Modern design is well-defined while a contemporary design is ever-changing. The two can be confusing because they both seem to indicate “current” styles. It’s common for a conversation about new inventions, especially technologically based, to be referred to as modern. In interior design, the terms Modern and Contemporary are often used interchangeably. While they do have elements in common, they are fundamentally different.
Modern design refers to a defined movement, known as the Mid-Century Modern movement, which lasted from the 1930s to the mid-1950s. Design expert Cara Greenberg reaffirmed the term in her book titled Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.
The notable design movement marked a time when Brazilian and Scandinavian architects put out impressionable and influential work. Clean simplicity and nature inspire the design movement with traces of wood, leather, teak, and linen. Furniture does not work to clutter or fill a space, but rather makes a room feel open and airy.
At the time of its integration into residential properties, homes began incorporating open floor plans and more windows. Walls are white to make spaces feel even more open and rugs are typically made of wool or neutral colors. If there are colors other than neutrals they are applied in small ways. Today, we see this design as a retro style.
On the other hand, contemporary design is not rigidly defined as a movement—it evolves with time. It reflects the current styles, changes, and brings in modern elements of what is popular right now. What is considered contemporary today will not be considered contemporary in 20 years.
Today’s contemporary style incorporates comfort and a lot of lighting. It focuses on bare wood or tile floors complimented by texture from furniture, walls, or the room’s accents. It’s simple and uncluttered but does not include curvy furniture into the style. Further, there are high ceilings, bold accessories, and geometric art. Bare windows are also currently a popular element of contemporary interior design. The style relies on large plants and flowers for a lively element of the cozy spaces. Two-tone patterns are also a contemporary favorite.
Although the styles are different, they hold common qualities between them. You can easily clear up any confusion by remembering the Modern design will always incorporate neutral colors while Contemporary design will include extreme, bold colors.
Kendra is a content writer with a BA in literature from Wilkes University. When she’s not reading up on the latest home decorating trends, Kendra is busy designing her future home, library included.