What's Up in RE+D?

Goodness Gracious, What's the Difference?!

Posted on January 7, 2015 at 8:55 AM

Contemporary this, Modern that...These are style terms that are used interchangeably every day, especially in real estate. But the difference between the two can be a real pickler, a head scratcher, down-right baffling, I say. So, what IS the difference and which one is more common in the current real estate market and design field? Let's explore!!


"Modern" or more accurately, "Mid-Century Modern" refers to a style that was developed roughly between 1933-1965. It is not a style that is constantly evolving with the times to stay aligned with its name, but instead Modern refers to the design characteristics during this timeframe. Its name is a little misleading and it's no wonder there is confusion between Contemporary and Modern! The style is not ever-changing and actually elements of it are beginning to be described as 'retro' by some.


(image: http://www.home-designing.com/2008/12/ultra-modern-living-rooms)

In Modern style, hard straight lines dominate, and interiors are generally very minimal, clean, stark and sometimes sterile feeling. Walls are often white and floors are mostly left bare - if area rugs are used, they are usually wool and neutral. Tiny pops of color can be introduced, but in general, color remains understated. Futuristic materials like, metals, plastics, glass and ceramics are prominent in this design style.


Contemporary on the other hand is exactly as the name suggests by definition, "belonging to or occurring in the present” and represents what is popular in current design. While Contemporary design includes many of the same attributes as Modern, it focuses on comfort and functionality, in addition to aesthetics. It has a bit more "livability" to it and is very popular today - In the real estate market, homes are generally staged in-line with Contemporary furnishings and upgrades/ updates are mostly implemented within this style as well.

(Image: http://livinghomedesigns.com/contemporary-interior-design/)

Contemporary lines should always be simple but they are not restricted to the sharp precise straightness typical of the Modern style. Contemporary places importance on open and spacious layouts. Architectural and structural features are highlighted, like pipes, pillars, beams and radiators - Something I enjoy seeing in this style is exposed duct work (my parents own a steel manufacturing company in South Africa (Avco Steel Designs), so I see ducting as a labor of love and industrial design works of art, rather than a purely functional element.)

There is nothing frilly, dainty or overly-ornamented! Open space is as important as the furnishings that exist within and colors are usually a neutral base, such as beige or grey walls and furniture with bold splashes of color introduced through accessories and art, which is also kept somewhat minimal, like in the Modern style. Contemporary also uses many of the same materials as Modern but incorporates natural materials like wood, in addition to industrial materials and makes use of artistic light fixtures.

I have a massive appreciation for all design styles, but Contemporary is the style I find myself implementing in my own home - It's aesthetic is classic and classy yet functional enough to live comfortably in. 

OK, so that, in a nutshell is the long-time question of Contemporary vs. Modern design! Happy decorating and let me know which design style you prefer!!!

Check out my new brand video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwJCKD1cMsA


Categories: Interior Design + Home Staging

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