Contemporary or cosy?

Updated: Mar 14

A lot of my clients buy contemporary new build homes. Lots of light and space, clean lines, quartz breakfast bars, marble style bathrooms, walk in wardrobes etc. Going round on viewings we love the clean new white walls, shiny stainless steel and blonde wooden floors. Estate Agents photos show Instagram worthy lifestyles, for just us and/or partner with a few pieces of well chosen contemporary furniture .

The blank canvas moment

We love the clutter-free empty space, perfect for starting off with little or no possessions. But in reality, even with a third floor addition, (now common in new builds and cheaper for builders than going width-ways). This may not be enough space to accommodate all our personal stuff. Evidenced by the growth of storage units, increasing everywhere. Its tough to part with stuff, especially when it has a personal history.

On moving in, not only do we have to find storage to accommodate all our possessions, we have to create a style direction which maintains the sparse contemporary look. It can be a bit overwhelming and not easy to achieve. You want to maintain the cool contemporary interior, but this lacks warmth and character. How do you strike the balance between homeliness and style?

Add warmth with textures

Brick slips or brick tiles add a modern industrial twist to any interior. They are lightweight and thinner than a full size brick and bring traditional warmth. If you have a stub wall or awkward corner in your new house, this is a good way to highlight architectural interest. The terracotta brick looks great with deep, bold colours, blues, greens.

Good interior wood wall panelling looks authentic, especially when made from responsibly sourced materials. Centre is a plain white kitchen which has been given warmth and interest with dark wood panelling. Right is a rattan bookcase with plenty of plants placed in front of warm wood panelling bringing nature and warmth into a room.

Install a woodburner

Nothing says a cosy like a real fire. If you have a working chimney installing a woodburner is relatively straightforward. But don't let that put you off, you can install a woodburner in a modern home without a chimney, but you need to fit a twin wall flue system (a series of connectable stainless steel pipes that carry stove fumes outside.through the roof or wall .

Alternatively, avoid messing about with logs and buy a modern realistic flame fire. Now with Bio-ethanol fuel, composed of biological products, e.g. the sugar and starch components of plant by-products. This gives off a cleaner emission, as well as being ecological and economic.

Feature wall

An easy way to bring warmth and colour to a white scheme is to define a feature wall. This provides a focal point in an all white room. The TV wall or the sofa wall is a good place for start. There are many ways to create a feature wall, bold paint, a large statement picture or good quality photographic wallpaper such as a concrete effect in an industrial scheme or this wonderful Versace Gold Greek key wallpaper.

Ambient, task, accent lighting

Warmth, cosiness and style are easily achieved with layered lighting, which isn't complicated if you understand what to include. Start with ambient lighting to provide general overhead illumination. I love the sculptural look of the Artichoke pendant designed in 1958 by Poul Henningsen for the Langelinie Pavillonen restaurant in Copenhagen (still hangs today). Reasonably priced copies are easily available. Supplement ambient with task lighting at your desk or on the floor and finally accent corners and occasional tables with table lamps and wall lights. Voila you have layered lighting for every mood and occasion!

Use luxe materials for fabrics and rugs

The easiest and quickest transformation to add cosiness and a homely atmosphere is in the soft furnishings. Use luxe fabrics, velvet, cashmere, linen, wool, cotton kilims, throws and rugs. Layering them casually gives an effortless, high end, luxurious look. 100% Silk cushions in solid colours give an air of luxury to any chair or sofa.

Try one or two above in your new build house. Start experimenting with one or two items to accent colours. Or if you are more confident think of your new build as a blank canvas to paint and layer colour, textures and light until you achieve that perfect balance between contemporary living and a cosy home.

Like some remote help with your interior project?

Let's get together over a zoom to chat about your interior project. No guesswork or imagination needed! I can provide you with style direction and clear project strategy to help you move forward. Contact me for a chat!

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