What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary?

Posted on: September 27th, 2017

The labels “modern” and “contemporary” may seem like synonyms. After all, people often use the two words interchangeably when describing interior design. However, when it comes to décor ideas, modern décor and contemporary décor are not the same thing. Understanding their meanings and the differences between them can help you determine which style is right for your home.

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What Does Modern Mean?

 Contrary to how it may sound, modern does not mean what is current and reflective of the times. It actually refers to a specific time period known in full as Mid-Century Modern, also called retro. It covers the 1920s to the 1950s. Common characteristics of modern décor include:

  • Neutrals, especially white
  • Moderate use of color
  • Clean lines
  • Minimal decoration
  • Natural materials
  • Raised furniture on bare floors

All these traits create an open and airy atmosphere in a modern home. Because modern describes a set period, it does not change. Perhaps as time goes on, interior design from that era may go by a different name.

What Does Contemporary Mean?

Contemporary, on the other hand, means what is currently popular. The confusion between the two words arises because modern décor is in fashion right now, and therefore also contemporary. However, on its own, contemporary décor only refers to whatever is in the moment, which can be styles from any past era or completely new trends – or both. It is ever evolving and eclectic. As popularity changes, former styles may receive distinct names to set them apart from other periods and current décor.


Which Is Right for Your Home?

Now that you know the difference between the two types of décor, you may wonder which is the right fit for your home. The answer depends on your own personal tastes. Do you prefer an established style with specific guidelines you can follow? Do you like a minimal, clean setting? Or do you enjoy a more varied look that uses trending designs and allows you to make continual updates as popular fashion changes?

You don’t have to choose just one. You can incorporate both into your décor ideas, or you can alternate between a modern style and a contemporary one over the years. Although certain styles may be unvarying, how you decorate your home is completely flexible and customizable. Whatever you choose does not have to be permanent. You set the rules for your home’s appearance, so be bold in your choices, whether they are modern or contemporary or something else.

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