Modern vs. Contemporary Design

A lot of people use modern and contemporary interchangeably to describe a design style. Although there are plenty of similarities between the two, modern is not the same as contemporary.

So, what exactly sets modern and contemporary design apart? In this piece, we will look at the differences between modern and contemporary design as well as the similarities. We will also explore ways you can create a contemporary or modern look in your home.

Some people associate modern and contemporary styles with a lack of warmth and comfort, but this could not be farther from the truth. As you will see, both styles place a high value on comfort, functionality and use of natural elements. If you love a clean and uncluttered look, one of these styles might be right for you.

We’ll help you decide which design type to choose for your home, and we also hope to inspire the transformation of a room. No matter which style you prefer, sometimes a few simple changes can make a room feel like new.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

What Elements Play Into Interior Design?

Before we get started, we recommend considering the following factors before making a design decision:

  • Room size: Open floor plans are ideal for modern or contemporary looks. However, either style can work in any size room. You’ll just want to make sure the furnishings are scaled down to size in a smaller room and do not clutter or overwhelm a room with furniture.
  • Room purpose: What is the room used for? Knowing a room’s purpose will help you choose a style. For example, if you want a room that is highly efficient, a contemporary design may be a perfect choice. However, if you want a room that features lots of different fabrics, places to sit and an eclectic mix of accessories to spark conversation, you may prefer a bohemian style.
  • Other room styles:Whether you choose modern or contemporary design, you will want the look to flow throughout the entire home. When all the rooms in a house share the same style, it feels more harmonious, calm and comfortable. This does not mean every room has to look the same, but they should share similar elements. For example, it would seem confusing to decorate a living room with Victorian-era furniture and antique glassware next to a modern dining room.
  • Furniture you already own: If you already own mostly traditional furniture and decor, it may be hard to achieve an ultra-contemporary or modern look. Although you could incorporate modern or contemporary pieces in an eclectic style, consider what you already own before making any big decisions.
  • The focal point: If your focal point is a hand-carved, antique mantel, a modern style might feel out of place. However, you can always mix and match looks for a bohemian feel.
  • Your taste:What do you love? What makes you feel comfortable and relaxed? It’s most important to have a strong sense of your personal preferences before making a decision. However, if you’re not sure, there’s nothing wrong with trial and error to find out. We hope to help you define your style, whether it be modern, contemporary or something else.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

Ready to explore the differences and similarities of modern and contemporary design? Let’s look at what these design styles mean and how you can incorporate your favorite style in your home, office or business.

What Is Modern Design?

When you think of the word modern, you probably think of current design trends. It only makes sense, right? The Oxford English Dictionary defines “modern” as “relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past.” However, when it comes to interior design, modern refers to a specific era, not the dictionary definition.

Modern design emerged from the modern art movement in the late 1800s. The modern schools of design focused more on functional, minimalist style versus the other heavy, luxurious style trends at the time. Modern design flourished in the ’40s and the ’50s and became known as mid-century modern.

During the trend’s peak, a widespread aesthetic awareness followed the philosophy “form served function.” Everywhere, homes replaced bulky ornate furnishings with clean lines, bold furniture colors and molded wood. To many homeowners, interior design served a purpose and represented progressive and utilitarian thinking. An emphasis on decorative accessories and heavy fabrics was left in the past.

Today, a modern style is easily recognized by furnishings that reflect art deco and minimalism from the ’20s to the ’60s. In other words, you might think of modern furniture as having a retro appeal to help distinguish modern design from other styles. In general, you can expect the following elements in modern design:

  • Clean, straight lines
  • Simplicity
  • Minimal furniture adornments
  • Geometric forms
  • Airiness
  • Sleekness and functionality
  • Clutter-free
  • White walls, warm woods for balance and pops of primary colors
  • Natural materials such as wood, stone and leather
  • Industrial materials like plastic, polished metal and molded plywood
  • Furniture raised off the floor to enhance the airy feeling
  • Bare floors
  • Wool or neutral-colored rugs

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

In a modern room, it is easy to kick back and take a deep breath. Every object serves a purpose and nothing is superfluous. This does not mean a modern space is uninteresting. There’s always room for self-expression in a modern design, whether that be a gorgeous sculpture on a wood pedestal or a vibrant abstract painting. As long as the room features mainly neutral colors, the effect will be calming and balanced, even with a burst of color here and there.

If you find simplicity comforting, you may love incorporating modern design into your home.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

What Is Contemporary Design?

Unlike modern design, which represents a time period, contemporary design is always changing. By definition, “contemporary” means “belonging to or occurring in the present.” Contemporary design reflects what is new or popular at the time.

Contemporary design became popular in the 1970s and borrowed elements from modern design and other styles. One way to look at contemporary design is to consider what people currently value in a home. For example, right now homeowners strive to create homes and lifestyles that highlight sustainability. Therefore, contemporary homes are designed to focus on sustainability.

