Modern style home interior

Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions:

  • How can I make my house look more modern?
  • How can I update my traditional home?
  • How can I incorporate contemporary home design into my old house?

If so, you are not alone. The traditional house built in the 1960s and 1970s is generally a one-story brick or wood-siding structure with many individual rooms, for example, formal living rooms and formal dining rooms. They also might have ornate lighting and plumbing fixtures, and intricate woodwork. If the home has not been updated, it can be very energy inefficient.

The contemporary style home, on the other hand, has more open spaces, higher ceilings, and less ornamentation. There is a range of different contemporary styles such as mid-century modern, retro, soft or casual, urban, industrial and art deco. The variations are what make the contemporary design so versatile and interesting.

If you are looking to change the style of your home to a more contemporary look, here are some suggestions. These actions range from the simple cosmetic update to the more involved remodel construction, at which time you may want to get some help from a professional architect and contractor.

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Less is more in contemporary design. The space around your furnishings is just as important as the furnishings themselves. For the items that you need to keep, store them in simple, attractive containers. Read more here for tips to declutter your home and listen in on our podcast about the expectations and reality of tidying up the Marie Kondo way.

Remove dated wallpaper

Wallpaper is one of those polarizing design elements. You either love it or hate it.

If your home has the remnants of wallpaper from earlier decades, it may be necessary to steam the paper off and sand walls smooth. Brave enough to DIY your wallpaper removal? Click here for the scrapers, perforators, and steamers to get the job done.

This is the time to repair drywall cracks and fix any previous plaster work. For a more contemporary painted finish, apply a uniform light texture material to a clean drywall surface. Follow with a quality primer and then apply your chosen paint color.

modern entryway

Change your paint colors

First off, we give you permission to change your mind when it comes to the paint colors in your home.

Our tastes and style preferences change over time, especially if we move to a different part of the country, make room for new family members, or just fall in love with the latest trends in must-have interior design. The right color palette today depends on your tastes, furnishings, and artwork that you love today.

Other elements to consider when choosing colors are, how long do you plan to stay in your home? If you might be moving in the next few years, consider keeping your colors neutral to make your home easier to sell. Are you anticipating a remodel project that would affect this newly painted area? If there will be new flooring or cabinets in the future, you may end up repainting to coordinate with your new materials.

We typically think of white walls and light colors in contemporary design. However, a bold color accent on a piece of furniture, feature wall, or even the ceiling could be the change you are looking for.

Update your light fixtures

Change out ornate fixtures as well as old heavy track lighting. Carefullly remove any vintage fixtures. They could be worth some money. We’ve all heard, “What’s old is new again.” Put those old 1960s pendants on FB marketplace and you’ll have those mid-century modern fans beating down your door.

Have fun with a new contemporary pendant or chandelier in your kitchen or dining room. Update your home with a splash of new metal colors such as polished chrome, brushed gold, or matte black. Mix textures of wood, metal and glass and play with scale to set the mood in a bedroom or entry hall.

Recessed light fixtures have become more efficient and smaller. LED retrofit fixtures like this HALO one work great if you are looking to install clean, white trim and upgrade the energy efficiency of your recessed fixture. Check the size you need if you are replacing existing lights. Yours are probably 5″ or 6″ in diameter, although it’s not uncommon to find fixtures ranging from 3″ to 8″.

Most bulbs and fixtures you find today are LED (light emitting diode). Fortunately we have choices in the color of the light they provide. Select 2,700K color temperature if you like a warmer light that mimics an incandescent bulb. Choose 3,000K for soft white and 3,500K color temperature if you like a bright white light.


Dallas dining area home remodel contemporary

Change your window coverings

If you have heavily detailed curtains with lots of trim, replace them with lighter and more streamlined draperies that accentuate the space in the room. With the ease of smart home technology you can control electric roller shades with your phone.

HPD Architecture residential Aspen Colorado condo remodel living room

Furniture, art and area rugs can be changed out with more modern pieces

Take a look at the room as a whole and don’t try to make everything match. A coordinated decor of complimentary pieces is more interesting than playing “matchy-matchy.”

To design a room from scratch we like to start with an inspiration piece to guide our color palette. This can be a photo from your favorite vacation destination, or a scarf or pillow in your favorite colors. If you don’t have an obvious inspiration piece, go to your closet and take notice of the colors in which you feel your best when wearing them.

contemporary home decor - rugs

Art can make a statement and provide a focal point for your room. When updating your home from traditional to contemporary, change those collage walls, with lots of smaller framed photos and decor pieces to one large, canvas-mounted art piece.

When looking for inspiration, look for a range of colors, composition, or subject that makes you stop in your tracks and catch your breath. We often advise our clients, to pay attention to your body’s reaction to art because our brains can hide what we actually feel about a piece of art. Here are some contemporary wall art options that will get your creative ideas flowing.

primary bedroom remodel after contemporary art

Replace the hardware on cabinets and doors

You can change the metal color, style, and shape to a simpler, contemporary look. Here’s one similar to the one pictured below.

closet remodel

Change the faceplates, light switches and electrical plugs throughout the house

If you decide to do this yourself, remember safety first… turn off the power at the circuit breaker panel before you start changing any switches or outlets. For a clean look, choose a wallplate that is screwless like this Leviton Decora model.

Now, if you want to go beyond the do-it-yourself level, it is time to bring in the professionals.

