What is the difference between Modern and Contemporary Interior Design?

When I meet with clients, most will ask for a Modern kind of feel to their home. To which I pose the question, ‘What do you mean by modern?’ The response is usually, ‘Well, you know the style that’s in at the moment.’ So actually, even though there are similarities, what they are truly after is a contemporary design. A style that reflects the trends of today.


So, lets look at the similarities and differences of Modern and Contemporary interior design, as they do tend to overlap a little.


Modern and Contemporary are both styles that don’t overwhelm the senses. Both including the most basic and essential elements. They are clutter free spaces with smooth, clean lines and a little artistic flair. Favouring simplicity and dressed in neutral colour palettes which produces a sense of openness. This imparts an inviting room that feels comfortable and calming. Though, contemporary styling can also enjoy stark contrast playing with plenty of blacks and whites. It has no problem swinging from one extreme to the opposite on a colour scale.


Neither style include heavy or ornate design elements, but because contemporary spaces do follow the changing trends, this rule sometimes bends frequently. Lounges, chairs and ottomans all tend to have exposed legs in both styles.


Surfaces gravitate toward being reflective, such as metals and glass. Exposed structural beams and raw wood end tables with metal bases is also common in both styles.


Modern Interior Design Style


A modern style home has design elements which are common to the years from 1900 to 1950. It refers to the specific time period between the early to mid-twentieth century. This was the peak of art and design informed by Scandinavian and German Bauhaus design, creating a distinct style focused on simple form and function.


So, someone who likes to hone in on a single design theme, the modern interior design style would suit a homeowner who enjoys the aesthetics of this era. It is highly functional with warm natural colours.

  • Style tends to be strict.

  • Decor pieces are functional.

  • Colour palette tends toward naturals and neutrals.

  • Favours strong lines.

  • Adapts to latest trends.

  • Clean, crisp, simple lines.

  • Common to the years from 1900 to 1950.

Contemporary Interior Design Style


The contemporary interior design style is always changing. With each passing decade, the decor trends of the day will always be considered contemporary. Not necessarily tied to a specific era in the same way that the modern style is. Instead, it is an ever-evolving style that reflects what is happening today.

Contemporary interiors are classic yet thoroughly of the moment and timeless. These interiors will never feel dated thanks to a light-handed approach and spare take on the décor. Suited to homeowners who like to stay abreast of current design trends and who are willing to change with the current trends and times, but also have the budget to adapt.


If you find yourself attracted to stark contrasts and curved lines, and find form and ornament more important than function, then contemporary is more your style, focusing on the architectural elements of a room, making use of structural elements like molding and exposed brick walls and pipes for added character in an otherwise simple room. This brings a classic luxurious simplistic feel to the design. Balancing a sea of neutrals with a featured mix of high-shine décor on classic wooden floors and simple low pile geometric shaped pattern rugs.

  • Style has many variations.

  • Décor pieces are ornamental.

  • Colour palette tends toward neutrals but can contrast, with lots of blacks and whites.

  • Often features curves.

  • Evolving to reflect today's trends. nickel, steel & chrome, include natural textures.

  • Became popular in the 1970s.

As you see, there are vast similarities but also contrasts that make each style distinctive. If reading this has made you feel you'd like to give your home or one of your rooms a makeover, then please get in touch and we can discuss a design package to suit your needs. Thanks for stopping by!


images courtesy of DécorAid.com


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