Contemporary vs Modern Interior Design: Which Style is Right for You

When it comes to designing your living space, it can be overwhelming to choose between contemporary and modern interior design. Both styles have their unique features and can be appealing, but it’s essential to know the difference between them to create the look that best suits your taste and personality. Contemporary design focuses on the “here and now” and frequently incorporates current trends, whereas modern design is about simplicity, functionality, and embracing minimalism. In this article, we’ll explore contemporary versus modern interior design and help you determine which style is right for your home.

What is Contemporary Interior Design?

Contemporary interior design refers to the current and modern styles of design that feature clean lines, minimalism, and a focus on function over form. This style emerged in the late 20th century and has become increasingly popular due to its simplicity and versatility. Contemporary design focuses on creating an open and airy atmosphere, using natural light and neutral colors to create a sense of calm.

Main Characteristics of Contemporary Interior Design

  • Clean Lines: Contemporary design features clean, straight lines with minimal decoration and ornamentation. It emphasizes simplicity over complexity and uses geometric shapes to add interest.
  • Neutral Colors: Contemporary interior design features neutral colors such as white, gray, and beige. These colors add to the overall simplicity and airy feel of the space.
  • Open Spaces: Contemporary design favors open spaces and minimizes clutter. It emphasizes the use of negative space and avoids overcrowding a space.
  • Focus on Function: Contemporary interior design prioritizes function over form. The furniture and décor are chosen for their purpose and utility, rather than their aesthetic appeal.
  • Use of Natural Materials: Contemporary design frequently incorporates natural materials such as wood, stone, and metal. These materials add texture and warmth to a space and complement the neutral color palette.

What is Modern Interior Design?

Modern interior design refers to the design styles from the 1920s to the 1950s that feature a minimalistic approach, use of natural materials, and often monochromatic color schemes. This design style emerged during the industrial revolution when people started looking for innovative and cost-effective solutions for their living spaces. The modern interior design movement was an outright rejection of the ornate and elaborate trends that defined the previous era. It focused on clean lines, functionality, and simplicity, which ultimately led to a more relaxed, functional, and calming living space.

Key Elements of Modern Interior Design

Modern interior design is characterized by several key elements that set it apart from its contemporary counterpart. These elements include:

  • Minimalism: Modern interior design favors minimalism in both form and function. The style is marked by a lack of decorative elements, clean lines, and a clutter-free environment.
  • Natural materials: Modern design makes use of natural materials like wood, stone, and metal. In contrast, contemporary design uses materials like plastic, chrome, and steel.
  • Monochromatic color schemes: While modern design often features a neutral monochromatic color scheme, this is not a strict rule. Bright pops of color can be introduced to add visual interest, but the reliance on monochromatic color schemes is a primary feature of modern design.
  • Merge of indoor and outdoor living: Modern interior design encourages a seamless merge between indoor and outdoor living. Large windows, garden terraces, and patios help create this feeling of blurring of boundaries.
  • Simple geometric forms: Simple geometric forms are a hallmark of modern interior design. Circular, rectangular, and triangular shapes are commonly found in modern design, rather than the ornate, curvy shapes that defined previous trends.

Overall, the key to modern interior design is creating a clean, functional, and unobtrusive space. The focus is on simplicity, clean lines, and the use of natural materials. By combining these elements, the modern interior design creates a calming and peaceful living space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Key Differences between Contemporary and Modern Interior Design

When it comes to interior design, two styles that are often compared and contrasted are contemporary and modern design. While many use the terms interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Contemporary design is more fluid, focuses on functionality, and uses a wide range of materials, while modern design features clean lines, geometric shapes and a limited color palette. Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between these two styles.


One of the primary differences between contemporary and modern design is the use of materials. Contemporary design incorporates a wide variety of materials, including metal, glass, and wood. This style often features bold, bright colors, as well as a mix of textures and patterns. In contrast, modern design tends to use a smaller range of materials, such as polished metal, glass, and concrete. The focus is on sleek, clean lines and a minimalistic approach to decor.


Another difference between these two interior design styles is the use of color. Contemporary design often incorporates bold, bright colors, including shades of red, blue, and green. This style also features a mix of patterns and textures, which can create a dynamic and eclectic look. In contrast, modern design tends to stick to a limited color palette, with neutral, muted tones such as white, black, and gray. This minimalist approach to color can create a sleek and sophisticated look.


