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Modern V. Contemporary Interior Design

Posted by The Design Firm

Jul 08, 2016

A common question our designers are asked  at The Design Firm is, “what is the difference between modern and contemporary interior design?” Chances are you hear the word ‘modern’ and the word ‘contemporary’ and think they are one in the same. Today we are going to break down the differences between these two styles of design.

Modern interior design references a specific period of time; it is a style created in the mid-twentieth century, 1920s – 1970s. It is a defined style and will remain such forever. Modern design incorporates clean lines, bright and unadorned spaces, and predominantly natural materials such as: wood, leather, teak, and linens. Use of furniture is sparse and open, often being raised off the floor to create a more spacious and airy atmosphere. Walls are mostly gray or white, adding to the expansive feeling. Modern interior floors  are frequently bare; however, if a rug is used, it is typically wool and/or neutral in color. Hints of colour are used in moderation. Below are a few examples of modern interiors:


Contemporary design is ever changing and reflects current design styles ‘of the moment.’

Contemporary design is often described as one that reflects a catch-all term for any design that is current, meaning it does not directly reference historical design styles. Contemporary design exists because the materials used to make the pieces in the space either did not exist in previous years and/or may not exist in future years.  Therefore, contemporary design is not limited by rules and is always evolving to reflect trends and individual preferences. What The Design Firm loves about contemporary design is the freedom to experiment with the pieces we love from around the world, and to experiment with bold patterns, which are much different compared to modern design. In many interior designs, modern pieces are incorporated into a contemporary space, hence the confusion when defining the two styles. Furniture is often simple, yet unique and neutral in colour, and often takes on a smooth, geometric shape. Contemporary spaces are comfortable, tailored, and organized, while reflecting the personality of their owners.Here are a few examples of contemporary interiors:

Contemporary design, like the kitchen above, often features artistic lighting fixtures, which are commonly used as the statement piece in a room. This room features Tom Dixon lighting which created a unique focal point for this contemporary kitchen.

If you weren’t sure to begin with, we hope you now have a better understanding of the difference between modern and contemporary interior design. Follow us on Instagram for more examples of both styles!


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