Modern vs. Contemporary

To most people, the terms modern and contemporary design seem to have the same meaning – and a dictionary definition supports this interpretation, as the words are considered synonymous. But for home designers and interior designers, the terms modern and contemporary refer to two different design styles. While these two interior design styles have similarities, there are also some differences.

What are modern and contemporary styles?

Modern style has its roots in the early to mid-1900s and features clean lines and natural colors. Contemporary design embraces the trends of the here and now.

What is the modern style?

Modern style is the design and decor of the modernism movement that began in the late 1800s. Created by the German Bauhaus design schools and Scandinavian design with its emphasis on simplicity and function, the modern decorating style is very old. In general, modern decoration is associated with the beginning to the middle of the twentieth century – the 1900s to the 1950s.

The modern style eventually became mid-century (the 1950s and 1960s) and post-modern (1970s and 1980s). While mid-century modern looks a lot like modern design strategically splashed with bright colors, postmodern is not. Postmodernism is bold, breaks all the rules of tradition, and has a certain delight and irony to it. It’s more about form than function, which is the exact opposite of the functional features found in classic modern design.

What is contemporary style?

The so-called contemporary style became popular in the 1970s, almost simultaneously with the growing popularity of postmodernism. It was originally a combination of styles before it became independent. The contemporary design borrowed elements from modernism and postmodernism. It also gathered ideas from many other styles such as Art Deco, Deconstruction, Futurism, and more.

And yet, the “contemporary” style is always changing. With each passing decade, new trends in daytime design are considered contemporary. It is not necessarily tied to a specific period, like modern style. Instead, it is an ever-evolving style that reflects what is hot today.

The Similarities

There are similar characteristics in both styles. This is probably the reason for the confusion that arises when you try to distinguish them. Both styles prefer simple, uncluttered spaces with smooth lines and artistic flair. This creates a sense of comfort and relaxation in a very attractive space.

Neither style favors ornate designs or heavy elements. Contemporary spaces, however, can often change this law by changing the process. In both styles, sofas, chairs, and ottomans have obvious legs. Both tend to be attracted to reflective surfaces like exposed metals and glass. In both styles, you’ll also find plenty of exposed wood, from structural beams to raw wood end tables with metal legs.

When to Choose Modern Over Contemporary Style

Since the modern style focuses on common design elements from the 1900s to the 1950s, it is better for the homeowner who enjoys the aesthetics of the time, preferring highly functional elements and warm, natural colors. And for someone who likes to modify a single design theme, it works best.

The contemporary design style is suitable for homeowners who like to keep up with current trends in decoration and want to (and have the necessary budget) change over time. And it is best for those who like sharp contrasts and curved lines that are often found in contemporary design. Contemporary style is for those who consider form and decoration more important than performance.