The shapes used in contemporary and modern design also differ greatly. Contemporary design often features curved lines, organic shapes, and asymmetrical patterns. This style is all about fluidity and movement, creating a sense of energy and dynamism. Modern design, on the other hand, favors sharp, geometric shapes, such as squares, rectangles, and triangles. The focus is on simplicity and clean lines rather than intricate, ornate designs.


Overall, contemporary and modern interior design styles share some similarities, but they also have distinct differences. While contemporary design emphasizes functionality, bold colors, a variety of textures and organic shapes, modern design values minimalism, clean lines, and a limited color palette with geometric shapes. Both styles can create beautiful, unique spaces in a home or business, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the space.

How to Incorporate Contemporary and Modern Design Into Your Space

Are you interested in updating your living space with a touch of contemporary and modern design? Both design styles provide clean lines and a minimalist feel that can create a sleek and stylish ambiance in any room. Here are some tips on how to incorporate contemporary and modern design into your space.

Consider Color Scheme

Contemporary design typically incorporates neutral hues, such as beige, gray, and white. However, there can also be pops of color, such as bold reds and blues. On the other hand, modern design favors natural color schemes found in nature, such as greens and browns.

To incorporate both elements, you can use neutral colors for the foundation of the room, such as walls and floors, and add a pop of color with accent pieces, such as throw pillows or artwork.

Choose Minimalist Furniture

Contemporary design features furniture with clean lines and a sleek appearance, with pieces that are functional and practical. Modern design tends to have furniture pieces that are more sculptural, with a focus on geometric shapes and natural materials such as wood and metal.

To combine the two styles, you can consider mixing and matching different furniture pieces. For example, a modern coffee table could be paired with a contemporary sofa. Just remember to keep things simple and streamlined.


One key aspect of both contemporary and modern design is utilizing lighting to create ambiance. Contemporary design often uses recessed lighting or track lighting fixtures that can provide a warm glow around the room.

On the other hand, modern design goes for simple lighting, such as pendant lights that are structured and geometric.

To incorporate both styles, you can install track lighting and add a sculptural pendant light as an accent piece. This combination will provide ample light while also making a statement in the room.

Artwork and Accessories

Contemporary design tends to feature modern artwork and décor that is functional and practical. Modern design focuses more on abstract and art deco pieces with an emphasis on geometric shapes and natural materials.

To incorporate both styles, you can choose artwork and décor that features clean lines and abstract shapes, such as sculptures or wall art. Additionally, adding textiles, such as throw blankets or decorative pillows, can add coziness to the space while still maintaining the sleek appearance of the design styles.

By incorporating these tips, you can successfully marry contemporary and modern design elements into your space. Remember to keep things simple and streamlined, while also adding accent pieces of color and sculptures to make a statement. With this combination, you can create a stylish and functional living space that will impress any guest.

Examples of Contemporary and Modern Interior Design in Real Homes

Interior design is all about creating a space that reflects your style and personality. Design trends tend to come and go, and two of the most popular styles right now are contemporary and modern. While these styles are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Here are some examples of contemporary and modern interior design in real homes.

Contemporary Interior Design

Contemporary interior design is all about mixing and matching different textures and materials to create a unique look. A contemporary living room, for example, might feature a plush sofa, a modern coffee table, and an oversized abstract painting on the wall. The key is to create a space that is comfortable, functional, and visually appealing.

  • Bold Colors: Contemporary design often features bold colors, such as deep blues, bright yellows, and rich reds. These colors are usually paired with neutral shades, such as white, gray, or beige, to balance out the space.
  • Mixed Materials: In contemporary design, different materials are often mixed together to create interest and depth. For example, a leather sofa might be paired with a plush wool rug and a wooden coffee table.
  • Layered Textures: To create a cozy and inviting space, contemporary design often features layered textures. Soft wool throws, plush pillows, and velvet curtains are all popular choices.
  • Metallic Accents: Contemporary design often features metallic accents, such as copper or brass. These metallic tones add a touch of glamour and sophistication to the space.

Modern Interior Design

Modern interior design is all about simplicity and minimalism. A modern living room might feature a sleek sectional sofa, a geometric coffee table, and a few carefully chosen accessories. The key is to create a space that is clean, uncluttered, and visually striking.

