Modern Design Versus Contemporary Design Mid Century Modern


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SHAPE & LINE: While modern design favors strong, straight lines, contemporary furniture can get a bit curvier.

Clean and unadorned, a modern home incorporates lots of natural materials like wood, leather, teak, and linen. For furniture, plywood, plastic, and polished metal are still the standard. That mid-century modern, airy vibe is also still all the rage so most pieces are usually raised off the ground and arranged in a way that makes the space feel open and expansive. Accent colors are okay, (feel free to throw in a retro red-orange hue every now and then), and fun, geometric patterns are always a plus.

What’s the big difference between modern and contemporary design? It’s a question that plagues the minds of many. You might find yourself thinking, don’t the terms modern and contemporary basically mean the same thing? Aren’t they both current and minimal, void of color and filled with clean lines? While some of that may be true, the differences between the styles can also be as vast as night and day. So to help you out, we’ve put together this handy guide to distinguishing the sometimes confusing contrasts between modern and contemporary interior design.

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Wood is featured on all surfaces to maintain the flow of this open-space modern living area. Image: Best Builders

“Modern design” 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.

By definition, “contemporary” refers to the period we’re living in at the moment, so this style has a bit more fluidity. A modern space tends to follow a strict format of balance, clean lines, and minimal decor.

Today’s lesson: The difference between contemporary and modern design. You might think these two styles are synonymous, both describing the sleek look of today, but they actually have their own distinct traits. Here’s everything you need to know.

Contemporary design often sticks to a stricter palate of black, white and grey. If color is added, the color is often the pure, saturated tone like true red, indigo or orange. Modern design colors have an earthier hue and feature shades like rust, turquoise, brown and olive greens. Check out the difference in these two:

COLOR: Despite the attention to minimalism, modern spaces aren’t usually cold or stark. They’re filled with plenty of warm and natural neutrals. Contemporary spaces, on the other hand, can have a bold starkness–think monochromatic black and white–but they also can swing all across the color wheel.

A chair is a chair is a chair, right? Unless it’s an Eames lounge chair or perhaps a Beetle chair that you’re referring to — okay, so maybe a chair isn’t just a chair. When you love interior design and feel like you could talk about it all day, terminology matters. Words that might seem interchangeable or self explanatory can have nuances you’ve never picked up on before. Luckily for you, we’re here to break down what some of the most popular design terms really mean.

Though it came to be around the 1970s, contemporary style doesn’t stem from a movement and it doesn’t refer to a specific period — it’s ever changing. In the beginning, it borrowed ideas from Modernism and blended styles from across the map before coming into its own.

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Images via YAMAMAR Design / Australian Interior Design Awards

Left: Modern, via StyleCaster / Right: Contemporary, via Bridge for Design

Left: Contemporary, via Haute Savage / Right: Modern, via Elle Decoration Sweden

Glass, steel, porcelain and concrete are popular contemporary design materials. Image: Studio Ten

Modern design today isn’t too far off from its original roots. The objectives are all the same and the clean-lined, uniformity of mid-century modern is still just as favored.

Modern design refers to an era that has passed, while contemporary design is all about the now and the future.

Both design styles have three general elements in common, which make them good design styles to mix and match into your own signature look. The three shared elements are:

Wood elements and nature-inspired decor play an important part in modern design. Image: Square Root Architecture

“Less is more” could easily be the motto for both contemporary and modern design. Each style of space is typically simple and uncluttered, opting for smooth lines and a little dash of artistic panache. You can forget about seeing anything heavy or ornate in either. Both styles are calming and neutral with a focus on materiality. Think reflective surfaces, exposed woods, metals, and glass.

Contemporary design interiors like this living room feature straighter, more austere lines, while modern tends to incorporate more curves. Image: Haus Design Studio

The early to mid-twentieth century saw the height of modernism in both art and design. While the world’s perception of art was being challenged, the German Bauhaus and the pioneers of modern Scandinavian design were crafting furniture and architecture that favored simplicity, form, and function. From modern came mid-century modern and the same principles were carried into the ever-popular styles of the 1950’s and 60’s.

