younger. Fresh.ReplyCancel

  • Val - February 4, 2020 - 3:05 PM

    Ah dear Laurel, congrats on your win! I’m back from my no internet no telephone vacation. I’m so glad to be reading your blog again, you simply can’t imagine. Thank you for your answer to my Mark D. Sikes comment and thank you for my improved grammar. I’m the happiest girl on Planet Earth with internet connection reading you deconstruct his style. Thank you! Mark D Sikes, Ralph Lauren and William Mclure etc are all my favorites. I can never tire of any of them and would love to see the widget [of course who wouldn’t haha]!!!ReplyCancel

  • Gayle Morgan - February 4, 2020 - 10:19 AM

    I had no idea who William McLure was until I started reading your every word three years ago. Can you imagine my delight and astonishment when he purchased the house that a friend used to own just down the road from us? Now I follow his IG just to see how he is breathing new life into the place.ReplyCancel

  • Jo Chrobak - February 4, 2020 - 1:22 AM

    Thank you Laurel!!ReplyCancel

  • Penny - February 3, 2020 - 2:54 PM

    Thank you! Thank you! I too would love to your see your immense talents applied to cleaner, more contemporary settings. As a recent empty nester I find that I want less stuff, cleaner lines, texture over pattern and nature brought inside. Recently purchased a home in Scottsdale and that’s a whole new world of design. It’s only a part time place but not loving the typical aesthetic. Either massive Dallas tv show type furniture or cookie cutter gray everything flips. Would love to see your take. Honestly, you’d make s killing out here! Anyone else out there from the southwest, I’d be so grateful for any resources.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - February 3, 2020 - 2:53 PM

    I’ve been so bored with the strictly traditional interiors, so your was so fun to read! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Diane Amick - February 3, 2020 - 11:47 AM

    I too adore William McLure and his talent. Every room of his I’ve ever seen will include what is seemingly a forgotten or missed item you may think was an accident. I love that about his sense of humor…no accident. He is so about how a home really lives and what you will find in any room that is not a photo shoot. Real people actually live in this room. With animals, kids and friends. Perfection, except .for that one out of place thing. Love it!ReplyCancel

  • Charlene Patton - February 2, 2020 - 10:15 PM

    Laurel, Love you, love your blog. Reading your new post is always one of the highlights of my week.
    P.S. The bad thing about using a book as a coaster is if it’s a cold drink that sweats, it can ruin a nice book cover. And hardback, coffee-table type books are verrrry expensive these days.ReplyCancel

  • Sherri - February 2, 2020 - 8:12 PM

    Great post! I would love to see the widget added with Mclure-style furnishings. And if there are other classic contemporary designers you admire, it would be great to see future posts along this line. Thank you, Laurel, for the always interesting content. You’re the best!ReplyCancel

  • Amy Waraksa - February 2, 2020 - 3:20 PM


    Thank you for all of your wonderful posts, especially those teaching us to see the proper, “lines,” a sofa or chair should have, and the correct placement of wainscoting, art, furniture etc. These rules apply no matter what our individual styles may be. These lessons have improved my tastes, and have forever changed my perception.

    Recently I’ve noticed more and more that several designers are focusing on the elements of texture in a room. Must admit that I tried tossing a chunky throw over my sofa, and placing tufted throw pillows around the room. Needless to say, these meager efforts did NOT come close to the results displayed on Instagram. Rather the room looks like a poser, and pales in comparison! Please consider a post on the subtleties of layering texture, with some practical advice that even the eight-foot-ceiling and minimal-molding folks may incorporate into their homes.

    Also appreciate the gorgeous rooms you feature. But again, wish to be satisfied with my home, which I have updated over the years, but may never have the architectural elements as those we drool over in the top rooms on Insta or Pinterest.

    You have several posts about inexpensive solutions. Hoping you might help us with hints about using what we have in a fresh way.

    Thank you Laurel.
    Amy W.

