Moving Toward Modern

Share this:
Laguna Beach-based interior designer Sheldon Harte shares his tips for creating a contemporary space.


Interior designer Sheldon Harte of Harte Brownlee & Associates embraces simplicity while staying modern. Harte Brownlee & Associates.
Interior designer Sheldon Harte of Harte Brownlee & Associates embraces simplicity while staying modern. Harte Brownlee & Associates.

By Somer Tejwani

For more than 30 years, Sheldon Harte’s sophisticated interiors have ushered in a new tradition of interior design, one that embraces both elegance and livability. Since founding Laguna Beach-based design firm Harte Brownlee & Associates in 1984, Sheldon has designed more than 200 projects across the United States, including homes, yachts and planes with styles ranging from traditional to modern. Here, he explains the process of designing modern spaces that combine aesthetic appeal and accessibility.

Laguna Beach Magazine: What is the most challenging aspect of modern home design?

Sheldon Harte: The most challenging aspect of modern home design is using things that are appropriate for the style of the home—not that you can’t mix things, but careful attention needs to be paid to how they are mixed.

LBM: How do you approach this type of design?

SH: Some people prefer a more austere approach, while others want a more soft, contemporary look. It’s all about how you want to live, whether you like minimalist or a softer design that’s comfortable. I was asked to design a very architectural house in the desert, and the client wanted some very hard-lined architectural furniture mixed with a hint of Art Deco. The occasional Deco piece softened the interiors.

LBM: What is the first thing a homeowner needs to consider when doing an interior remodel?

SH: Simplicity. The most successful modern designs are usually pure and simplistic in form.

LBM: What are some good decor options for those interested in modern design?

SH: High contrast, like black and white, is a good decor option for modern homes. You could also pick up some of the color in the [home’s] artwork and use it in the upholstery, like pillows.

LBM: Can modern design be comfortable?

SH: Modern design can be comfortable. A clean-line sofa can still have a down back and down-wrapped seat. It doesn’t all have to be hard and sharp-angled.

LBM: What’s one thing people probably wouldn’t realize about this type of design?

SH: [People rarely realize] that details in modern design need to be executed with care and perfection. It’s easier to hide sloppy workmanship or non-perfect details in traditional things, but clean-line modern designs require precision and quality. Also, sometimes people try to put inappropriate styles of doors or hardware in a modern home that would be welcome in a traditional home but just wouldn’t look good in a modern one.

LBM: Any other tips you want to share?

SH: Another way to soften a modern design or add interest is to use fabrics and furniture that are textural. Or, you can go [to] the other extreme and be entirely slick.

Sleek Style
Achieve both minimalism and comfort with these luxurious modern furnishings, all of which double as conversation pieces.

By Somer Tejwani

Don’t be intimidated by contemporary design. Whether you’re outfitting a blank canvas or adding subtle accents throughout your home, an infusion of modern style can help your space make a bold statement while remaining effortlessly approachable. LBM

Wildwood triad accent table

Wildwood Triad Accent Table at von Hemert Interiors, Laguna Beach (949-494-6551;

Jayden lounge chair
LBM_41_Home_Jayden Chair_Modern Furnishing_By Jody Tiongco-7 at Modern Studio Furnishings, Laguna Beach (949-376-0103;

Bone china flying gulls sculpture


at Areo, Laguna Beach (949-376-0535;

Prado table


at Stark Home & Design Center, Costa Mesa (714-434-0630;

Anton chair

Councill- Anton Chair

at Baker Knapp & Tubbs, Laguna Niguel (949-643-2073;

Share this:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here