Modern vs Contemporary Design: What’s the Difference and Which Is Right for Your Home?

When comparing modern vs contemporary design, what's the difference and which is right for your home? We explain the key factors to consider here.

When you look up the word modern in a thesaurus, the first sentiment that comes up is the word contemporary. While these words are often used interchangeably, they actually mean two distinct things when you are talking about home design ideas.

If you asked one of the nearly 60,000 interior designers in the US whether the words modern and contemporary mean the same thing, you’ll likely get a spirited response.

When you’re trying to decide how to decorate your home, picking the main style to focus on can be one of the most difficult parts.

Are you wondering what the difference is between modern vs contemporary design? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.

What Is Modern Style?

When you hear the term “modern style” it is referring to the decor and design of the modernism movement. This movement started in the late 1800s out of both Scandinavian design and the German Bauhaus school of design.

One of the hallmarks of modern design is that it values function over form. Minimalistic and clean, modern design provides quite the contrast to the theatrical and ornate designs of the preceding Victorian Age.

This style of design harkens back to the first half of the 20th century, between the 1900 and the 1950s.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the style evolved into what is known as mid-century modern. This design style is quite similar to modern design but also incorporates and bright colors. It adds its own unique twist to modern design by using dynamic decorative accents.

In the 1970s and 1980s, midcentury modern design morphed into postmodernism. The style of design is actually quite different from its two predecessors, rejecting minimalism and the notion of function over form. Instead, postmodernism highlights form over function and broke the mold of conventional style ideas.

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What Is Contemporary Style?

The contemporary style of design became popular in the 1970s. This is around the same time that postmodernism became popular as well. Initially a blend of different styles, contemporary design emerged as its own form of design.

Barring elements from both modernism and postmodernism, contemporary design utilizes ideas from styles like deconstructivism, Art Deco, futurism, and more.

Contemporary design is always in a state of flux. Different decor trends are always considered contemporary as the decade’s pass. For this reason, the style of design isn’t necessarily considered to be related to any particular period of time. Ever evolving, contemporary design reflects the mood, tone, and design choices of the day.

Modern Vs Contemporary Design: How Are They Similar?

You can find similar characteristics when you compare modern vs contemporary home design. It is for this reason that these two styles of design are often confused with one another.

Both modern and contemporary design focus on creating uncluttered spaces and clean, smooth lines. While favoring simplicity, there is also the inclusion of creativity and artistic flair. These design concepts help to create rooms that are comfortable and calming as well as incredibly inviting.

It is not typical in either of these styles to use heavy elements or ornate designs. That being said, contemporary homes and spaces are more likely to bend this rule.

When comparing modern vs contemporary furniture, the chairs, sofas, and ottomans all have exposed legs. They also prefer to incorporate reflective surfaces such as glass and exposed metals. Exposed what is also common in both of these styles, from using raw wood to make furniture or having exposed wood structural beams.

Modern Home Design or Contemporary Home Design: How Do You Choose?

Because there are similarities between these two design styles, it can be hard to decide which one is best for your home.

If you enjoy the aesthetics of the period between 1900 and 1950, you’ll likely want to choose the modern style. This means that you prefer warm, natural colors and highly functional elements. If you prefer to have one single design theme, this design style could work well for you.

On the other hand, if you are interested in staying on top of the current trends in ornamentation and decor, you might be more interested in the contemporary design style. You’ll want to take into account that this style is more likely to require you to make changes over time. This means you will have to be willing to update your interior design as well as have the budget to do so.

This design style is also good for homeowners that are drawn to the curved lines and stark contrasts that are prevalent. If you’re more concerned with form than function, contemporary is a more appropriate design style for you than modern design.

Different Yet Similar: Are You Going Modern or Contemporary?

It can be incredibly difficult to decide how to decorate your home. For some people, their sense of style is obvious and comes easy to them. For others, they find themselves being drawn to a wide variety of spaces, which can make it difficult to pick on design style and stick with it.

At the end of the day, you simply want your home to be a place that you feel comfortable and welcome. While it can be useful guidance to choose a design theme to help structure your design choices, you have every right to break the rules. Since both of these styles create comfortable and inviting spaces, either one can act as a great starting point for your interior design journey.

Did you find this article comparing modern vs contemporary design interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!

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