    P.S. Your words are my, “rules.”ReplyCancel

  • Donna - February 2, 2020 - 2:57 PM

    I was just going to write the same thing, Amy. Except mine is a 1950’s split! Laurel has a post on how to add classical elements to a ranch or split, but would love tips on how to best incorporate organic contemporary but in a timeless, not trendy, way.
    BTW Thanks, Laurel, for this great post! It’s speaking my language!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - February 2, 2020 - 2:36 PM

    Love this post, the rooms are stunning.
    I still don’t know the difference between modern and contemporary. Learn alot.
    Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - February 2, 2020 - 1:52 PM

    I love this post. I would really like to see it applied to a “regular” 1960’s ranch with eight foot ceilings and no character that many of us live in. I agree with you that the architecture makes the room, but so many houses just didn’t have that incorporated during that era. I want to avoid the mid-century “mad men” remake look!ReplyCancel

  • Matthew McLaughlin - February 2, 2020 - 1:08 PM

    TO: anyone is seeking a Set of Six Regency Dining Chairs like Mr. McLure’s, kindly see the post @shopwellfurnished on instagram…look for the purple cushions but they are caned too. -MatthewReplyCancel

  • Anna M - February 2, 2020 - 12:20 PM

    Marsha Stopa, you’re correct! I missed the Starbucks cup sitting on the book. That is certainly Laurel’s delightful sense of humor.

    I just remembered a blog entry by Laurel a couple of years ago where several of us readers were kinda upset by her seriously suggesting books as coasters 😉ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - February 2, 2020 - 11:10 AM

    Laurel, When I was reading the intro I KNEW it had to be William. His gorgeous house has just been listed. I saw a little of it in his “stories” on IG but now nothing on Realtor. Probably sold immediately. I can’t wait to see the next one! He is one of my absolute favorites! XOReplyCancel

  • Marsha Stopa - February 2, 2020 - 10:49 AM

    Anna, I think Laurel was making a joke about using books as coasters. Did you notice the Starbucks coffee cup sitting on top of the books on the right side of the table? 😉ReplyCancel

  • Mary T - February 2, 2020 - 10:44 AM

    I’m glad to hear that I am not the only one who isn’t a fan of over the top accessorizing. All the “stuff” on occasional tables would drive me bonkers. And lots of pattern is not my cup of tea either. I guess my taste must lean towards contemporary. But if we all had the same approach to home design, it would be a rather boring subject. Thanks for another interesting post.ReplyCancel

  • susie - February 2, 2020 - 8:59 AM

    part of me has always wanted to live in an urban loft with exposed brickReplyCancel

  • Anna - February 2, 2020 - 8:42 AM

    Laurel, I really enjoy your blog. Your narrative and the accompanying photos are so beautiful and creative.

    BUT, you did it again! How can books work as coasters? A coaster is to protect a surface from moisture off of drinking glasses. Use a book this way and, yes, the table surface is protected but the book, whether it’s the dust jacket or the hard cover of the book itself is now ruined. Why would anyone do that?

    Yes, I’m a booklover but I’m also a very practical person. Using books as coasters just isn’t very practical at all.

    Ok, that’s it for my rant 😉

    Again, Laurel, thanks for all your wonderful, talented blog posts. They inspire me!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 6, 2020 - 8:57 PM

      okay. That makes sense. I would put a coaster on top of the book, if it’s a drink that has condensation.ReplyCancel

  • \Lisa - February 2, 2020 - 6:57 AM

    I would love more furniture and design ideas similar to
    William Mclure. I find I am embracing more modern
    designs and styles that I love and appreciate, and I just bought a more modern house!ReplyCancel

  • Dorothy - February 2, 2020 - 3:53 AM

    Absolutely loved this post on classical modern/contemporary. I think a big part of what makes this outstanding are the large art pieces and the large walls to display them on. I am trying to introduce a more modern vibe into a house with a lot of mid century hand me down furniture. You have given me inspiration with this post and I think I know now what to change. Would love more on this vein please.
    Dorothy (writing from Scotland)ReplyCancel

  • Janet - February 2, 2020 - 2:58 AM

    Love this!!! These interiors are beautiful, moody, sensual, casual, sophisticated and…different. Thank you for this post!!ReplyCancel

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