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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.
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
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.
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.
Image courtesy, FADD Studio
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image courtesy, KNS Architect
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.
Image courtesy, KNS Architect
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.
● 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
● 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.
● 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
● 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.
Image courtesy, ADND
Image courtesy, KNS Architect
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.
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