A modern design featuring a minimal amount of furnishings and accents. Image: Koffka/Phakos Design

Stark white walls and furniture to match is big for the style, but natural elements like fir, cedar, stone, and even cork can be incorporated, too. Sustainability is huge for contemporary design. The overall visual look is unified but comfortable, stylish, and deliberate.

From modern came mid-century modern (which was developed in, you guessed it, the 50s and 60s), although in the interior design world the term “modern” often encompasses both.

A contemporary open space flows from one area to another fluidly. Image: KF Home Building

Contemporary design features state-of-the-art materials, glass and metals

Both modern and contemporary design styles are unfussy and lean toward clean lines instead of ornamentation, like this Scandinavian-style modern living room. Image: Garrison Hullinger

Here are the most popular elements and looks of modern vs. contemporary design.

The most popular modern design era is the mid-century modern era of the 1950s and 1960s. But Art Deco design of the 1920s or anything from then to the vintage look of the 1970s can also be considered modern.

Now that you know a little more about modern vs. contemporary design, which style do you prefer?

Browns, golds, turquoise and earthier tones are popular modern colors. Image: Nest Modern

“Contemporary design” doesn’t refer to a specific period of time, it’s constantly changing to reflect the popular styles of present day design. It borrows qualities from modernism, minimalism, and other global styles, without hyper-focusing on any one in particular.

Black, white and bold, saturated colors are very contemporary. Image: Atmosphere Interior Design

Because contemporary design is ever changing, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it may look like in a home. Not every piece of furniture has to be new, of course. Since mid-century modern is so big, contemporary spaces often incorporate that style. Right now, a contemporary home might have large windows, use a variety of sculptural shapes, and strike harmony with the outdoor landscape through its architecture.

Contemporary minimal design. Image: John Maniscalco Architecture

The main differences between modern and contemporary design? Contemporary is by definition what’s going on in design at this very moment in time, which makes it more fluid and hard to pin down. Modern design, on the other hand, has a distinguishable aesthetic that emphasizes crisp lines, warm neutrals, and balance.

Many people think modern and contemporary design are the same. But there’s a world of difference. They may be synonyms when describing many things, but in design, modern vs. contemporary are quite different.



Fluctuate your workout. Mix upwards patterns and textures. Blend up old and fresh , expensive and cheap. There`s nothing wrong with inserting family heirlooms alongside the modern couch. Great rooms decorators will tell an individual that one of the particular most important aspect to be able to decorating your house is that that reflects who you are usually , your personality and the style. A vintage Chippendale table that was your grandfather`s tells a story. That tells the story associated with your past. The contemporary couch you became adoringly obsessed with and just had to purchase likewise tells a story, your current story, and there is definitely no reason the current and past can`t co-exist beautifully together. The identical may be said for artwork. You now might not would like to place an art work by Salvador Dali about the same wall next to the Monet, but there`s zero reason why that they can`t become in the same space together. With fabrics no matter if it be furniture, area rugs or pillows, varied shades and patterns would bring heat and texture with your lifestyle space.

Slip into some thing a bit more comfortable!. Slip addresses frequently get a negative rap but they happen to be truly wonderful things. They will can act as a methods of changing your furniture`s look to reflect typically the seasons. These easily taken out coverings improve an advanced look without constantly having to worry about people dirtying or perhaps spilling on your home furniture . Slip covers are excellent for rooms used regularly by children. Over the white slip-covered couches shows the air of an informal , comfortable, easy yet complex elegance.

Employ what you already include to decorate. Many of us include items in our property , probably packed up inside boxes somewhere and have not given them a 2nd glance. Your house needs a few accessories. As opposed to running in order to the store, take some sort of good look at everything you already have. Trays, solid wood , acrylic, metal or sterling silver can be on best of luggage racks, herbal tea carts, trunks, bedside desks and coffee tables with regard to extra texture and dimensions . Arrange candles on all of them , frames or pile textbooks on top of these people . Plates can be put up to create wonderful wall membrane art. Art from little one`s books can be frame and hung in nurseries, children`s rooms or their particular bathrooms. You will end up being amazed at your expertise with what you currently have!

