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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Culture Club

The Pedestal Source/Xylem Design Culture Club is not for fans of obscure 80’s bands.  It’s not that kind of Culture Club.  But we did have our second meeting of what we call the Culture Club last week.  While it’s certainly an opportunity to hang out and have a meal with our ultra-cool co-workers, and to discuss a few of the ins and outs of the pedestal display business,  it’s really more about sitting down as a group and not only discussing what the culture of our company is, but moving towards the definition of what the culture will be.  This is achieved through defining our values; first individually, then collectively.  Each employee has been given a long list of values and asked to rank each one in order of importance.  Then, after everyone’s thoughts and opinions are heard, our fearless leader Greg Glebe will take a lot of the input and formulate it into the “Stone Tablets” that reflect his values for the company.

The #1 rule of the Culture Club is this:  Leave Your Ego At The Door!  The ego is always and only self-serving. We value serving each other and serving our customers and vendors.  The #2 rule of the Culture Club is this:  Don’t forget about rule #1!  This is part of what we call the “basic” values: honesty, integrity, kindness, respect, and humility. Without the starting point of these basics, the discussion of our cultural company values is a moot point.  So when our employees bring these basics with them, we have a good, common starting point.

Greg came up with the idea of the Culture Club, and believes that by defining what we value, we can move more intentionally towards nurturing a culture that draws the best out of everyone.  As the meeting progresses, certain values rise to the top. Values like:  “Wowing the Customer”, “Over-communicating”, “A Fun Work Environment” and a desire for “Continuous Self-Improvement”.  As we move forward with our Culture Club meetings, we hope to move closer and closer to defining what that culture will look like. Because ultimately, culture is the key and values are the constant point of reference that great cultures are built on. Making pedestals may be the nuts and bolts of our business, but our mission is so much more.

How the High Park Fire Affected Us at Pedestal Source


No alarm clock can awaken you with the sense of panic that the smell of thick, heavy smoke can do. But in the early, pre-dawn hours of June 10th, that’s exactly what Pedestal Source team member Emily awoke to; and she knew what was coming next. Indeed, the eerie silence was broken at 5am with the phone call to evacuate. In utter shock that the fire could actually be that close, she took only what couldn’t be replaced, and left her home not knowing if she would see it again. The days that followed were filled with stress, anxiety and a helpless feeling of knowing there was nothing she could do. Hoping that going to work would provide some normalcy, it only added to the stress. Her office window faced directly towards where her house was, complete with a view of the billowing smoke and a constant reminder that her house could be a pile of ash by now.

Here in Fort Collins, CO we have recently had our world shaken by the High Park Fire. The images of devastation have been hard to view, and the stories of loss have been heartbreaking. And while we all have joined in the sentiments of many of our community members in thanking the firefighters, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I really understood what I was being thankful for.


My family and I decided to take a drive on Sunday to view some of the burn area. I was immediately struck by how seemingly random the fire was, but at the same time how selective it seemed. Burned vegetation yet a wooden fence untouched. A row of mail boxes with a random one melted to the ground. Blackened, charred, dark as coal trees in one spot and not 20 yards away the greenest and most normal looking, unaffected trees you’ve ever seen.

And the houses as well. We saw our share of destroyed structures, but in the case of so many houses, the building was spared. With Emily’s house, the fire came within 200 yards, and in some cases in her neighborhood the fire burned right up to the foundation, but didn’t burn the house. After giving this some thought, you realize what this means. These houses had most likely been protected by firefighters. House after house still standing amongst the charred forests and burnt brush covered hillsides.

Now, it’s easy to understand all the signs. Just on my short drive alone I saw dozens of signs trying to express the un-expressable to the firefighters and emergency personnel. Incredible gratitude. Thank you indeed. Yes, okay. It’s their “job” right? But the unpredictable nature of fire automatically puts these men and women in harms way. They risked their lives to save someone else’s memories. Someone else’s hard work. Someone else’s reality. For that, our community can express no adequate words of thanks.

Community. Although just a bunch of individuals, together we make up a collective consciousness that keeps us bound together on a certain level. Here at this company, we join in with our community in saying “thank you”. We say it because we know the firefighters would do the same for any us. Emily’s relief of her house being spared was tempered of course by knowing so many people were not so fortunate. But it’s the same community that thanked the firefighters that now helps the devastated, less fortunate ones pick up the pieces. It’s what community does, and we’re proud to be a part of it. 


