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How to tell the difference between Modern and Contemporary design

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The functionality, aesthetics and ambience of any space are a result of the interior design. A designer moulds a space to achieve the perfect balance between these aspects using various skills and technical know-how. Many distinct design styles have been established since its inception as a professional field in the early 20th century—for example, Victorian, Vintage, Retro-chic, Bohemian, Scandinavian, Mediterranean, etc.

Here we break down two prominent design styles- modern interior design and contemporary interior design. Many often confuse the two as synonymous. While the dictionary definitions will lead you to believe the same, technically, these are two distinct styles with specific characteristics.

Read on to find out how to tell the difference between modern and contemporary interior design, especially when there are some apparent similarities.

What is Modern Design?

The modern design style emerged around the late 19th century to the early 20th century and continued through the post-war era. The modern house design style finds its roots in the German Bauhaus and the Scandinavian schools of design and architecture, and the Modern art movement. The influence of the Art Deco movement is quite evident in modern house design. The modern style transmutes into the mid-century modern style in the 1950s and 1960s.

In stark contrast with the preceding Victorian style, the modern style takes a less is more approach to design. In interiors, this 

Stylish modern house interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, KNS Architect

is translated as clean and sharp lines, lack of ornamentation, minimal décor and a generally open and airy vibe. In that sense, the modern house design is relatively fuss-free and emphasises simplicity and functionality.

Quintessential features of modern house interior design

1.    Crisp lines and distinctive shapes are a dead giveaway.

2.    Warms neutrals with occasional accents of earth tones or primary hues.

3.    Emphasis on natural materials such as metals, leather, linen, etc., especially wood. With the advent of mass production, use of easily
       accessible and pocket-friendly materials like acrylics, plexiglass, vinyl, etc., became common in the modern interior.

4.    Furniture with exposed and tapering legs typifies this style.

5.    Open plan layouts, placement of furniture away from the wall, and a general airy atmosphere.

6.    Windows are often large to let ample natural light in.

7.    The décor is minimal and primarily functional.

Contemporary style living room interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, FADD Studio

What is Contemporary Design?

The contemporary style interior design is, as the name suggests, a style that is in vogue at the moment. More so than a distinctive style, it focuses on what's popular. Therefore, it cannot be tied down to a specific era and is quite fluid.

This ever-evolving style borrows quite some from its predecessors. For example, minimalism is a trait that persists from modern design through contemporary interior design. Apart from styles like Art Deco, Scandinavian and modern, contemporary interior design is also heavily influenced by environmentalism, sustainability, the digital age and globalisation.

Quintessential features of contemporary style interior design

Even though contemporary interior design escapes precise definition, some of the features in a contemporary house can be distinctly identified as such:
1.    Clean lines combined with soft curves and experimental shapes are common in the contemporary interior.

2.    Since contemporary interior style borrows from other styles, you'll see an eclectic yet cohesive design and decor in a contemporary house.

3.    Mixing materials is pretty common- metals, wood, glass, steel, etc. Sleek, industrial materials with high gloss are favoured.

4.    The colour palette consists of stark contrasts with blacks, greys and whites. And in many cases, pops of colour are added.

5.    Use of texture to add visual interest.

Difference between Modern Design & Contemporary Design

1. Interior design contemporary vs modern- lines and shapes

The designers rebelled against the curvature, carvings and embellishments of the preceding era. Clean forms that complemented functionality were preferred. The geometric shapes and simplified and stylised ones from the art movements of the period are reflected in interior design.

2. Difference between modern and contemporary interior design- Materials and textures

Both styles incorporate a variety of materials in their designs. But modern designs prioritise a natural finish irrespective of if the actual material is real or faux. The more "natural" textures are thus used to create a more subtle and complementary look.

In contrast, contemporary designs use both natural and artificial materials for their own merits. It also often integrates industrial elements such as concrete, bricks, steel, etc. Effectively, it uses starkly different textures and finishes to add variation and visual intrigue.

