Design 101: Modern vs. Contemporary

Design 101: Modern vs Contemporary

What is the difference between modern design and contemporary design? Find out below.

Most of us have made the common mistake of considering modern style and contemporary as one and the same. 

For both the interior and exterior design ideas of a small house or a bigger living space, modern and contemporary design can be applied depending on your preferences. From the build to the floor plan, to the architecture, even the house roof design, you can add elements of any of the two design themes.

But first, we have to find out: what is modern design and contemporary design? Aren’t they the same? Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between the two.

Modern design

Modern Design

Modern design is about a specific time period in the past between the early to mid-twentieth century.

It is defined by sleek shapes, clean lines, natural accents, and restrained palettes to name a few. It’s also about accessible materials. Examples of this would be fibre glass and plywood.

Modern design focuses on functionality. Form and function are considered to be of equal importance in this theme. Modern design predates contemporary design.

Beginning at the start all the way through the middle of the 20th century during the 1950s-1960s, modern design is very much into earthy palettes and natural materials, the likes of leather, wood, stone, and silhouettes.

Colour choices are mostly neutral or warm, and prefer strong straight lines. This theme doesn’t overdo it with decor, keeping it at an absolute minimum, and even the pieces have function. Usually, the pieces are also elevated from the ground to create an open and airy vibe. Texture is also highlighted over quirky details.


Contemporary Design

This theme has several variations; it highlights contrasts over complements and decor pieces are mostly for ornamental purposes. While modern design prefers strong lines, contemporary design favours curves.

While we can put a date on when modern design was prominent, contemporary design continuously evolves and doesn’t have a specific period as it reflects the changes in trends and style in design. Getting inspiration from different themes of interior design through the years is an important factor, blending aspects of it into one complementary design that fuses the elements and makes it fluid. There is no specific time period that it adheres to because it is what’s prominent now.

As mentioned, it highlights contrasts, so contemporary design features a lot of blacks and whites. On the flip side, it can take inspiration from the whole colour wheel spectrum, too. It also opts for minimalism. But one of the things that make it unique is the elements of nature that are incorporated in the design.


Modern Contemporary Design

Modern contemporary design is a style that combines elements of traditional, modern and transitional design. It takes the best parts from all these styles to create a stylish, yet comfortable space. Characteristics of modern contemporary design include clean lines, neutral colours and materials, minimalistic details and an overall sense of simplicity. A modern contemporary space typically features an eclectic mix of furniture pieces and finishes, but with a cohesive look throughout.


Even while both designs have stark contrasts, there are also several things that they have in common; for starters, the concept of “less is more”; overcrowding of pieces and having insane amounts of decor is not a problem.

Both also have a partiality for open spaces and combined areas to maximise function. While other design concepts heavily rely on statement pieces in terms of size and texture, these two themes lean toward a balanced look on the space, not putting highlights on particular spaces or items in it.

Some themes make clutter look artful and nice. For modern and contemporary designs, uncluttered is the way to go. Although there might be pieces that don't make sense at first when put together, for example a certain furniture and its accent pieces, overall, it contributes to a harmonious look of the space.


The main difference between modern and contemporary design is in the approach. Modern design refers to a style that first emerged at the start of the 20th century, while contemporary design refers to a style that is popular today. Modern design often features clean lines, minimalistic details, and neutral colours. Contemporary design typically draws from many different elements and has an eclectic feel, mixing old with new. When it comes to materials, modern usually relies on natural materials such as wood or stone, while contemporary makes use of more industrial materials like metal and glass.

Now that we know the differences and similarities of modern design and contemporary design, it is easier to choose a style theme that best fits your personal style.

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Contemporary Design Ideas for Your Home

Contemporary Design Ideas for Your Home

What are the latest design ideas that you can get ideas from?

When we talk about contemporary style, we’re talking about clean lines, muted colours, and natural materials as highlights. Plants, textured fabrics, and wooden furniture are usually included in the main workings of contemporary design. These natural materials are often arranged with clean lines or geometric figures with a focus on creating a negative space. It also incorporates elements of both traditional and modern aesthetics, often blending the two together to create a unique and timeless look.

In this day and age, contemporary design is more than just aesthetics. In fact, it focuses more on function and comfort more than the usual overall look.