Regardless of whether you`ve just moved and looking for a rapid , little home pick-me-up, or perhaps perhaps something better, right now there are some well-known interior design tricks that designers make use of that you simply too can effortlessly do with minimal energy and cost. Sometimes the particular smallest things associated with best impact. It could end up being digging in a hand mirror , a painting, a light or even a herb. You want to make softer your walls, brighten some sort of room, or increase warmness to your living area. Have a look at these clever design and style as well as discover how they can motivate you!

Employ area rugs to make softer hardwood floors. Throw mats give warmth and may add great texture, shade and personality to the living space. Hardwood flooring are beautiful and simple to keep up but they be short of the comfort that carpeted floors offer, particularly inside the cooler months. Region rugs can also include fun and functionality in order to your livable space . Use a number of of varying patterns and even fabrics together to highlight your character. Or put several rugs of typically the identical pattern and material , or different textures although the same color. The particular possibilities are endless. An individual can change your region rugs to reflect typically the seasons using warmer hues and fabrics for much cooler months and lighter types for the warmer instances of the year. Right now there are many lovely natural cotton , washable area rugs which usually are well suited for those houses with children. There definitely is no reason precisely why a house with young kids cannot become an elegant one.

Wicker baskets. Straw-plaited baskets are an inexpensive and elegant method to include storage to any place . Baskets can be employed to store and exhibit books, architectural and interior decoration magazines, toys, towels plus blankets to name some sort of few. Place a few smaller wicker baskets around the counter-tops in your kitchen to be able to beautifully display and retail store your fruit and fresh vegetables.

Car paint or wallpaper your bookcases. This instant pop associated with color will brighten and even re-energize any room! Really amazing how something consequently simple as a layer of colorful paint may instantly energize and change your space. This pre-installed bookcase would be very simple and ordinary minus the vivid blue interior. Possibly the easiest and most inexpensive method to transform a boring area would be to apply a layer of paint somewhere unpredicted . Bookcases are an perfect place to start since you don`t need to color a large area. Additional fun places to incorporate the pop of color incorporate painting fireplace mantels, typically the insides of closets, hallways and ceilings.

Paint smaller bedrooms in softer, lighter hues which will make the room sense larger. The living space above is a wonderful sort of how in order to maximize a small liveable space . A room of this specific size has got the tendency in order to seem cramped, nevertheless the huge windows, light colored surfaces and ample using mirror not only reflect the particular natural light pouring inside from your doors and the particular windows however the use involving mirrors also provides the optic illusion of space, generating the room seem larger than it actually will be . Conversely, darker colors will certainly make a room think smaller. Even with the particular abundance of natural light source and the strategic saving of the mirrors, this specific room in a dark shade might have an extra boxed-in feel with it.

Add a dangling pot holder to your current kitchen. Kitchens are designed to be warm and even inviting. We spend very much of our time inside them whether it become for preparing meals, offering meals or entertaining. Some sort of hanging pot rack is advantageous elegance. Kitchens are designed to feel as nevertheless they are in continuous use and a dangling pot rack certainly tends to make one feel this approach . In addition to seeking so wonderful, (there are extensive sizes and styles available) additional cupboard space listed below is currently freed up to be able to store other items. Hardly ever has anyone complained regarding having too much safe-keeping.

Live green . Add plants in order to your liveable space . Add these people to every room, tiny or large, few or perhaps many. Plants is surely an affordable means to accessorizing your own space and adding coloring and texture. Not simply are plants beautiful yet many can clean home air and balance moisture . They can absorb impurities and remove harmful smells from the air. Simply no home should be with no these wonderful greens!

Employ decorative mirrors to include quick light to your liveable space . As seen above, wall mirrors could also be used to make some sort of small space feel greater . For larger rooms, or perhaps any room with the more limited amount involving natural light, mirrors located directly across in the house windows , will add instant lighting . Decorative mirrors doubles inside lieu of art in order to fill empty wall place . Large or small, mirror add light and dimensions to your liveable space.

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