Modern or Contemporary Home Design? Know the Difference

Kitchen Interior Design

In the general sense, “modern” and “contemporary” mean the same. But in the context of interior design, there is a wide difference between the two. By definition, you will find distinct qualities already. Modern, on one hand, features the popular style of the early-to-mid-20th century, so it shows an era that has passed. Contemporary, on the other hand, focuses on what’s “here and now,” reflecting trendy design elements.

Here are the other aspects where modern and contemporary home interior designs deviate from each other.


Modern designs typically have earthy, organic elements, like stone, wood, plants and water. This keeps the space from looking too sterile and bland. Contemporary has a bit of natural touch, too, but the most prominent elements are glass, metal and concrete. The goal of the design is to create a cold, stark atmosphere that gives off streamlined aesthetics.

If you are going modern, mix and match different earth-friendly textures, for instance, marble walls with hardwood floors, or leather sofa paired with a bamboo coffee table. This creates various points of visual interest, avoiding the too-clean look.

If you are going contemporary though, your must-haves include floor-to-ceiling windows, concrete floors, steel furniture and a gas fireplace for your Salt Lake City home.

Color Schemes

The earthy vibe in materials used in modern home designs also translates to its color palettes. It features natural tones like rust, olive greens, brown and turquoise. In contemporary, it tends to have a more subdued palette, leaning more into neutrals, like black, white and grey.

Modern living room interior

Regardless of what you are going for, remember the 60-30-10 rule in applying colors in the space. This principle means that your dominant color should cover 60% of the space, usually the walls and the floors, then the secondary hue should be on 30% of the room, which includes the furniture and the fixtures. The accent color should cover 10% of the area, often the finishing touches.

So if you’re going modern, brown can be your dominant color, going for laminate flooring and brick walls, olive green can be the secondary, with sofas and light fixtures bearing the hue, and turquoise can be the accent for your throw pillows, vases and art pieces.

Decorative Elements

When it comes to decorative pieces in modern design, everything has a set function. It complies with the strict principle of minimalism. In contemporary, although it also reflects minimalist touches, most of the decor prioritizes form and aesthetics more than the purpose.

You should also note that the concept of what is aesthetic evolves fast, given that contemporary focuses on what is in at the moment (which can change in a snap). Contemporary pieces are a lot more flexible than modern. Nonetheless, both designs share a commonality in decor pieces, and that is the clean, crisp lines.

Modern and contemporary are two different kinds of designs. The better you understand their distinctions, the better you can decide which to reflect in your space. So, what camp are you in: team modern or team contemporary?

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