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Modern Home Furnishings and Accessories

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Do you think of yourself as modern in regard to home decor? Modern interiors derive from early 20th century minimalistic design movements such as Bauhaus, art deco and mid-century modern styling from the 1950s and early 60s.

The most popular examples of modern furnishings are chairs from the German Bauhaus school including Cesca and Wassily chairs by Marcel Breuer known for their clean lines and economy of scale. The same is true for the Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe and the Eames lounge chair and ottoman by Herman Miller.

These quintessential pieces incorporate elements from modern art and architecture. Because they are valuable and difficult to find, many furniture manufacturers have replicated these classics.

General Characteristics

Before you jump in and start buying accessories and furnishings, here are some characteristics of modern decor to get you moving in the right direction.

Many modern homes consist of a pleasing combination of sleek design and mid-century design elements. No clinically stark interiors and no overly decorated rooms. The feel is sophisticated, light and airy featuring straight lines, sleek and smooth surfaces. Abstract and geometric shapes are the antithesis of ornate decoration.

The use of aluminum, light wood, acrylic, stone and fiberglass are the hallmarks of modern interiors. Modern interiors feature the best of styles from past modernism movements. The focus is on curved lines, neutral backgrounds, shots of bold color, natural textures and open spaces.

Stick to these simple guidelines when furnishing your home and you will be enjoying modern decor before you know it.

Even minimal design can evoke a warm and cozy feeling.

Even minimal design can evoke a warm and cozy feeling.


A current example of modern fabrics consist of a new generation of environmentally-friendly textiles. In the past, modern upholstery fabric choices included leather, velvet, barkcloth and horsehair. Social responsibility has ushered in a new wave of fabrics based on fair trade practices, natural dyes, organic growing conditions and sustainable fibers. These fabrics are durable and textural, visually pleasing and comfortable.

Cotton, linen, silk and burlap are great choices. However, hemp, abaca and bamboo fabrics have become increasingly popular. This is due to their minimal impact on the environment from harvest to manufacture.

Choose textural fabrics to add depth to your modern room.

Choose textural fabrics to add depth to your modern room.


Imagine if you will, a monochromatic color scheme grounded in neutrals like varying intensities of beige, gray, brown, cream and white. To some people this color palette might be the height of boring but neutrals actually promote harmony and calm. Add interest by introducing an accent wall or ceiling in a contrasting color, black accents, bold pillows or bright throw rugs.

Monochromatic room in classic grays and neutrals.

Monochromatic room in classic grays and neutrals.


Lighting sets the mood for a modern home but it can also serve as a design statement. As in any interior design style your home should have a balance of natural, general, task and accent lighting. Within each of these categories the choices of lighting styles are limitless.

Modern lighting choices offer function and form in one neat package. For example, an Italian table lamp made from gleaming chrome with an organic glass shade offers flawless task lighting. A sculptural lamp created from moldable silicone provides soft ambient light. Which one of these styles matches your personality and lighting needs?

Modern chandeliers can be playful with bendable wire arms or classic designs, like a rectangular dining fixture made from wood and brushed nickel. An vintage style Arco floor lamp curves with a graceful arc creating overhead illumination. Track lighting is also a suitable choice. It is easy to install and can spotlight specific areas, artwork and accessories.

Choose lighting fixtures that pick up on the modern vibe of your room.

Choose lighting fixtures that pick up on the modern vibe of your room.


Look for furniture pieces with simple lines and little ornamentation. Upholstered pieces should feature natural fabrics or leather and preferably in a neutral solid color. Materials for dining and occasional chairs, tables and bookshelves include woods such as, poplar, ash and beech--think Danish modern, plexiglass, glass and silver-tone metals.

This famous Eames lounge chair uses combination of plywood and leather.

This famous Eames lounge chair uses combination of plywood and leather.

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Floors and Windows

Keep carpet to a minimum. Bare floors of stained concrete, tile and wood add to the clean nature of modern design. You can create a bit of warmth with jute, sea grass or shag rugs which are all excellent choices. Or try introducing color and pattern with a geometric or abstract wool rug.

