Years ago the first thing a decorator or furniture store clerk would ask is “What’s your style: traditional, country, modern?” Today’s homeowners don’t want to be pigeonholed into categories. They want their personalities to lead their buying choices and let the labels fall where they may. Ironically, by not embracing a particular label we have created a new style category: “contemporary.”

This isn’t the contemporary look of the ’70s or the modern look of the ’50s. Today’s contemporary is all about color, style, design, lines and attitude. Yes, attitude! You have to be willing to listen to your instincts and buy what you love – not what you think you should.

You won’t find the homeowner that embraces this new look ever purchasing a “bedroom suite” or a “dining room set.” They buy each individual piece of furniture because they love it and it expresses their personality.

The Deodat dining table and Wave side chairs from California-based Euro Style is a great example of the new contemporary look. It provides great style, lively color and graphic interest for dining spaces. The satin lacquered table and cheery chairs set the stage for fun dining and lively conversations. If your space is more limited, try pairing the Vasska side chairs with a classic modern table. The chairs are available in green and white.

Colored glassware, fun textiles and patterned rugs are easy, affordable accessories that allow you to stretch your personality without jumping off the deep end. Remember, contemporary is a fun look. No pressure, just buy what you love and you’ll never go wrong.

Here’s a little style barometer for you: Ask yourself what’s your favorite color. Not what it has been for years, but now. Then check to see how much, if any, of that color you currently use to decorate your home. If zero, then you need to buy something in that color immediately. I promise you will love how that makes you feel.

Next ask yourself, how many times you’ve admired a particular look or style and then walked away because you think that would never work in your home? If “often” is your answer, you need to shake up your decor.

Taste changes, styles come and go but what makes us happy is always true. It’s a matter of surrounding ourselves with the furnishings that brighten our days and makes us glad to live where we do.

Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at