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Contemporary Homes 101

With straightforward silhouettes, textural fabrics and endless opportunities to evolve, contemporary rooms distill the design world’s most comfortable and popular trends into a livable look that constantly changes while remaining eternally chic.

What Is Contemporary Style?

Contemporary interiors are style chameleons: with streamlined silhouettes, neutral foundation pieces and careful attention to editing, they’re able to adapt on the fly to incorporate emerging trends in the design world through accessories. Modern style (a movement that dates back to the 1930s) zeroes in on a monochromatic palette and the near-total absence of decoration; contemporary style (which emerged nearly half a century later), on the other hand, uses simplicity as an opportunity for play. Contemporary spaces can embrace what feels right right now — and that versatility and spontaneity is where the fun comes in. Here’s how to pull it all together.

Contemporary Style Is Uncluttered

Spaces like this sumptuous guest suite exemplify the sort of minimalism that would delight Marie Kondo devotees: Though it feels unquestionably rich, thanks to jewel-toned bolster pillows, an oversized upholstered headboard that runs the full length of a wall and a pair of textural sheepskin throws, accessories are limited to a few elemental pieces. Natural light (and a mounted television) are the walls’ only adornments, and the bank of dressers and the floating vanity in the bathroom feature no hardware. Rooms like this one — designed to cultivate calm and serenity — are ideal spots to deploy contemporary style.

Contemporary Spaces Use Track Lighting

In this sleek urban condominium, ultra-functional lighting is anything but an afterthought: selected to evoke the feel of a studio (and to complement the arching floor lamp in the corner of the room), this unobtrusive, focused illumination makes the most of the space’s high ceiling to offer uninterrupted views of the city. Contemporary lighting design highlights statement pieces like the room’s aqueous, oversized abstract painting and the pair of organic sculptures on the gleaming occasional table beside the sofa.

Contemporary Rooms Have Organic Accents

As in modern interiors, there’s high contrast between broad expanses of marble tile and warm grey cabinetry in this contemporary kitchen. Organic touches like the casual arrangement of flowering branches in a vase on the island, a quirky pedestal bowl of “fruit” and a wood chopping block all soften those lines.

Contemporary Style Favors Open Floor Plans

Kitchen and dining rooms, entertaining areas and lounging spaces flow together seamlessly in contemporary homes. In most cases, those open floors will be uncarpeted and show off the bare, clean wood, tile or vinyl; area rugs can add color and help to define “rooms” with subtle visual cues. In this breezy contemporary living space, a pale rug beneath the dining table differentiates it from the fireside conversation spot (and the geometric rug) in the center of the room.

Contemporary Spaces Lack Drapes

Just as floor coverings are typically limited to area rugs, contemporary window treatments are minimal — that is, if they’re present at all. In this dramatic contemporary living room, unadorned windows allow dramatic shadows to cut across the pair of silver-framed black-and-white photographs on the wall. Similarly, the ample, pale hairpin-leg coffee table and stylishly mismatched sectional gain “patterns” from the window hardware. The large, spiky succulent by the window is a characteristic contemporary accent, as are the candlesticks on the table; though ornate pieces aren’t typically congruent with contemporary style’s simplicity, their bold color creates a playful focal point in the otherwise neutral room.

Contemporary Textiles Are Textural

This blend of contemporary and Mediterranean influences demonstrates how nimbly contemporary interiors can pickpocket the best elements of other styles. Contemporary spaces feature dramatic, oversized plants like the handsome olive tree displayed here, touchable textiles like the deep-sea velvets on this generous sectional, plush area rugs like the Berber piece centering the room here and large-scale geometric features like the mirror, firewood caddy and window.

HGTV | By: Lauren Oster

Backyard Summer Fun!

Austin’s weather is in full summer mode: HOT, HOT, HOT! Make the best of your backyard by doing some fun things with the kids that will keep them cool and you’ll enjoy as well. After all, they do grow up fast!

1. Water Balloon Piñatas

Fill large balloons with water, knot them, then use a short length of string to tie them to tree branches or a clothesline. (Note: Cheapie balloons work best for this; they’re easier to pop.) Then grab a Wiffle ball bat and take turns being the blindfolded hitter. Instead of candy, you’ll all get a nice, refreshing shower after this water balloon game!

2. Make an Ice Mold

Toss plastic toys (or any small trinkets) into a big container, fill it with water, and freeze. Flip the ice block out of the mold, and give kids some (not-sharp) tools, like a spoon or a paintbrush, as well as a salt shaker and a spray bottle of warm water. Let the excavating begin!

3. Water Balloon Relay

For this silly race, fill up a bunch of water balloons and split them between two buckets at your starting line. Then put two beach chairs at the opposite end of the lawn. Ready to relay? Break into two teams and have the first person in each one grab a water balloon, run to the chair, and sit down on the balloon until it pops. Then dash back to the starting line and tag the next person to go. If a player drops the balloon before sitting on it, they must go back and get a new one. The first team to pop all of their balloons wins.

4. Ready, Set, Jump

Our simple spin on jumping rope turns it into a fun water game for kids! Provide each player with a full cup of water. One at a time, each player must jump rope for ten turns while holding their cup. The player with the most water left wins.

