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Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture Design

Identifying the distinctions between modern and contemporary decor can be quite tricky. In fact, these terms are often used interchangeably, but also tend to confuse people when deciding on which design they want to achieve in their home.

Learn the difference between the two styles of furniture and help guide your search for a contemporary or modern home.

What Is Modern Design?

Modern design can be difficult to define, but to put it in simple terms, it refers to an era that has passed. The style adheres to an explicit and strict set of stylistic principles, meaning there are several central characteristics and design themes seen through modern designs.

Modern furniture belongs to a set time period in time from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s and is heavily influenced by the modern art movement.

Here are a few trademark characteristics of the modern design:

  • A palette of natural, earthy tones with contrasting accents that include primary colors, black, and even metals
  • An open-layout floor plan that joins multiple spaces into one
  • Clean lines, sleek surfaces, and a minimalist aesthetic
  • The intentional decor has functionality without compromising style
  • Includes warm woods, stone, and leather details

How to Get the Modern Look

The modern style features functional and simple pieces with darker tones and heavier materials such as leather and wood.

Here are a few ways how you can bring modern design into your home:

  • You can paint the walls gray or cream and offset them with darker furnishing for a high-contrast look
  • Be creative with balance and proportion and go for an asymmetrical furniture arrangement
  • Opt for furniture that compliments plywood and leather
  • Create storage with grid-inspired shelving units
  • Incorporate materials such as polished chrome, natural wood, and aniline leather for a smooth finish

What Is Contemporary Design?

Contemporary interior design, on the other hand, means of the moment or currently trending. It is described as a dynamic design style that changes with the current trends, so contemporary design today will most likely look very different from contemporary design fifty years from now.

Unlike modern design, contemporary is always evolving.

It draws from various historical styles and also has the benefits of integrating new technologies and materials.

The contemporary design incorporates features from a variety of styles and eras, blending them with the overall minimalist look. For example, the Mid-Century Modern design is trendy at the current time, so contemporary furniture resembles this.

How to Decorate a Contemporary Home

The contemporary interior design is easy to clean, highly functional, and is the hallmark of the contemporary style.

You can achieve this look by including the following features in your home:

  • Start with a Neutral Color Palette: Incorporate your home with beiges and whites with furniture extending the neutral tones. A neutral color palette is a staple for achieving contemporary interior design. You can make a room pop with a few vibrant accent pieces or artwork; however, try not to overdo it.
  • Look For Sleek Lines and Smooth Textures: Contemporary furniture has a huge emphasis on functionality from the modern style. There are straight, clean lines, boxy chairs, and couches with an occasional curve in the contemporary family room that has an uncluttered, inviting appeal. Tables are often made of lacquer, highly-finished wood, or chrome and glass. Chairs, sofas, and tables are raised off the floor on lean legs. The contemporary furniture also features high-gloss, smooth surfaces to compliment the living furniture in your family room.
  • Let Natural Light Shine: Contemporary design relies on the use of natural light to illuminate all of the gleaming surfaces. Large windows without or minimal treatment, such as mesh shadows, narrow blinds, or Roman shades, allow plenty of natural light in the room and keep the look simple and polished.
  • Go Easy on the Accessories: Keep the room uncluttered with a few simple accessories that might add a pop of color to the room or break up the linearity of the furniture. You can complete the room with a few uniquely shaped sculptures, vases, or accent chairs to stand out among your contemporary furniture. Consider having one piece of large-scale art to create a focal point for the room.

Johnston Casuals

At Johnston Casuals, our furniture designers can assist you with inspiration and furniture design choice, whether you’re filling a new home or adding new touches to a room.

To see how our American handcrafted contemporary pieces can become a unique addition to your home, contact us and speak with one of our design consultants.


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