Modern design refers to an era that has passed, while contemporary design is all about the now and the future.
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.
Here are the most popular elements and looks of modern vs. contemporary design.
Modern design often features wood and earthier elements
Wood elements and nature-inspired decor play an important part in modern design.
Contemporary design features state-of-the-art materials, glass and metals
Modern vs. contemporary design colors
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:
Black, white and bold, saturated colors are very contemporary. Image: Atmosphere Interior Design
Modern vs. contemporary similarities
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:
1. The esthetics are both minimalist
A modern design featuring a minimal amount of furnishings and accents. Image: Koffka/Phakos Design
Contemporary minimal design. Image: John Maniscalco Architecture
2. Clean, architectural lines are their signature
3. They both have an open-space feel
A contemporary open space flows from one area to another fluidly. Image: KF Home Building
Wood is featured on all surfaces to maintain the flow of this open-space modern living area. Image: Best Builders
Now that you know a little more about modern vs. contemporary design, which style do you prefer?