Is There a Difference Between Modern & Contemporary Design?

Designed by Inverse Interiors

Yes. There is. You may think that the two styles are synonymous, both describing the today sleek look of today, but they actually are very distinct.

Modern Design refers to a specific time of period, between early and mid 20th century. This was the peak of art and design informed by Scandinavian and German Bauhaus design, creating a distinct style focused on simple form and function.

Living Room
Contemporary Design by Inverse Interiors

Modern design today isn’t too far off from its original roots. The objectives are all the same and the clean-lined, uniformity of mid-century modern is still just as favored.

Even contemporary design started its movement around 1970, the style it’s ever changing. In the beginning it borrowed ideas from Modernism and other styles from around the world, until coming into its own.

Contemporary Design by Inverse Interiors

Less of a style and more of a philosophy, the Modern Movement brought us the famous phrase “form follows function,” and saw a huge departure from the overly decorative styles of the pre-industrial age and the beginning of a new, simpler, purer aesthetic that was made possible by mechanized production.

Even today, many of the most cutting-edge designs have their roots in modern philosophy – it’s a look that never goes out of style, hence the confusion between contemporary and modern.

Modern Design
Modern Design by Inverse Interiors

The Differences

By definition, “contemporary” refers to the period we’re living in at the moment, so this style has a bit more fluidity. As a color scheme, we can have bold monochromatic black and white , but as well any colors in the color wheel.

A modern space tends to follow a strict format of balance, clean lines, and minimal decor. It is filled with plenty of warm and natural neutrals.

As for furniture, modern design favors strong, straight lines, contemporary furniture can get a bit curvier or unusual.

Modern Reception
Contemporary Design by Inverse Interiors


Both styles are calming and neutral with a focus on reflective surfaces, wood, metals and glass. Each style requires typically simple and uncluttered, opting for smooth lines and little artistic details.

“Less is more” is the motto for both contemporary and modern design.

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Modern Design by Inverse Interiors


If To Design Modern

A open concept living. Having fewer walls creates a smoother flow from room to room, gives you more opportunity to play around with furniture placement, and makes your home feel significantly larger.

If Contemporary Design

As contemporary design is always changing, it is very difficult to specify exactly how it should exactly look and not every new piece of furniture, means contemporary.

The style incorporates large windows to provide an abundance of natural light. A variety of sculptural shapes and a harmony with the outdoor landscape through its architecture.

Contemporary Design by Inverse Interiors

White walls and furniture is a match for this style, but we can incorporate as well, stone, cedar too. Sustainability is huge for contemporary design. The overall visual look is unified , comfortable and stylish.

So let’s define and clarify some the key modern & contemporary elements.

Key modern elements include flat rooftops, cube-shaped furniture, very monochromatic and neutral colors instead of bright colors, exposures of concrete, and exposures of steel. It’s also not uncommon to see wood used in the modern design and bare floors.

Contemporary Design by Inverse Interiors

Key contemporary elements include a large variety of of colors and materials. It is also common to see elements of “indoor-outdoor” living. A popular color scheme will be blues, browns and greens. Current contemporary styles may be completely different 20 years from now.

One of the main reasons there is current confusion between modern and contemporary interior designs is because a lot of the current elements in modern design currently fit in with contemporary styles.

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Modern Design by Inverse Interiors

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