How do modern and contemporary styles differ_

How do modern and contemporary styles differ_

For most people, interior design terms contemporary and modern mean the same thing, and the dictionary even supports their interpretation. Although the two terms are considered synonyms, for interior and home designers, they are a distinctive interior design styles. While contemporary design and modern style share common elements, they also have lots of differences.

The modern design

The modern design era spans from the early- to the mid-20th century. It’s a precursor of the contemporary style. Its inception occurred at the height of the art movement inspired by the German Bauhaus and Scandinavian designs. The modern style emphasizes simplicity, form, and function, which are considered equals in a modern living space. Think of natural materials like wood, stone, and leather, streamlined silhouettes, and earthy palettes when you think about modern design. The style then gave rise to the mid-century modern in the 50s and 60s, although the term modern encompasses both eras in interior design.

Contemporary design

Unlike its predecessor, contemporary isn’t a time-specific design style. It’s continually changing to accommodate trends of every day interior design. It combines modernism, Art Deco, and other techniques without focusing on any one style in particular. Although naturally ambiguous, a few qualities help describe contemporary design. Some of its prominent attributes include clean lines, neutral hues, organic silhouettes, and stark minimalism. Expect to see materials like chrome, steel, and nickel coupled with organic textures like jute and hemp.

So, what is the main difference?

By definition, contemporary design refers to what is happening around the world of interior design at this very moment. Contemporary design, therefore, becomes more fluid and difficult to pin down. On the other hand, modern design comes with a distinguishable aesthetic that features warm neutrals, a sense of balance, and crisp lines.


You can easily spot the less-is-more vibe in both contemporary and modern designs. Each of the styles living space is uncluttered and simple and often going for smooth lines and dashes of artistic panache. Heavy and ornate items aren’t seen in either style. Also, they both have a particular focus on materiality and a neutral and calming vibe. Exposed woods, metals, reflective surfaces, and glass are also prominent in both styles.

You need to know the differences between modern and contemporary design style before planning for space or a home makeover. Check the Tylko’s guide to modern and contemporary styles for more information.