  • Cool Colors: Modern design typically features cool colors, such as blues, greens, and grays. These colors are often paired with white or black to create a clean and simple look.
  • Geometric Shapes: In modern design, furniture and accessories often feature strong, geometric shapes. Think square coffee tables, cylindrical lamps, and angular art pieces.
  • Natural Materials: Modern design often features natural materials, such as wood, stone, and metal. These materials are usually left in their natural state to create a raw, organic feel.
  • Pop Art Accents: Modern design often incorporates pop art accents, such as colorful wall art or graphic throw pillows. These accents add a touch of playfulness to the otherwise minimalist space.

Real Home Examples

Now that you have a better understanding of contemporary and modern interior design, let’s take a look at some real home examples.

Contemporary Design Modern Design
contemporary living room modern living room
This contemporary living room features a mix of textures and materials, including a plush sofa, a leather armchair, and a chunky knit throw. The bold blue accent wall adds a pop of color without overwhelming the space. This modern living room is all about simplicity and clean lines. The sectional sofa and geometric coffee table are the focal points of the space, while the pop art accents add a touch of playfulness.
contemporary bedroom modern bedroom
This contemporary bedroom is all about softness and comfort. The layered textures, including the plush bedding and fuzzy rug, create a cozy, inviting space. This modern bedroom features a simple white color palette and clean lines. The natural wood accent wall adds warmth and texture to the space.


When choosing an interior design style for your home, it’s important to understand the differences between modern and contemporary design. Here are some commonly asked questions:

What are the basic differences between contemporary and modern design?

Contemporary design refers to the current design trends, which are constantly evolving. It often includes bold colors, clean lines, and a mix of different textures and materials. On the other hand, modern design refers to a specific design style that originated in the early to mid-20th century. It often features a minimalist aesthetic, with less emphasis on ornamentation and more focus on functional design. Designs in this style often make use of materials such as metal, glass, and concrete.

Can I mix modern and contemporary design?

Yes, you can mix modern and contemporary design. In fact, many designers do so to create a cohesive and interesting look. However, it’s important to do so in a thoughtful way. You can mix these two styles by pairing a modern sofa with contemporary artwork or by adding contemporary accent pieces to a modern room. The key is to find elements that complement each other and don’t clash.

Which design style is more affordable?

Both modern and contemporary design can be expensive, but it’s possible to achieve either style on a budget. One way to save money is to shop at secondhand stores or look for deals on furniture and decor online. You can also consider DIY projects to customize and create unique pieces for your home. Ultimately, the cost of your design style will depend on the specific elements you choose and how you choose to incorporate them.

What are some key elements of modern and contemporary design?

  • Modern design: clean lines, minimalism, geometric shapes, neutral colors, and use of materials such as stainless steel and leather.
  • Contemporary design: bold colors, mix of textures and materials, focus on comfort, and less emphasis on strict rules or guidelines.

How can I incorporate modern or contemporary design into my home?

There are many ways to incorporate either modern or contemporary design into your home. Some ideas include:

  • Painting your walls in a bold color or using geometric wallpaper.
  • Finding unique and interesting lighting fixtures to add visual interest to a room.
  • Incorporating natural materials, such as wood or stone, into your design.
  • Investing in statement pieces, such as a modern sofa or a piece of contemporary artwork.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when designing with modern or contemporary styles?

Some mistakes to avoid when designing with modern or contemporary styles include:

  • Overdoing it with bold color or pattern, which can overwhelm a room.
  • Choosing furniture or decor that is uncomfortable or impractical.
  • Cluttering a room with too many decorative objects or accessories.
  • Not incorporating enough natural materials or textures.

Can modern or contemporary design work in a small space?

Yes, modern and contemporary design can work very well in a small space. In fact, the minimalist aesthetic of modern design can help to make a small room feel larger and more open. To make the most of a small space, choose furniture and decor that is scaled appropriately and avoid cluttering the space with too many decorative objects.

Does my entire home need to be designed in one style?

No, your entire home does not need to be designed in one style. In fact, mixing and matching different styles can add visual interest to your home and help to create a personalized look. However, it’s important to find a balance and make sure that your choices are cohesive and complement each other.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope you enjoyed exploring the difference between contemporary and modern interior design. Remember, it’s important to choose a design style that suits your personal taste and lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to experiment and mix elements from different styles to create a unique and personalized living space. Keep checking back for more exciting articles about interior design and inspiration for your home. Thanks again for reading!

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