View our Pinterest board dedicated to the High Park Fire here

Buying or Renting Trade Show Pedestals: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

The start of the trade show is 2 hours away. The set up is going great. Everything so far is looking spectacular. Everything except… Except the fact that the pedestals never arrived from your exhibit supplier. OK, don’t panic. Take a deep breath. You can just set the product up on the floor. Um, no. I know! Steve can hold them, he is sometimes called the human pedestal around the office anyway… Wait! Boxes! Cardboard boxes will hold them! No… the product weighs 40 pounds – an accident waiting to happen. Alright Steve, get your haz-mat suit on we’re down to dumpster diving – just find something we can use as a pedestal!

Has this ever happened to you? Maybe it’s a slight over-dramatization. Or maybe not. Either way, no one wants to end up in a frustrating situation like this. That’s why renting vs. buying display pedestals has turned into one of the classic dilemmas for trade show planners. The lasting impression that you want to present is one that is aesthetically pleasing. Having all of your pedestals show up on time should be the least of your worries. So naturally when considering all aspects of your exhibit the question arises: should I rent or should I buy the display pedestals for the upcoming trade shows? Whether you’re a large Fortune 500 company or a small company with a local and regional focus, budget concerns will figure prominently in marketing decisions, especially where the ROI can be somewhat tricky to assess. There is no doubt display pedestals play a significant role in the look and feel of your trade show exhibit. But is it really necessary to invest your money in purchasing your pedestals? Here are five questions every event exhibit planner should ask themselves when considering whether to rent or buy the display pedestals for a trade show.

1. What are my quality requirements?

You put so much time and energy into the planning and preparation of your trade show exhibit. The aesthetic quality of the display pedestals must be top notch. The last thing you want is for this to be a wild card in your exhibit setup. So how do you ensure that the pedestals you will be using meet your high standards? Renting can offer you a tremendous amount of flexibility if your shows are seldom and if it’s acceptable that the quality and style vary a bit from show to show. However, if you have very specific needs for style, color and size, buying will allow you to control all of these aspects. It also allows you to inspect the pedestals for quality control days or weeks before the show to ensure the condition. It can be incredibly frustrating to realize at the last minute that there are damaged or missing pedestals in your rental inventory!

2. What are my time constraints for the upcoming show?

We’ve all had the last-minute trade show entry. Perhaps you have overlapping shows or need additional pedestals for a larger space. The reality is that you just may not have the time to put in an order to purchase pedestals. In these cases, renting gives you the flexibility to work on very short turnaround times. However, many quality pedestal manufacturers have pedestals in stock or pedestals that can be custom-made and shipped within a couple of days. This allows you to remain consistent with the style and color of your other exhibit pieces.

3. What do I need to consider as far as storage?

Let’s be honest: storage is an added long term cost. Sometimes it feels like you need a small warehouse just for your trade show materials! For some, this is just not an option. You can’t keep overhead costs down if you have to figure out how to store bulky trade show exhibits. Renting, however, alleviates this problem altogether. Allowing storage space to be the rental company’s concern solves a big headache. With that said, it’s probably worth the time to really consider just how much space you need to store your pedestals. Many pedestal manufacturers are aware of this problem for businesses and offer portable, collapsible pedestals that allow for easy storage and travel. Suddenly, space will become a non-issue.

4. How often will I be using the pedestals?

This question is really the crux of the issue regarding renting or buying your trade show pedestals. Do you have only one show per year that you attend? Or occasionally do you have two or more shows happening simultaneously that you need to add additional pedestals to your stock? Then renting may be the best option for you. There is simply no need to purchase and store pedestals that get so little use. But maybe you are the trade show king, a real road warrior attending multiple trade shows a year. Perhaps your pedestals do double-time and you need them to display items in your office. Then buying would be the best option. Your pedestals will pay for themselves in no time, and as stated before, you get to control the quality, style and color.

5. What’s it going to cost me?

This is where the rubber meets the road and obviously goes hand in hand with Question 4. Many portable trade show display pedestals can be purchased for as low as $75 and will pay for themselves within 3 or 4 shows. Renting pedestals does offer flexibility especially where storage is concerned, but can become expensive over the long run. Again, the question of cost will be answered by analyzing how much you will be using your pedestals.

The question of renting vs. buying spills over into many aspects of your business, especially when it comes to your marketing materials. In addition, perhaps there are some general philosophical questions that need to be asked: How important are trade shows to your business? Are they part of your long-term marketing strategy? If so, the materials you use will say a lot about your company on the big stage. Consequently, your pedestals will say a lot about you as well. Hopefully, these guidelines will serve to aid you in making the best decision for your unique situation thereby resulting in achieving the right balance between aesthetics and economics.