Replace single-pane glass, aluminum frame windows with energy efficient double-pane windows

Changing the type of window, for example, a single hung to a casement can update the look on the exterior of your house. While you are at it, select more modern front and back doors too. To go all out contemporary, use storefront-style aluminum, insulated glass windows as large as your wall will allow.

Modern living area remodel

Create a big impact in the kitchen

Change the material of the backsplash and countertops. New and rediscovered materials, such as concrete, soapstone, terrazzo, stainless steel, recycled glass, and wood, offer fresh alternatives to granite, marble, or laminate. Having selected your modern surfaces, refer to our cleaning surfaces guide for keeping them clean and protected.

High Rise Remodel Kitchen -hpd architecture + interiors

Paint cabinets and change out the cabinets doors

Try a flat slab door rather than the traditional raised panel door. If the box or body of the cabinet is still in good condition, replacing just the doors could save some money. Flat, smooth doors are usually made of MDF which is a manufactured pressed wood product. The material takes paint well and gives a continuous surface for a contemporary look.

Bathroom remodel

Give vanities, floor tile, and shower wall surfaces attention in the bathroom

There are many ways to create a more contemporary look in a bathroom. Choose a vanity cabinet that mounts on the wall and allows the flooring material to extend underneath.

Older homes typically have lower bathroom countertops at 32″ above the floor. In today’s construction, most bathrooms countertops are commonly found at 36″ above the floor. Keep this in mind as you shop for your new vanity. You may have to move a mirror or tear out a tile backsplash if your countertop is at a different height.

contemporary home decor - bathroom

Tile is one of the most fun and daunting materials to update. There are so many beautiful options. Long gone are the days when we only had 4″ square tiles to choose from. Opt for a tile in a different shape such as a rectangular plank, and then repeat the pattern in the shower. Tiles come in interesting materials, such as porcelain, glass, metal, stone, and ceramic, all of which offer contemporary options.

Ranch Contemporary Kids Bath Tub Tile Mosaic Square Fixtures 2nd Floor Addition

Open up the living areas

Now we are talking more than a weekend do-it-yourself project. Your architect will likely consult with a structural engineer to determine how to support the ceiling and roof structure as walls are removed.

Contemporary home remodel living room

Remove popcorn-style ceiling finishes

If you know, you know. Get a contractor with the proper equipment to do this. The dust, debris and fumes created are plentiful and best left to a professional. Just try to hold your arms above your head and opperate any type of equipment for more than ten minutes. It’s hard work and likely to cause injury. This is best done in an empty room or before you move into your home.

Replace carpet with porcelain tile, hardwood flooring, or stained concrete

Keeping the new material as consistent through the house as possible will allow the rooms to feel connected. Porcelain tile is very durable. While the installation of tile can be more expensive than carpet, the material will last for decades.

Hardwood flooring is a tried and true material that has been used in homes for centuries. When deciding on a solid wood floor (3/4″ thick planks), remember that you may have to add a plywood subfloor to give yourself something to nail into. This can add another 1/2″ or more to the flooring. The extra thickness can make transitions to adjoining rooms, with thinner flooring, a trip hazard, not to mention you’ll end up moving all your base trim, shaving doors, and the toe kicks under cabinets will get smaller if they don’t move up to accommodate with the new flooring. See the snowball effect? Careful planning and asking a lot of questions can make getting new floors less painful.

In the case of a remodel, manufactured flooring provides a great option. Engineered wood floors or laminate floor planks can solve the thickness challenge, often coming in at 3/8″ to 5/8″ thickness. The luxury vinyl tile market has expanded and offers many beautiful colors and patterns.

Stained concrete is an option if you can plan for it in an addition. It is more difficult to add to an existing floor. Good news, though, if you love the look of concrete, there are many large format porcelain tiles that mimic concrete beautifully.

Modern home remodel - stairway and hallway;

Simplify the baseboards and door and window trim

Painted or stained wood both work equally as well. We like to specify a S4S wood trim. This is contractor speak for “sanded four sides,” meaning it’s a high quality, smooth, straight 1×4 or 1×6 piece of trim lumber. For stained trim, be sure to price stain-grade wood rather than paint-grade. If you are matching other stained wood in your home, take a sample to your wood floor experts to verify the wood cut, species, and grade so they match.

Raise the roof

Well, not literally (although it has been done). If possible, raise the height of the ceiling framing to make living spaces more voluminous. When it comes time to replace your roof, consider a standing-seam metal roof for a more contemporary look.

Home remodel exterior front

A contemporary home inspires to simplify spaces, materials, and furnishings to accentuate the geometry of the space. Best of all, you will have the relaxing, calm retreat you have been looking for. If you are ready to update and simplify your home, we are here to help and are happy to guide you through the process.

If you want some more ideas for updating your home, hpd architecture + interiors can help. Just send us a message.


VP, Architect, hpd architecture + interiors
Laura Davis is a Texas and Colorado registered architect and interior designer, and a co-founder of hpd architecture + interiors. With a diverse portfolio spanning residential, commercial, retail, and historical projects, Laura’s heart lies with her specialty in Historic Preservation. She loves to revitalize older properties, cherishing their character and the stories they hold. Her true passion lies in understanding her clients deeply, uncovering their desires and motivations, and crafting designs that turn houses into cherished homes.