These ideas can apply in all areas of the home: the kitchen, garden, bathroom, bedroom, even the home office; it can apply in the entrance, the fireplace, the front of the house, the porch, even the basement. The garage, nursery, pool, and yard can also benefit from these contemporary interior design ideas.

Check out our suggestions for contemporary design ideas.

  • Create muted colour palettes
  • Break it with textures and patterns
  • Combine straight lines and curved edges
  • Declutter
  • Use light fixtures
Color palettes

Color palettes

Color palettes toned down a bit as compared to the past several years, but this doesn’t mean that you can get less creative. In fact, it is more challenging to come up with a design with minimal options for colors.

Focus on what each color means on a psychological level. Reds create an environment of love and camaraderie. Orange symbolizes energy and nature. Yellow encourages a happier disposition for everyone who dwells in the place. Green makes a space feel more peaceful. Blue usually ignite feelings of relaxation for the mind, heart rate, and blood pressure. Purple is the symbol for elegance. Combine splashes of pink and this will inject feelings of love in the space. Black, surprisingly, is all about function, control, and simplicity. The color gray has a calming effect on people. White is the universal neutralizer so you can pair any color with it.

Break it with texture and pattern

Break it with texture and patterns

While minimalist designs are in, it can get aesthetically boring. Break the monotony with texture and patterns. Solid colors put order in a space, but what gives it character and drama are design breaks in the form of textured rugs or curtains, or patterned couches or ottomans. 

You can still go for a minimalist design with these texture elements because it doesn’t need to be loud and dominating of an area; at most, it has to complement the overall look of the place. It could be as simple as a photo frame, a minimal break on the tile design, vibrant colored pictures on the wall, a striking color for a bookshelf in an otherwise toned down room color, a closet door, a “loud” desk, or even the staircase. There are so many different ways to add an influence of contemporary design in your home.

Curved lines

Curved lines

Contemporary interior design leans toward the combination of solid straight lines and curved edges. This can also work should you decide to interchange it.

For example: if your walls have straight solid lines, choose furniture that has curved edges instead of sharp ones. By contrast, if you’re leaning towards a softer pattern for your walls by using soft lines, solid-edged furniture will complement them.



We can never mention it enough in all of our articles, but decluttering is significantly important in any design ideas you may have.

Giving away, selling, or throwing away stuff that you don’t use anymore is a wonderful way to open up your space more. Freeing up areas in your home for more light to come in can add to the vibrant feel of the place.

Lights and light fixtures

Lights and light fixtures

Gone are the days when a common light bulb is all it takes to illuminate a room. Today, we have so many options for lights and light fixtures; so much so that it is one of the many aspects of interior design that you can be creative with.

There are the traditional ceiling-mounted lights but there is also the re-emergence of chandeliers in the market. Wall-mounted lights are also good choices, and so are track lights. For some, typical side table lamps would work better. Whatever design you have in mind, there may be an equivalent light fixture for that.

Stainless steel is the way to go

Stainless steel is the way to go

For you to have an easier time cleaning and maintaining the home, stainless steel not only adds a modern touch to your space but also guarantees minimal maintenance.

The shiny surfaces also give an illusion that the room is bigger as it reflects the surrounding areas.

Multifunction is key

Multifunction is key

Back in the day, it’s all about the design. Now, especially with the new normal, function is a priority alongside design. Storage spaces should be abundant since the home now has a new purpose under the new normal on top of, well, being a home.

It doubles as a school and as a workspace so we have to make sure that it serves all functions.

Merging nature and concrete

Merging nature and concrete

Make sure that nature is incorporated into your home. It’s for the people inside to connect to nature even without making the effort to go outside.

Nature elements inside the space also help with mental health for everyone. It could be as little as a few plants scattered around the space or a grand waterfall wall. It could also be a painting of a forest or a mural of the night sky.

Contemporary design is often thought of as a timeless style, as its minimalistic aesthetic looks both modern and classic. The use of natural materials and muted colours make it a timeless design. There are so many ideas to try for contemporary design in your home. The important thing to remember is that it should align with what you want.

Interior designers can be invaluable resources when it comes to finding modern and creative design solutions for your home. They have the technical know-how to bring contemporary ideas to life in an affordable manner, while also making sure that each room functions as it should. From the selection of the right furniture pieces and accessories, to employing in-trend paint colors and floors, interior designers have the skills and experience to ensure that your space looks its best. Let their expertise guide you toward fresh and exciting contemporary design ideas that will give your home a modern edge.

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