3. Contemporary vs modern design- Colour palette

The base of warm neutrals such as beige, tans, greys and browns is the go-to in modern design. These are accompanied by natural and earth tones accents- muted greens, turquoise, rust, etc. Contemporary designs have a more stark colour scheme with the base of black, white and grey. Black and white are often used to ground more vibrant colours such as peppy yellow or bright pink.

Leather sofa in modern contemporary interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, KNS Architect

4. Difference between modern and contemporary interior design- Furniture

The furniture in modern design is off the ground and is visually light. This adds to the airy vibe of the style and makes the room feel more spacious. On the other hand, modern contemporary design embraces more quirky and chunky shapes.

While many modern pieces are mainly functional, contemporary design is more flexible. Many decor pieces are used solely for their artistic value. Therefore, functionality does not always trump form and aesthetics in the case of contemporary designs.

Red l-shaped in contemporary interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, KNS Architect

Similarities between modern interior design and contemporary interior design

Both aesthetics can be distinctive. But, the fluidity and versatility of contemporary design mean that it often integrates elements of modern aesthetics. The two, therefore, have much in common. A clutter-free space with minimal to no decor is the preferred aesthetic in both cases. Another commonality is the lack of ornamentation and a penchant for clean lines and sleek shapes.

Using a variety of materials in design is another thing both styles share. Open plans and generally spacious areas are also recurrent elements. Both adopt open plans with a single large living area (living room +kitchen+dining area) to make a space feel bright and airy.

Interior design contemporary vs modern: How to incorporate them into your home interiors

Tips to Make Your Home Look More Modern

●    Functionality is always at the forefront of this style. Your usage of the space would determine the kind of furniture you require. Keep or buy
      only pieces that serve a purpose.

●    Earth tones are your best friend. The colour palette should feature warm neutrals and earth tones. Opt for more muted hues of primary and
      secondary colours for accents.

●    Modern design catered to the masses. The material used for furniture and decor included fibreglass, acrylics, plywood, etc., in addition to
       natural materials. So choose a variety of materials for your modern home. Just remember to ensure that most finishes have the appearance of
       natural material.

●    Furniture with tapering and exposed legs are the hallmark of this style. Invest in pieces with this feature for a classic modern look—for
       example, Eames chairs, credenzas, side tables, square sofas, etc.

Tips to Make Your Home Look More Contemporary

●    Stark contrasts in terms of colour schemes and textures are
       decidedly contemporary. Choose black, grey or other deeper
       tones as a base with accents of bold colours.

●    Smooth and glossy finishes are another recognisable feature of
       this aesthetic—for example, polished wood, vinyl, glass, etc.
       Metals like steel, nickel and brass add some sleek accents to
       the design.

●    Opt for chunky, low profile furniture for a typical contemporary.
       A sectional sofa is a perfect example.

●    Make sure to keep the decor minimal. Although, it need not
       always be functional. Statement pieces with an artistic flair
       are always welcome.

Modern interior design with sofa chairs - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, ADND

Modern house design with hanging lights - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, KNS Architect

How can Beautiful Homes help you with Modern & Contemporary Interior Design for your home?

Choosing the right design style for your home can be a daunting choice. At Beautiful Homes, we offer a wide range of products and services to make it easier for you. Visit our online shop to check out our selection of furniture and decor. We've got it all, from statement sofas, armchairs, side tables, and beds, to beautiful wall paints, wallpapers and much more.

Our expert services include Interior Design Services, Quick Home Makeover services, Safe Painting Services, Colour Consultancy Services Online, Wood Solutions and Design Wall Makeover. Our professionals will ensure that your home interior design and each element thereof are best suited to your style and needs.

Visit our website to view the projects executed by us so far. You may book your 3D consultation call to understand the project's process, design, and execution or walk into any of our stores across India. Our current stores are spread across Amritsar, Tumakuru, Raipur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Kochi, Karur, Coimbatore, Bengaluru and Nashik. In addition, we are in the process of opening up state-of-the-art stores across several cities.

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