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What is Contemporary Design?

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Contemporary design: the rosenthal WAY!

Do you have a design journey that you've been meaning to embark on, but weren't sure where to start? Rosenthal Interiors is here to help you not only begin your journey, but also make it to the finish line in a way that leaves you confident about your informed decisions and happy with your new space. One thing irking our expert designers lately is how the other guys are trying to sell you furniture without knowing the difference between “contemporary,” “modern,” and “minimalist” styles. It’s a difference that matters because you, the client, matters; we don't want you getting different things from different places just to find they don’t work together in your space.

What is contemporary design? Contemporary interior design is a nod to whatever is popular at the current time. It is an energetic design style that changes with the vibes of a particular period, so contemporary design today will look very different from contemporary design 60 years from now. It integrates elements from an assortment of styles and eras, blending them with the overall minimalist look. At the current time, Mid-Century Modern design is hot, so contemporary furniture looks like modern style. Any designer will tell you it’s best never to get fans of a particular design style fighting, because that’s when doves cry, as any Minnesotan will tell you. One style that most agree on, because of its dynamic and vogue nature, is the Contemporary style. The modernist will like it for the cues to Minimalism, and a traditionalist will like the splashes of color and familiar textures. 2022 just might be the first year that we begin to see Minimalism lose a bit of its following after a 20+ year surge in popularity. Minimalism is easy to identify, because most of us know it when we see it: Flat, sharp and limited in color. Don’t get us wrong, elements like simplicity of forms, functionality, and clean lines are still very much in and a part of most Contemporary design. But the bare essentiality and the lack of vibrancy has begun to lose its flavor in the turbulent few years during Covid-19. So much so that it might surprise you to know floral design is coming back… florals!

In Minneapolis, you don't need to look far for contemporary design ideas. Pictured (above) is a contemporary living room featuring the Armina sectional, available at our Minnetonka showroom.

Modern V. Contemporary *ding! ding!*

You may use these two terms interchangeably (no judgement if you have), but Modern style is not the same as Contemporary style. Modern design pertains to a static style that departs from the pre-Industrial Revolution traditional style of ornamentation, superfluous fabrics, and lack of comfort. The modern style borrows inspiration from the upsurge and supremacy of industry in the early-to-mid-twentieth century and permits much less flexibility than contemporary design. Contemporary furniture currently incorporates characteristics of modern furniture—like its simplicity and tidy lines—but it also embraces aspects of Postmodernism and Art Deco, adding a little verve and boldness to minimalist designs. Contemporary style tends to beat out all other styles including Modern in consumer research. Contemporary home décor Functional, unadorned, and easy to clean - these are all hallmarks of the Contemporary Style that we love. Achieve this look with the following advice: · Start with a color palette of neutral tones. Whites, beiges, and blues are the favorites right now, especially when paired with vibrant accents, like Rosenthal’s local artwork. · Watch for smooth textures and sleek lines (not necessarily straight). Functionality, a major aspect of this design and inspired by the Modern style, means comfort without the busy fussiness you’d find in other styles…yuck! Clean lines intermingled with an occasional sensuous curve (perhaps from a sofa) gives a living space an uncluttered, contemporary feel. Tables are often chrome, glass, ceramic, or highly-finished wood. High-gloss and smooth surfaces are the perfect complement to contemporary furniture in your family room. Tables that gleam, simple display areas that shine, and largely unadorned walls keep the look clean and sleek. · Let there be light. No, really: Contemporary design requires light, not only because it’s supposed to highlight its immaculate features, but also because you need all the vitamin D you can get living here in Minnesota. Contemporary design accords best with natural light to give a warm gleam off all the surfaces. Huge big windows aren’t mandatory but can make the million-dollar difference. Dress them up with mesh or Roman shades or narrow blinds. · The sun is totally unreliable in the North Star state. Thank goodness for technology. Contemporary style, like the kind you’d see at a Rosenthal gallery, offers cutting-edge tech in lamps and chandeliers. It’s where you really let your creative side shine. Pick something wild, go ahead! The arc floor lamps featured at our Minnetonka location are seriously cool; imagine a long white lightsaber that elegantly leans over your sofa or accent chair. It can be a little more difficult to replace bulbs in this style, but typically it’ll be about two decades before you run into any problems due to the brilliant engineering work. · Who doesn’t love accessories? Just remember - keep it light & simple. Color pops break up furniture lines and can help guide the eye around the room. One humongous painting might be the focal point of a room you are looking for. Just like the lights, keep the accessories specific to you and your wild imagination. Don’t settle.

Contemporary furniture Identify contemporary furniture by looking for these aspects:

  • Vivid splashes of color to accent a room, which can be added anywhere from throw pillows to sculptures

  • Gentle curves with hard edges, like our recliners;

  • Lack of plastics or cheap materials - natural woods and glass with steel is Contemporary the Rosenthal way

  • Minimal ornamentation - we’re not talking austere here, the room should look inviting- art and family dogs portraits are a must, perhaps with some mirrors, florals, distressed frames, etc. Fit more in by going subtle

  • If you’re using geometric patterns, do be modest. Otherwise we recommend solid fabrics; Runners and rugs should be matched to the style of the room, very rarely does it work as a bold accent.

If you still have questions about interior design, don’t worry! We've got you covered. You can reach us by phone at (763) 544-0047 or by email at or look us up on Facebook ( or Instagram ( As with all furniture shopping, your best bet is to come to one of our galleries and take a look yourself! We offer design consultations in the showroom or at your home, Monday - Saturday 10:00 - 6:00pm, or Sunday 12:00 - 5:00pm. We look forward to seeing you soon!

13153 Ridgedale Drive Minnetonka, MN 55305 22 North 5th Street Minneapolis, MN 55Downtown location is only open Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 - 5:00pm.

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