Currently, you can expect some of the following elements in contemporary design:

  • Soft and round lines
  • Mainly neutral colors, such as brown, white or black with a shot of color
  • Cool muted colors
  • Light-colored woods, stainless steel, glass, chrome and nickel
  • Natural fabrics, such as wool or cotton in neutral hues
  • A focus on comfort
  • An industrial aesthetic combined with natural elements
  • May incorporate furniture or art from modern design
  • Eclectic style
  • Large, unadorned windows
  • A focus on sustainability
  • Deliberate style

In the world of contemporary design, one component seems to never go out of style — nature. Contemporary design commonly aims to bring the outdoors in, often in the architecture. For example, in a contemporary home, you may find lots of clean, simple windows showcasing the landscaping outside. A contemporary design draws inspiration from nature, which helps balance the minimalist furnishings with natural warmth.

How Are Modern Design and Contemporary Design Similar?

You now know modern design is stagnant and contemporary design is ever-changing, which is the main difference between them. Contemporary design pulls elements from modern design but combines them with other styles for an overall look that is current and comfortable.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

However, both styles share a lot in common. For instance, both adhere to less is more and take a minimalist approach to design. This means you will not find lots of excessive colors, patterns or ornamentation. Minimalist styles are comfortable because they are efficient.

Think about it — if your desk or workspace is clean and organized, doesn’t that help with productivity and overall workflow more than if your desk was covered in knick-knacks? Isn’t life more comfortable when it’s not complicated by excessive details? Modern and contemporary styles both appreciate the beauty of simplicity. Here are some other elements modern and contemporary share in common:

  • Clean lines
  • Simple, beautiful shapes
  • A connection to nature for balance
  • Decorating with art
  • Use of reflective surfaces
  • Neutral colors
  • Open-space feel
  • Clean architectural lines

Both of these styles strive to create a space that feels expansive and airy. You will not feel like you are sitting in a stuffy cluttered room with either of these styles.

How to Use Contemporary Vs. Modern Design in Your Home

Do you wish to create a home that embraces modern or contemporary style? No matter how many members are in your household, you can design each room to feel organized, clutter-free and balanced. We are next going to share a few ideas on how you can make your home contemporary or modern.

1. Adopt a Contemporary Design Style

If you are not a big fan of retro furniture, you may feel more at home with a contemporary style. A contemporary space can feel inviting, comfortable and functional and be visually pleasing. Often, a lack of delicate ornamentation will make a contemporary room feel strong, bold and secure. Contemporary design is perfect for welcoming a progressive spirit and a healthy lifestyle.

So, how do you create a contemporary room? First, you’ll want to showcase space, rather than things. Like modern design, contemporary design has no room for unnecessary accessories or trinkets. Instead, you want plenty of room for energy to flow and people to move around.

As a contemporary design reflects its time, start by asking what is currently in style. Right now, homeowners and renters are environmentally conscious, concerned with durability and economy, value technology and appreciate simplicity.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

With these trends in mind, consider the following ideas to transform your space into a stylish and relaxing contemporary room:

  • Color:Paint the walls a soothing neutral color, such as a shade of white, brown or gray. Add an accent color in pillows, a rug or work of art.
  • Line and Space: Remember, less is more with contemporary design and space counts as something. Highlight a high ceiling, bare walls and large windows by not hiding them behind curtains or paintings. Also, allow architectural details, like exposed brick or pipes, be part of the look.
  • Artwork: Contemporary rooms often incorporate a piece or two of art in the room. Choose art that reflects your personality, but also keep it simple and try not to clutter the room with too much art. That way, the artwork will draw more attention and mean something special. For example, you might display a favorite sculpture on a sleek maple wood veneer pedestal.
  • Furniture: Choose smooth, uncomplicated furniture shapes in neutral colors and natural fibers, such as cube tables. You can add a dose of color with an accent pillow or throw. Focus on bare, bold elements. You might consider convertible pieces to suit small spaces.
  • Floors: Avoid carpeting, and instead opt for basic, natural floors. If you want to add a rug, choose a neutral color or a geometric pattern.
  • Lighting: Metallic light fixtures and track lighting are popular choices for a clean, contemporary style. Properly placed lighting can make any room cozy and enhance the mood. For instance, you could choose a pedestal with a spotlight for a sculpture display, to gently illuminate a beautiful art piece at eye level.
  • Other elements: Incorporate a mix of natural and industrial materials like wood, metal, stone and glass. Avoid busy works of art. Use large striking plants in basic planters for accents.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

Overall, for a contemporary style, learn to value space, let architectural elements shine, and enjoy a balance of industry and nature.

