Different furniture styles are what make your house look the way it does. Decor and design stem from the architectural structure of the house first, and then the furniture. Everything else (rugs, window treatments, wall art, etc.) accents the furniture. Thus, if you have traditional style furniture, chances are your interiors are filled with traditional accents.
Understanding different elements of interior design style is a professional-level job. It’s why many people with an eye for style or a passion for design enter the field of interior design in the first place. The rest of us are left to attempt to go it alone (unless we hire a professional, of course).
Luckily, there are basic style elements that hallmark each different type of interior design. Most of them are easily recognizable and set them apart from the others in a very obvious way. What happens, then, when two styles seem similar or even interchangeable?
Modern design and contemporary design are quite often confused with one another, even though they are definitely two separate and unique styles. Understanding what makes each different from the other is the key to ensuring your modern home (or contemporary home) stays stylistically true to its roots.
While both styles can, at times, look similar, they are distinct in their origin, methods, and furniture styles. These differences, however, don’t make them so stark in comparison that they aren’t complimentary of one another. In fact, it is entirely possible to have a home that is equally balanced with both contemporary and modern furnishings.
Confused? We’re here to help. The Modloft design team can help you understand both contemporary and modern design. We’ll cover how they originated, what makes them each unique, and how they sometimes overlap. Our goal is to help you differentiate between the styles and use them efficiently in your own space.
Modern design originated in the mid 19th century, between 1930-1960. Although the design and style continued to develop, it reached a peak during this time, and the personality of this style has largely gone unchanged since then.
Modern design gets its name from the modern art movement, which preceded modern design. Modern art, or “modernism,” is characterized by works of art (paint, sculpture) produced from the mid-1800s through the mid to late 1900s. Modernism was a move away from tradition. Artists used new materials, explored color, and began to create pieces that were more abstract and symbolic.
From this artistic change came modern design in building construction, interior design, and furniture. Architects and designers began to create works that focused more on form than flourish. Instead of an incredibly ornate, carved wood chair, a designer crafted a lightweight chair from natural wood that featured clean, curved lines, sharp angles, and beautiful simplicity.
Modern design is recognizable by these features:
- Heavily influenced by Scandanavian architecture and design, modern design is minimalist and unadorned. No flourishes, carvings, or ornate woodworking. Form follows function. Modern furniture finds beauty in a simplistic style.
- Design flows with nature. Natural materials are often used along with industrial-style touches like steel and concrete. The color palette is often neutral and earthy.
- Symmetry. Straight lines and geometric angles are used in modern design more than curves. Curved pieces are often fully round like a sphere.
- Monochromatic color. Singleness of color is most often reflective of modern design, especially in terms of modern furniture. While you will most often see natural, neutral colors used, if an item has been painted, it is usually one singular color or hues of the same.
Contemporary design is harder to pin down. It is fluid, changing from year to year, and evolving over the decades, sometimes harkening back to other design styles and absorbing their traits.
Contemporary design simply refers to whatever is most desired and sought after during the current time period. Contemporary style, as a class of style, developed in the second half of the 20th century, although it could be argued that it existed well before it was actually labeled.
Contemporary design took a shift from the clean, sharp lines of modern design in favor of more curvature and softer finishes. Generally, there is more upholstery, softer features, and a more gentle appearance in contemporary design as opposed to the stark geometry of truly modern design.
Contemporary design is never inside the box. Rather, it takes pieces of other design styles (traditional, modern, mid-century modern, and even Renaissance) and combines them into an aesthetic that is pleasing to current trends and popular tastes.
Contemporary designs of today have taken on many of the attributes of modern design, making it easy to confuse the two styles. Here’s a look at what is currently considered contemporary style.
- Clean, simplistic, minimalist looks. Especially in terms of architecture and furniture, there is a definite appeal to a less is more mentality, which is very similar to modern design: less flourish, less adornment, fewer materials used to produce pieces.
- Neutral color palettes with minimal accent colors. While the color palettes associated with contemporary design have changed from decade to decade, we are currently seeing a return to a more neutral color scheme, with fewer vibrant accent colors and more understated tones.
- Usage of newer, unexpected materials. Concrete, steel, titanium glass, bamboo, and other modernized material are more likely to be used in a contemporary style.
- Bold design. While modern design focuses more on functionality and purpose, contemporary design takes it a step further. While still focusing on performance and function, contemporary pieces are more likely to have a bold decor style. Think more noticeable and statement-making while still preserving original intention.
The Combination of Both
Because current stylistic trends have taken a turn back towards modern design, current contemporary design is largely modern in style. Especially in terms of furniture design, what is now considered contemporary is very much like what you would find during the modern design boom in the 1960s, but with an updated feel.
When we look at contemporary style today, we see the basic structure and design elements of modern furniture from the mid-nineteenth century but crafted with state-of-the-art materials and updated to reflect new trends in upholstery, color, and pattern.
Both modern and contemporary designs feature:
- Minimalism. There’s a definite minimalistic approach to both modern and contemporary design. The focus for both styles remains on functionality. For instance, with furniture, the focus is on the use of the chair and design and decorative flair springboard from function.
- Clean lines. The best way to really describe what a “clean line” means is to illustrate what it is not. A clean line design is not heavily curved, decorative, ornamental, or “fancy.” For instance, a chair that is modern or contemporary in design will have a back that is straight or features one curved line. A traditionally styled chair might have a scalloped top or feature spindles that are carved into a particular design.
- Open Space. Both styles of design focus on open space and the flow of energy from one space to the next. Instead of interrupting design flow and style from one room to the next, both design styles promote open space, natural light, and an airy feel.
Even though contemporary design currently features modern touches, there are still definite differences between the two, especially when we look at modern design.
- Modern design incorporates the use of plastics; contemporary design rarely does. At the onset of modern design was the beginning of the use of plastics, and as such many modern furniture pieces feature plastic construction. Contemporary design rarely uses plastic.
- Contemporary design is almost always softer in texture and shape. Furniture uses more upholstery, more beveled edges.
- Modern colors are more earthy—burnt orange, yellow, olive greens, and browns. Contemporary color is more neutral and uses a stricter pallet of black, white, cream, and indigo.
Modern Contemporary Furniture
The marriage of modern and contemporary design in furniture creates beautiful pieces that are distinctly their own. Pieces keep the structural form of modern pieces, but the use of newer, higher quality materials give these pieces a striking contemporary feel.
No retailer offers more in terms of modern contemporary furniture than Modloft. Our designers work tirelessly to create pieces of furniture that are truly statement-making and artistic, yet functional and accessible.
Modloft allows you to indulge your love of modern design while keeping your home contemporary and current. Our pieces are designed to be beautiful and intentional, engaging in our belief that if you fill your home with pieces that are beautiful and intentional, you will naturally create a beautiful and intentional life.
About Modern Interior Design | Home Guides
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