5. Sponge Ball War

Water balloons are fun, but sponge balls are a total blast! “These spiky guys are easy to make, don’t hurt when they hit their target, and ‘refilling’ them is as simple as tossing them into a bucket of water. 

Here’s how to make them: Pick up a bunch of sponges from a dollar store. Stack three on top of one another, and cut them lengthwise into three strips. Cinch them in the middle with a rubber band, then fan out the strips to create a ball shape. Fill up a bucket of water, dunk them in, then fire away! 

Or make a game out of it by placing two buckets throwing-distance apart. Divide into teams, and stand behind the buckets, taking turns chucking sponge bombs into the opposite one. The team that gets the most in the bucket wins this water game! Whether your kids get a direct swish or miss, they’re bound to get wet in the process.

6. Human Car Wash

As a fun water game for kids, treat them to a “car wash.” Make different trajectories with the hose—a rainbow, a flat line, a shower—and have them race through on scooters in the driveway.

7. Freezy Tees Contest

The chill factor in this fast-paced race makes it much cooler than your average dress-up game. Before the contest, prepare a T-shirt for each participant by soaking it with water, wringing it out, and folding it. Placing waxed paper between each one, stack the folded shirts on a baking sheet and freeze them. When they’re stiff, hand them out to the players. The first to get into their frozen tee wins!

8. Fill ’Er Up

Place two pails—one full of water, one empty—about 15 feet apart, says Lauren Love, a mother of two in Knoxville, Tennessee, who previously ran a sports camp. Have kids race back and forth trying to transport water from one container to the other using only plastic bowls, sponges, or recycled grocery bags. “The idea here is to get wet,” Love says.

9. Watercolor Chalk

When you get regular sidewalk chalk wet, it transforms into a watercolor-like paint. Start by drawing circles of color on the driveway or sidewalk with the chalk, and then swirl a wet paintbrush into it to create the “paint.” After the kiddos are done admiring their work, all you have to do is hose it—and your little Picassos— down. 

10. Paint with Ice Pops

Fill ice-pop molds with water and a couple of drops of food coloring, and freeze overnight. Set the kids up outside with white paper to design frosty masterpieces using the pops as paintbrushes.

11. Curvy Wet Balance Beam

Lay the garden hose in the grass in any creative, curvy shapes and patterns you want and see if kids can walk on the “curvy balance beam” without falling off. Increase the challenge by trying it with your eyes closed, or with a sprinkler attached at the far end of the hose. With the water turned on, the hose will be much more firm and more difficult to balance on—and the closer you get to the sprinkler, the wetter you’ll get. Next, make a totally new pattern with the hose and try again!

12. Try a Water Table

Bring the plastic fruits and vegetables from our indoor play kitchen out to the water table, add dish soap and sponges, and let kids wash—and then cook—their veggies. Hand them a pot and a big spoon, and “soup’s” on.

As another idea, load the water table with ice water, bubble foam in different colors, oobleck, and water beads. Raid the recycling bin for interesting containers they can use as pitchers, or poke holes in the bottom of a jug for a DIY sieve.

13. Construct an Igloo

Buy a chest freezer and do lots of building with frozen colored ice blocks that can be stored in the chest. You can make blocks using loaf pans with food coloring, but you can also try Solo cups and create pyramids.

14. Create Sprinkler Games

Freeze dancing under a sprinkler offers a good soaking if you stop the music at the right time.

Alternatively, call out the name of an animal and tell kids they have to act it out while running (or hopping, slithering, or galloping) through the sprinkler.

As a final sprinkler game idea, lay a Twister mat on the lawn, turn on the sprinkler, and get from right-foot-red to left-hand-blue!

15. Water Balloon Ball

Nothing makes a splash like water balloon ball. This handheld water game can be enjoyed by four players or more. Here’s how:

Gather supplies: You’ll need 25 to 50 small balloons, a Wiffle ball bat, two bases, a garbage can, and a basketball.

Fill the balloons with water. Keep them in a trash bag or large bin.

When a batter hits a water balloon, it’ll explode—cue squeals of delight—and the batter runs from home base to the second base, placed wherever you like.

Meanwhile, a player from the opposing team tries to shoot the basketball into the garbage can, placed behind home base. A shooting line must be respected. If a player misses the shot, he/she can chase the ball and throw it back to one of their teammates waiting on the shooting line, so they may take another shot. If the shot is made before the batter returns to home plate, he’s ‘out,’ and the opposing team gets a point. If not, the batting team gets a point.

16. Water Olympics

There’s no end to the competitive possibilities involving a little H2O, and you don’t even need a pool. Think sponge tosses, sprinkler dance contests, water-gun target practice, and shooting baskets with water balloons. Gather a bunch of buckets and tubs and set up an obstacle course. This is a great activity to build kids’ confidence, leadership, and creative ingenuity. Encourage them to take the creative lead on devising the games and playing judge.

  • By Shaun Dreisbach and Erin Zammett Ruddy
  • Parents | Updated May 13, 2020

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