2. Adopt a Modern Design Style

A modern room can be quite cozy, whether you need to inspire creativity or a restful night of sleep. The use of warm woods, neutral colors and ergonomic furniture will make it easy to relax and enjoy a good book or conversation. So how can you create a modern room? Consider these elements:

  • Color: White walls are popular in modern design because white makes a room feel larger and more open. Keep other colors in the room neutral, and use a primary color for an accent. For example, you might include a red chair for a pop of color or an abstract painting to add energy and warmth to a modern space. Whatever you do, keep the color scheme simple.
  • Line and Space: As with contemporary design, pay attention and value negative space. Do not try to fill all the space with furniture, and allow the room to feel open and airy. Also, a modern design calls for the use of clean, straight lines. For example, you might choose straight steel hardware for kitchen cabinets as opposed to round knobs.
  • Furniture: Look back to the ’20s through the ’60s for modern furniture inspiration. Choose a simple retro couch and other pieces of furniture with exposed wooden legs. Furniture styles that fall under the modern design category include art deco, mission style and shaker style. Built-in bookshelves and asymmetry were also important elements in a modern design.
  • Floors:Like the contemporary style, modern style favors bare floors. If you wish to cover the floor, use a wool rug in a neutral color.
  • Lighting:Retro metal light fixtures are popular choices for a modern style. You might also pick geometric-shaped light fixtures. Try to choose light fixtures that include sharp, straight lines.
  • Other elements: Modern design aims to create simple, functional furniture. That is why you’ll find modern chairs that seem to curve to the shape of the human body. Modern design also likes lots of light and expansiveness, thus the use of reflective surfaces. Abstract or graphic art may be displayed on the wall as long as you keep decor to a minimum. Floor plans are often kept open.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

We hope you have a better understanding of modern and contemporary design because both styles can make a home beautiful and highly livable. Still not sure if you like either design style? We’ll briefly explore a few types of interior design to give you more options and ideas. You may find you prefer to combine styles, which can also produce stunning results.

Other Common Types of Interior Design Styles

The profession of interior design has only been around for 100 years. However, the idea of decorating one’s habitat has been around for thousands of years. Interior design truly makes a house a home. Through design, you make a home comfortable, functional and representative of who you are. Most of us look forward to going home after a long day, and what would a home be without a touch of design?

Throughout history, different design styles have come and gone. Here are a few that exist today and are well-loved by many:

  • Traditional:A traditional style includes lots of accessories, lush furnishings, ornate details, warm color schemes, and a variety of textures and patterns.
  • Transitional:If you can’t decide whether to choose a modern, contemporary or traditional design, you might want to give a transitional style a shot. A transitional design borrows from both traditional and modern design for a look that is balanced and a little bit of both. This design style is very popular as it is both sleek and cozy, and it can easily be created in already-furnished rooms.
  • French country:This farmhouse-inspired style commonly uses warm, earthy colors, weathered wooden furnishings and porcelain dishware.
  • Bohemian: As the name implies, a bohemian style defies convention. This carefree style often includes an eclectic mix of vintage and global pieces. Those who wish to display treasures from around the world, or special flea market finds, might enjoy a bohemian design.
  • Rustic: Nature-lovers may love a rustic design for their home or office. A rustic style makes use of raw materials from the outdoors like wooden beams or unfinished wood. You can combine a rustic look with modern furniture for balance.
  • Shabby chic: Perfect for the romantic at heart, a shabby chic style is feminine and delicate, and often includes distressed antique furniture or vintage decor.
  • Hollywood glam: Dramatic, luxurious and bold, a Hollywood glam style looks fit for a king or queen. A black laminate pedestal with a spotlight would make a stunning display for a sculpture in a Hollywood glam-styled home.
  • Coastal: Whether you own a seaside cottage or wish you lived near the sea, a coastal style will make you feel like you spend every day on the beach. This style uses lots of light blues, greens, crisp, clean whites and soft beiges resembling sand, sea and sky.

Modern vs. Contemporary Design

Shop at Pedestal Source for Gorgeous Design Options

To keep it simple, you might think of modern design as retro and contemporary design as up-to-date, but both styles are minimalist, clean and elegant. Don’t be afraid to combine styles to suit your taste. When it comes to design and personal style, it’s always okay to bend the rules a little to create a look that resonates with you.

With any interior design style, beautiful artwork can make a lasting statement. If you’re looking for the perfect display for your home, you’ve come to the right place. From quality handcrafted pedestals to laminate wall cubes, our products are designed to let the artwork speak.

Whether you want to showcase your favorite sculpture or an entire art collection, we can help you do it right. We can assist you with custom design ideas and arranging the logistics for adopting your new style. Contact us today for more information, fill out our online quote request, or browse our online store for beautiful display pieces you can add to your home, office or gallery.