In many instances, the terms “modern” and “contemporary” are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. Other times, however, that doesn’t hold true. Such is the case in regards to the names of two interior design styles. So how are modern and contemporary interior design styles different?
A Matter of Timing
The first difference is all about the timing. “Contemporary” refers to the present, the here and now, and looks forward a little towards the future. You would think that’s what modern means, right? Sometimes it can, but not in the case of interior design. “Modern” can refer to anything from the 1920’s to 1970’s. It’s a pretty wide range when you consider that it covered styles like art deco, mid-century modern, and vintage. It’s also important to keep in mind that contemporary interior design is constantly fluctuating based on what the current trends are.
The Elements Used
Contemporary and modern interior design have some overlap in the elements used. Both feature stone, metal, and wood, but the way they go about using them is different. Modern interior design tends to utilize natural, earthy elements such as wood, stone, and leather to create a comfortable look that avoids being clinical. Contemporary interior design, however, tends to pair these types of elements with concrete, glass, steel, and other industrial materials. The end result is a more, well, industrial and sometimes somewhat stark look.
The Color Palette
Given the differences in the elements, it’s perfectly understandable to have different color palettes featured in each style. Modern interior design often features earthy hues that pair nicely with the featured elements. Rust, olive green, turquoise, and brown can be easy to spot, though not necessarily all in the same room. In contrast, contemporary design tends to be more stark. There is often a lot of emphasis placed on a black and white palette. Colors are often included more as accents. You might expect to see orange, red, or indigo. These colors are usually highly saturated when used.
As it turns out, there are some significant differences between the modern and contemporary interior design styles. There are some similarities though, so don’t stress too much about how it might look if you were to mix and match a little. These are two styles that you can blend into your own preferred style if you choose. Ultimately, the final decision is yours.
Still trying to figure out your preferred interior design style because you’re not quite sure how to decorate? Read this next: Types of Home Decor That Fit into Any Interior Design Style.