What Is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Design?

People often use the words “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably, but in design, they’re two very different styles.

Both of these styles are very popular right now, but they are different in their ways.

If you’ve ever wondered what makes these two design styles different, you’re right. I will break down each style and talk about what makes it unique.

Please keep reading to find out what makes modern and contemporary designs.


At the beginning of the 20th century, architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier were the first to use modern design.

The goal of modern design was to get rid of old styles and make something that had never been done before.

So, modern design is clean, simple, and sleek, which is the opposite of all design styles before that time, meant to show off wealth through expensive fabrics and furniture.

Here are a few things that make modern design what it is:

  • The color scheme is soft and neutral.
  • Warm colors are more likely to be used (red, orange, yellow).
  • The floor plan is open.
  • Straight lines and geometric shapes
  • Aesthetic of minimalism
  • Glass, steel, and concrete are examples of industrial materials.

Modernism is a simple style of design and doesn’t have a lot of extras. It puts function above all else. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous saying, “Less is more,” says it best.


Modernism is a time in the history of design, while contemporary design is what is popular now.

So, modern design is constantly changing because what’s popular is always changing. But over the past few years, some things haven’t changed.

Here are some things that make up modern design:

  • The colors are bold and contrasting.
  • Cool colors are more likely to be used (blue, green, purple).
  • Abstract designs.
  • Straight and curved lines are combined.
  • Textures and materials are combined.

The bold colors and textures used in contemporary design make it stand out more than modern design, but sophistication is at the heart of any contemporary room.


At first glance, the modern and contemporary designs might look like they have a lot in common, but when you look more closely, you can see that they are very different.

Modern design is more sparse and simple, while contemporary design is bold and full of color.

They both use some of the same materials and furniture, but the result of each style is a different look.

No matter what style you prefer, it’s always a good idea to hire an interior designer to help you make your home the way you want it.

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