What's Up in RE+D?

Goodness Gracious, What's the Difference?!

Posted on January 7, 2015 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (3105)

Contemporary this, Modern that...These are style terms that are used interchangeably every day, especially in real estate. But the difference between the two can be a real pickler, a head scratcher, down-right baffling, I say. So, what IS the difference and which one is more common in the current real estate market and design field? Let's explore!!


"Modern" or more accurately, "Mid-Century Modern" refers to a style that was developed roughly between 1933-1965. It is not a style that is constantly evolving with the times to stay aligned with its name, but instead Modern refers to the design characteristics during this timeframe. Its name is a little misleading and it's no wonder there is confusion between Contemporary and Modern! The style is not ever-changing and actually elements of it are beginning to be described as 'retro' by some.


(image: http://www.home-designing.com/2008/12/ultra-modern-living-rooms)

In Modern style, hard straight lines dominate, and interiors are generally very minimal, clean, stark and sometimes sterile feeling. Walls are often white and floors are mostly left bare - if area rugs are used, they are usually wool and neutral. Tiny pops of color can be introduced, but in general, color remains understated. Futuristic materials like, metals, plastics, glass and ceramics are prominent in this design style.


Contemporary on the other hand is exactly as the name suggests by definition, "belonging to or occurring in the present” and represents what is popular in current design. While Contemporary design includes many of the same attributes as Modern, it focuses on comfort and functionality, in addition to aesthetics. It has a bit more "livability" to it and is very popular today - In the real estate market, homes are generally staged in-line with Contemporary furnishings and upgrades/ updates are mostly implemented within this style as well.

(Image: http://livinghomedesigns.com/contemporary-interior-design/)

Contemporary lines should always be simple but they are not restricted to the sharp precise straightness typical of the Modern style. Contemporary places importance on open and spacious layouts. Architectural and structural features are highlighted, like pipes, pillars, beams and radiators - Something I enjoy seeing in this style is exposed duct work (my parents own a steel manufacturing company in South Africa (Avco Steel Designs), so I see ducting as a labor of love and industrial design works of art, rather than a purely functional element.)

There is nothing frilly, dainty or overly-ornamented! Open space is as important as the furnishings that exist within and colors are usually a neutral base, such as beige or grey walls and furniture with bold splashes of color introduced through accessories and art, which is also kept somewhat minimal, like in the Modern style. Contemporary also uses many of the same materials as Modern but incorporates natural materials like wood, in addition to industrial materials and makes use of artistic light fixtures.

I have a massive appreciation for all design styles, but Contemporary is the style I find myself implementing in my own home - It's aesthetic is classic and classy yet functional enough to live comfortably in. 

OK, so that, in a nutshell is the long-time question of Contemporary vs. Modern design! Happy decorating and let me know which design style you prefer!!!

Check out my new brand video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwJCKD1cMsA


My Little White Lie

Posted on January 2, 2015 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (782)

I have a dark secret..or maybe it's a light secret...more accurately a white secret...shhh

Have you ever tried to decorate a white painted room? You think throwing boldly colored art at it and adding some shiny things will make it come alive, but the more you add, the worse it gets!!...even adding patterned pillows and blankets and the trendiest textiles don't help and it just looks cheap and unplanned - it's a total design disaster and what do you have to show for it? Several holes in the wall and many lost hours of returning said boldly colored art and shiny things and trendy patterned textiles, topped off with complete and utter self-doubt/loathing!! Ok, so this may or may not have happened to ...um...someone I know, once or twice, maybe thrice(?)

But why??? I'll tell you why... White can be a very sterile, stark and cold color. Sometimes the contrast of adding items that are bolder in color, like red for example, against white is too sharp. So what do you do? Give up, pad the walls for your own protection and rock back and forth in the fetal position because all hope for a well-designed space is dashed?

NO! I'll share my secret - Ideally a warm neutral, such as a light beige or grey paint is a fantastic backdrop for many designs and most stagings. (I love Sherwin Williams "Realist Beige" and "Diverse Beige" - It's great quality paint and the color is subtle, yet warm and works with almost every style.) However, sometimes and especially with home stagings and decorating homes for the real estate market, I don't get to recommend paint colors - I roll up to the property with my go-to decorative rental items and furniture and perform "design-in-a-day" miracles and as Tim Gunn would say, I have to "make it work".

The trick is to embrace the starkness - You achieve a monochromatic color scheme by adding variation upon variation of the same color. Basically, you add MORE white and very soft neutrals. The layers build upon each other and begin to achieve a rich, sophisticated designer look. You add different textures like fluffy rugs and blankets, satin and silk, perhaps the addition of a natural fiber - go nuts with the different textures. Also add items with patterns that vary in size and boldness (no more than 4 patterns in a single room, though). But whatever you do, don’t stray from the color scheme. Your room’s visual interest will come from the variations of textures and patterns you add, not your color! If you want, you could add one or two accessories that are boldly colored for an unexpected pop, but anything more and you may lose the effect.

I love decorating with color, so I don’t always use this technique, but when I do, I find the results are serene, subtle and very visually appealing. It’s very easy to do, so give it a shot and happy decorating!!!