Modern vs. Contemporary Home Decor: Understanding the Characteristics of Design

Modern interior living room

In today’s talk of modern and contemporary home decor, the lines are often confused on which is which. What defines a modern approach? How does one identify a contemporary architecture? With design being a living, breathing creature, everything is changing and evolving; however, there is always room for the fundamentals, and to think outside the box, one should first have a solid grasp of the proverbial box.


Read on as we discuss the basics of what sets modern and contemporary home decor apart.


The simplest way to differentiate the two would be to use the framework of physical time. When talking about modern interior design, one refers to mid-century modern, specifically, that of between the 1920s and 1950s, although some would argue that anything from the 20th century belongs to this category. On the other hand, contemporary home decor talks about work being done currently, that is of the present or belonging to the same time. This may not be as simple as it sounds as the present is a continuous process, and things fall in and out of being contemporary regularly.


When observed through the strict lens of architecture, modern architecture lends itself to clean-lined structures incorporating glass windows, whitewashed walls, flat roofs and intentional asymmetric designs. Understated designs dominate contemporary architecture, on the other hand. Expect solid, randomly spaced walls and balanced designs. However, similar to its modern sibling, it borrows flat roofs and that familiar boxy feel.


Being a product of trying to break free from the strict rudiments of tradition, modern interior design veers away from fullness and rather embraces freshness, cleanness, and simplicity, frequently making use of a color or two. On the other hand, contemporary home decor relishes the open space. A floor plan that merges dining and living space is a trademark of the comfortable and airy atmosphere that is contemporary design.


Sticking with its refusal to abide by tradition, modern furniture tend to be open and raised off the floor. Gone are the days of extravagant sofa skirts! Modern furniture is all about clean, minimalist lines, breathing air to an entire space. Contemporary furniture, on the other hand, is more dynamic, more robust. It doesn’t hold on to a single aesthetic, but rather embraces the individual style. Thus, it gives birth to unique combinations and forms all mixing and intertwining in a singular space.


As mentioned over and over again, modern design is minimal design—less is more—the mantra of the modern age. As it revolts from the clutter and excess of the Victorian and other earlier ages, modern design has found more ability to express itself by becoming lesser and lesser, whether it be in the lines of architecture, design or furniture. Contemporary home decor takes this a step further, embracing the basic forms of nature—clean lines and simple shapes—blending.

So avoid confused plans and focus your design. Achieve consistency by knowing your fundamentals. Whether it be contemporary or modern, holistic, organic design is the clear winner.