Maintain design consistency with light and airy window treatments, blinds or solar shades in colors that blend in with the walls. This creates a sense of openness in the smallest of rooms. Woven wood blinds, cellular shades and curtains in natural fabrics keep the lines simple and are a good fit for any modern room.

Soft blinds combined with sheer fabric frames expansive windows with a light and airy look.

Soft blinds combined with sheer fabric frames expansive windows with a light and airy look.


Modern artwork encompasses a variety of different media and styles. It has two distinct characteristics: expressionism and abstract. These encompass surrealism, cubism, fauvism, abstract expressionism, post-impressionism and symbolism. Experts define modernism as works created before and after World War II between the 1930s and 1960s.

Artwork is an investment and very personal statement. Out of all the design elements in your home artwork is one of the most defining features so choose carefully. Whether your choices are wild and whimsical or subdued and thought provoking, find artwork that reflects your personality and the tone of your modern home.

Choose artwork reflects your personality and sets the tone for your modern design aesthetic.

Choose artwork reflects your personality and sets the tone for your modern design aesthetic.

Decorative Accessories

Home accessories are the final layer of design in any home. A key feature of modern accessorizing is the use of hand-created decorative pieces. Source local artisans through galleries and art festivals.

Seek out colors and designs that will meld with your preferred color palette. Concentrate on accessories made from natural materials like glass and light reflective metals. Keep well-chosen accessories to a minimum. Remember, clutter is taboo in a modern home.

Local art fairs yield unique and affordable accessories.

Local art fairs yield unique and affordable accessories.

More Ideas for Modern Furnishings and Accessories

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 21, 2012:

brsmom68, contemporary home design is not for everyone. Luckily there are many styles to choose from and even traditional furnishings can have a contemporary twist! Thanks for reading and voting!

Diane Ziomek from Alberta, Canada on June 20, 2012:

I am not much into contemporary design, but the coffee table in the first picture looks familiar. :) Mine has a glass top, but due to our little living room it is not being used.

Voted up and interesting!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 07, 2012:

Yeah, Simone, I always equated contemporary with modern. So wrong! Now I categorize my design style as "new traditional". It includes my classic favorites, contemporary trends and, of course, eco-friendly elements. Love it!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 07, 2012:

I had not thought of myself as all that much of a contemporary design fan, but after reading your overview, I must admit that I've always been a fan of things like eco-friendly fabrics and airy floors. Contemporary design ain't that bad after all, hahaa!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 02, 2012:

Thanks teaches! Hope you can incorporate some of these ideas into your room. I'm so pleased my Hub provided you with design inspiration. :)

Dianna Mendez on June 02, 2012:

I love the suggestions. The colors and lighting are what I need to work on in my downstairs livingroom. Thanks for the ideas.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 02, 2012:

Thank you so much Om! Your kind comments are greatly appreciated. I'm with you! After writing this Hub I feel like redecorating! :)

Om Paramapoonya on June 02, 2012:

What a lovely hub! Your advice and tips are very helpful. The pictures and video are awesome. This is so inspiring I really feel like redecorating my whole place right now!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

I appreciate your comments, krsharp! Being a color addict is a great thing. I'm one as well -- I constantly have to keep myself in check! As with everything, moderation is the key. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the tips and plan to refer back to them. Thanks!

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 01, 2012:

Nicely done! I tend to fumble when it comes to putting things together and I seem to be such a color addict that it becomes a total blob! Now, I buy very little because I know myself! These tips are very helpful and will refer to them. -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

CassyLu, I'm just brimming with decorating ideas and I love to share them! This Hub was fun to write 'cause I love the look so much. Thanks for the read and compliments!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

Leah, contemporary is a great look and one more people should consider because it is so easy to achieve. Would love to do the makeover -- maybe after the apprenticeship program is completed! Hee hee!

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on June 01, 2012:

Wonderful hub :) Thinking my house needs to have a bit of this contemporary look! Thanks for the ideas!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 01, 2012:

I need to you come to my house and give it a make-over! I love the contemporary look, lindacee - that blue vase is so very cool!

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