How To Choose Contemporary vs Modern Appeal

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What’s the difference between contemporary vs modern style?  Designers consider modern as an era that is already passed and contemporary as being what’s trending in homes today and now.

Mid Century “Modern” style is a perfect example. It was popular during the 1950s.  But designers also consider Art Deco of the 1920s and vintage creations from 1970s to be “modern” as well.  Although MODERN literally means present day and contemporary defined by Merriam Webster.

OK, let’s add MCM, Industrial, Mission, International, Bauhaus, Brazilian and Scandinavian modern design into the mix. And, let’s not forget that ALL homes built TODAY are considered modern (in the literal sense of the word)

Could-modern-George-Nelson-Marshmallow-Sofa-work-in-contemporary-home?Mid Century Modern could easily be a reflection of all of the above styles. But the American version was less formal, more organic and incorporated nature.

Combining an authentic style with new “trendy” styles can work & are acceptable.  Because some modernist design movements have very similar characteristics that overlap.   Your conception of the word “modern” and personal taste will be important on how you furnish and decorate your home.

Here are some guidelines to help with understanding a contemporary vs modern space. Notice the first 3 elements of each list are identical.

10 Modern Style Features

Architectural, furnishings and home decor of Modern style promote “form follows function”. In other words, its design (form) should reflect its practical purpose (function). Home design with a connection to nature and un-ornate simple clean lines were the rule of the day.

  1. Minimalist design
  2. Unfussy clean architectural lines
  3. Open space floor plans
  4. Unadorned – non decorative – uncluttered spaces
  5. Bringing the outside in – like extending landscape areas inside the home
  6. Exposed structural elements. Wood beams, unpainted wood, concrete, metals, pipes
  7. Clean vertical & clean horizontal lines eliminating decorative round edges.
  8. Décor colors are monochromatic (which could be very bright) neutral colors for wall paint – pops of extreme accent colors and textile patterns from the 50’s are popular
  9. Furnishings are low slung horizontal lines
  10. Broad low sloping gable roofs or even flat roofs.


10 Contemporary Style Features

Contemporary is now!  The only constant is change. It is forward-looking and pulls inspiration from many design movements not just one era.  Elements from Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco or postmodernism styles could easily be incorporated into a contemporary space. Yet, it is destined to evolve and responds to the times.

  1. Minimalist design
  2. Unfussy clean architectural lines
  3. Open Space floor plans
  4. Contemporary pieces may focus on form (the design) more than its practical purpose.  True modern era designed objects rely on function first.
  5. High contrast colors like black & white (or) red and blue are good choice.
  6. Light Woods over dark ones are preferred
  7. Decorative and curves are accepted in contemporary home style
  8. 18% of new home construction in Atlanta , Ga is contemporary architecture style – very popular
  9. Expansive, large, tall windows
  10. Robust geometric shapes are encouraged -furnishings smooth glossy finish


Through this article, my hope is that you come away with understanding some common threads between MODERN and CONTEMPORARY styles.  At its core, the most important aspect of both  is simplicity. You will notice that open spaces, natural light / large windows, decluttering and natural materials are also common denominators.


So, are modern contemporary homes different?  It’s probably a misused term according to designer experts.  After hours of research on this article, my opinion is “defining modern style is a never ending debate”.


The bottom line is knowing how both work in tandem and are capable of creating a much more original and creative home than you ever imagined.  This style is popular now because of its classic design elements and minimalist uncluttered look.
Happy house hunting & decorating! Good Luck!



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