Last week I started the Style Series by defining and illustrating country/cottage and shabby chic decor (you can find it here). This week I’ll continue to explore the many styles of home decor by tackling Modern and Contemporary. Many of you probably think they are the same. Nope. Although the terms are used interchangeably, there is a difference between the styles.
Modern Decor Defined
A few very specific elements set modern design apart:
- minimalist decor with few furnishings and even less accessories
- use of industrial elements
- few colors, usually neutral based
- sleek, strongly rectilinear shapes
- can feel cold or harsh
- usually smooth textures like glass, metal, leather, or silk for the luxe factor
- wide open spaces
This ultra modern kitchen is sleek, clean and only slightly warmed by the touch of wood. That’s a lot of stainless!
What elements make this a modern room? Very rectilinear furnishings, essentially monochromatic with the pop of only one color, and no accessories.
Simple with no pillows (how do you DO that??), low backs and bench, a plain flat weave rug, storage hidden behind sleek metal looking doors. The very definition of modern.
I’m pretty sure this is actually a rendering, but the depiction of modern style is spot on. Low furnishings, simple forms, blocky tables, neutral palette, and whatever flooring is represented, I’d say painted concrete would be a perfect fit in a modern home.
Not long ago Cindy and I did a Thumbs Up/Down about minimalist design where you find our opinions and more photos of the pretty and ugly of this style. (you can read it here)
Contemporary Decor Defined
A softer, more liveable look than modern, contemporary actually encompasses:
- clean shapes and slim furniture profiles (rather than overstuffed), but with an occasional curve or swirl
- use of stronger colors and a little pattern
- restrained use of accessories
- mixing of textures like nubby wool, flotaki rugs, or shimmery silk, cotton or linen
- usually light woods like maple or birch, but occasionally a black piece can find its way in
Soft, rounded edges to the seating, a few key accessories, a textured rug all contribute to turning this room from stark and modern to contemporary.
The difference between this contemporary dining room and a modern one is: the open display shelving in the hutch (contemporary has a few well chosen accessories while shabby chic would have it chock full of collectibles and modern would have sleek doors so it appeared built-in); upholstered chairs with a little curve to the backs; a patterned rug under foot and lots of wood. I think a good addition would be some long sheer panels to soften those windows – and it would still feel very contemporary.
The above 3 pictures show a range of contemporary rooms – note the flokati rugs for extra texture, the use of color, just a few accessories and furniture with slim profiles, curves and even a little pattern. All those elements pull the rooms away from starkly modern and into the pleasant contemporary mode.
Is This Style For You?
Modern or contemporary or a little of both? What suits your style? In upcoming weeks I plan on sharing transitional, traditional, coastal, mission and more. If you have a particular favorite you’d like me to cover, be sure to let me know. Or, if you want to learn about a style to see if it might fit you…..let me know. I’m always happy to hear from readers and try to be responsive to what you’d like to read. The easiest way to stay on top of all the great information Cindy and I share every week is to subscribe – you can do that at the top of the page – just give us your email address and you won’t miss a word.