Breaking News Bar
posted: 8/10/2014 12:01 AM

The battle between cluttered and contemporary can be won

Success - Article sent! close
  • Clean, uncluttered shelves and counters are key to a chic look.

    Clean, uncluttered shelves and counters are key to a chic look.
    Courtesy of David Dietrich

By Christine Brun

A lean look can be sleek and modern. Many contemporary homes are sculptural and include an open floor plan. Yet, such a sparse look can be ruined by clutter and therefore the style isn't for everyone.

While it might seem ridiculous at first, be certain your relationship can take the commitment to a clean look.

Open shelves can become chic, as shown in this photo. An entire wall can be seen as a huge work of art with proper lighting that emphasizes pottery, collectibles and treasures.

This style takes discipline and it is one that can transform a tiny space into a gorgeous one. Imagine how terrible a pile of dirty dishes and pots and pans would be in this scene? Also, you wouldn't enjoy seeing boxes of cereal or bags of flour and sugar out on this counter top.

In this award-winning kitchen, walnut countertops are blended with natural stone. An exotic blend of chestnut, cypress and oak is woven together for the cabinetry.

Handsome materials are a requirement when the lines are minimal. You wouldn't get the same vibe from plastic laminate. The simpler the concept, the more important it becomes to use really special finish materials.

This is why you often see a contemporary kitchen or bar area adorned with art glass, stainless steel, amazing natural stone or unique handmade ceramic tiles. You will note unusual materials like concrete countertops, soapstone or perhaps pewter or copper.

The most common question when you admire this elegant simplicity is: What do you do with all your stuff?

Simplicity is not suitable for everyone. Devotees of the style are generally folks who are also able to keep their homes clean and orderly because they believe in the visual principal and they are regimented.

I've noticed our son and his wife don't have anything belonging to the adults out of place in their house. It's lovely and I admire him! No stacks of mail, no magazines and no clutter. I'm a pile maker; so is my husband. If company comes, we take piles into our closets and shut the door.

It could be that if you crave this lean look in your interior, you will be aware of building in extra drawers and storage cupboards or more storage in the garage or basement.

Whenever you eliminate upper cabinets, like this kitchen scenario, you also remove places to stash things away and out of sight.

In addition, if you are coupled with someone who is the opposite of neat and tidy, you will have a constant battle on your hands. Think clearly about whether or not you want to fight over a style of living.

Experts tell us that one terrible habit in marriage is criticism -- when a neat-freak lives with a more relaxed person, you can fight all the time. Is it worth it in the long run? Is a specific style worth making your wife or husband feel they are a failure at meeting your very demanding standards?

Clutter is not cozy. Clutter is clutter. Yet the distance between a minimalist style and a comfortable, more relaxed lifestyle can become great.

Get your real feelings out into the open and match your level of contemporary simplicity realistically with your loved ones. Concessions based on how you really live might save your relationship.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

© 2014,

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.