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If you’re finding yourself at a loss when considering modern vs contemporary interior design, keep reading, we’re breaking down the differences between the two go-to interior design styles.

The two are different, even though many confuse contemporary as being in sync with modern interior design styles. Synonymous in their key regards, the two are actually very different. Speaking of interior design modern vs contemporary stand on their own.

We’ve shared wisdom on the differences between modern and contemporary interior design styles you should know.

What is contemporary design?

Although some elements of modern design can be seen in contemporary design, these two styles have their own exclusive signatures. Contemporary design has the meaning of “living or occurring at present”. Contemporary interior designs styles refer to current design trends while planning homage to the past.

Dating back to the 1970s, contemporary style is truly unique as it borrows elements from several other design styles. With a contemporary style, you’re certain to see traditional Art-Deco-inspired notes along with modern elements, and futuristic design flourishes.

Yet another important aspect of the said design style is that they’re constantly evolving. Contemporary style refers to styles gaining traction today, unlike other styles that are usually devoted to a particular look. You’ll notice neutral palettes, prominent minimalism, and curved lines when looking at contemporary style.

What is modern design?

As we’re charting the differences between modern and contemporary, let’s define what modern design is all about. Modern interior design styles consist of many different incarnations, making them a bit more complex in defining. It refers to the reflection of modern art movements in the interiors of a home.

Modern style concepts are decidedly simple and fuss-free with roots in German and Scandinavian architecture and design. The décor and furnishings focus on the use of earthy colors and neutral materials while eliminating unnecessary detailing. With modern interior design styles, the focus is placed on the use of patternless fabrications, and the use of monochromatic colors set among whitewashed rooms.

Modern vs Contemporary

Here are hallmarks, essential looks, and elements defining the differences between modern vs contemporary design.

Modern decorative pieces tend to have a set function.  Decorative pieces usually serve to boast a purpose, while decors featuring contemporary interior design styles focus more on aesthetic charm and on the form.

The modern design features earth-friendly and wooden elements. To maintain a streamlined feel and look and to keep the space from feeling clinical, modern interior designs tend to use a substantial mix of neutral materials. These include leather – faux or genuine, wood, and stone. The contemporary style embraces a similar concept of using natural materials, usually paired with steel, concrete, or other industrial-inspired elements.

The contemporary style concept is more fluid. The style is considered more fluid and constantly evolving, which goes along with its definition known for “living at the moment”. These designs air on the eclectic since they tend to take styling and inspiration cues from different eras. A strict format of minimalism, clean lines, and balance is presented by modern design.

Modern spaces are not usually cold or stark. Most of them don’t require stark or cold hues; instead, they are filled with neutral and warm neutrals. On the other hand, Contemporary interior design styles have a bold starkness in them, such as monochromatic black and white, although it may also swing from one extreme to the other on the color wheel.

Contemporary furniture designs are a bit curvier. They are more organic in silhouette as opposed to the modern design that favors straight and strong lines.

Contemporary designed furniture is usually a blend of a fresh look and feels with comfort and sophistication. Metal, such as stainless steel, nickel, and chrome are also popular among furniture pieces boasting a contemporary style concept.

Modern design colors have earthier hues. One of the most distinct elements in modern vs contemporary design is the color palettes. Contemporary interior design styles tend to stick to a stricter palette of black & white and grey. Other colors can be brought in, usually indigo, orange, and red. Modern design colors tend to focus on natural hues and feature shades of brown, rust, greens, and turquoise.

Both enjoy the use of geometric elements, which is why their design concepts are usually similar.

What are the similarities?

It is difficult to say which is more popular since contemporary interior design styles of today have incorporated keynotes from modern interior design styles.  Modern contemporary interior design and current contemporary designs have many similarities as both designs favor a minimal, simple, and edited look featuring sleek and clean lines.

Most similarities are shared between contemporary vs modern design.

Neither style prefers ornate designs. They prefer an uncluttered and simple look as they tend to shy away from the use of heavy elements and ornate designs.

Both have an open space feel. The styles adopt an open floor plan concept meaning the kitchen frequently merges with the dining room or the living room merges with the kitchen resulting in a simultaneously airy and comfortable living space.

The aesthetics are both minimal. Both have clean architectural lines and zero-flash. Simple architectural designs that showcase a sophisticated and timeless elegance are featured.

Furnishings feature exposed legs. For both furnishings like ottomans, chairs and sofas tend to feature slim bases and bare legs. You’ll also find plenty of natural wood materials in both, from end tables with a metal base to architectural beams and raw reclaimed wooden tabletops.

Several similarities between the styles are overlapping which could explain why these terms are often found to be a source of confusion for novices considering the world of interior design.