Modern design refers to an era that has passed, while contemporary design is all about the now and the future… But Art Deco design of the 1920s or anything from then to the vintage look of the 1970s can also be considered modern. Many people confuse contemporary as being in sync with modern interior design but that is not true because the two design styles each stand on their own. Here are the most popular elements and looks of modern vs. contemporary design…

Contemporary Design 

Yes, there is an art to contemporary interior design. But it’s also a science that anyone can learn. Contemporary design envelopes mid century modern style, but it also embraces many other styles and periods that make it eclectic in nature. It’s comfortable and adaptable, unlike the modern pieces of furniture from other decades. Contemporary design encompasses curvy, soft lines, colorful accents, fluffy, overstuffed furniture, layered fabrics, and stand out artwork. Palettes are neutral with a couple of soft hues. Rooms are spacious. And surfaces are minimalistic, almost bare. Contemporary rooms display color accents to make them pop with a few selected accent pieces and textural contrasts.

Modern Design 

White, beige, and even some shades of black are the main color palette for modern design, but it can incorporate color as an accent, so long as it leans towards earthy. Modern design has a large emphasis on natural materials, so keeping things in a more natural color palette is key. When a bold color is used, it’s never to cover an entire wall, but rather is used sparingly to provide a focal point and help break up neutrals. Clean lines over curves. Neutral colors and natural materials over bold hues and synthetic materials and patterns. With roots in Scandinavian and German architecture and design, modern style concepts are decidedly fuss-free and simple.

Contemporary vs. Modern

Contemporary design and modern design are two distinct stylistic movements. Even so, these two styles share a variety of similarities. A room with a modern or contemporary style is not designed to overwhelm the senses. Instead, both designs are pared down to include only the most basic and essential elements. Keeping clutter out of modern and contemporary spaces is highly encouraged. Both styles favor simplicity, a neutral color palette and a sense of openness. Wood, glass, metal and many natural materials are all often used in modern and contemporary rooms. And while each design may incorporate artistic touches, neither is likely to feature anything overtly ornate or intricate. Modern design features wooden and earth-friendly elements. Modern design uses a mixture of natural materials which include stone, wood, and leather. Contemporary style embraces a similar concept of using natural materials but materials are usually concrete, steel, and industrial-inspired elements.

Decorative Pieces and Color Palettes

  • Modern Design -Modern pieces of decor tend to have a function. The color palette of modern design leans toward naturals or neutrals that have a warm, inviting feel. With featured shades of turquoise, brown, rust and greens. Modern design favors strong lines. Modern design follows a strict format of minimalism, balance, and clean lines.
  • Contemporary Design – Contemporary pieces concentrate more on the form itself. Contemporary often enjoys stark contrast with plenty of blacks and whites, though it has no problems swinging from one extreme to the other on the color scale. Contemporary furniture is usually a blend of comfort and sophistication. Metals, such as nickel, stainless steel and chrome are also popular with a Contemporary style concept. Contemporary style loves curves.
  • Similarities – In addition both contemporary and modern style concepts enjoy the use of geometric elements which is why their design concepts are usually similar in many ways. In both styles, sofas, chairs, and ottomans have exposed legs. They each tend to gravitate toward reflective surfaces such as exposed metals and glass. You will also find plenty of exposed wood in both styles, from structural beams to raw wood end tables with metal bases. When you are considering Modem or Contemporary think Simple is better. Choose couches, ottomans, and chairs with exposed legs in wood as opposed to legs covered in fabrics, if you’re buying new furniture. Stay away from ruffles, frills, bed skirts, fringes, tassels, and floral prints on beds or living room furniture. Remember, Contemporary and Modern style design commands clean, straight lines. Hello to basic, simple, structural and bold. Goodbye to small and cute.

While it may seem a bit confusing, the two styles are most certainly not one and the same. Contemporary design may include pieces from the Modern design era, of course, which seems to lead to a bit more confusion at times. Modern style is currently more en vogue than it has been in recent years, meaning that aspects of modern design are being used in contemporary design more often. The most basic way to remember the difference between the two is this: Modern style never changes; it is always the same, while contemporary style is constantly being redefined.

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