Contemporary vs. Modern vs. Traditional Interior Design

Are contemporary interiors any different from modern interiors? And how can we tell what’s considered “contemporary” or “modern” if we don’t first understand what’s considered “traditional?” As it turns out, there are a lot of subtle nuances that distinguish a contemporary from a modern or traditional interior — and even some debate over what’s truly considered contemporary vs. modern. Let’s dive in!

Contemporary vs. Modern Interior Design

The word “contemporary” means “of the moment,” and as such, contemporary interiors are very much a compilation of the styles and designs that are most popular right now. Contemporary spaces are designed to be flexible and versatile, allowing them to easily incorporate new and interesting art pieces and accessories without detracting from the overall flow of the environment. Today’s contemporary interiors draw heavily on traditional and modern influences, which is what makes distinguishing the three from one another so challenging.

What’s the Same?

There are many similarities between contemporary and modern interiors, which is why it’s easy to get the two confused. Both modern and contemporary spaces value order and artistry, with each featuring smooth, clean lines in the interior architecture and furnishings. This is what gives both environments their comfortable, calming ambience. Additionally with both styles, reflective surfaces, exposed metals, glass, and raw wood are popular materials to include throughout furnishings and fixtures alike.

What’s Different?

While the term “modern” means “related to the present times,” modern interiors are often reflective of the period from which they were born (1900 – 1950). As such, modern interiors are best-suited for those who have a preference for the vintage aesthetics from this era, along with its function-forward furnishings and warm, natural colors.

By contrast, contemporary interiors are trend chameleons, best-suited for those who prefer staying abreast of current design aesthetics and who are willing to change with the times. Additionally, contemporary interiors often feature curved lines and stark contrasts within their muted color palettes, and are therefore best for individuals who find ornamentation of higher importance than practicality.

Contemporary vs. Traditional Interior Design

When it comes to contemporary and traditional interior design, the two styles could not be more different from one another. From the architectural design to the color scheme to the art selections — comparing contemporary interiors to traditional interiors is a lot like comparing apples to oranges. Traditional interiors tend to be compartmentalized, featuring crown molding and rich, earthy tones throughout the furnishings and design.
Floral prints and paisleys are commonly seen in traditional interiors as well.

On the other side of the design spectrum, contemporary spaces are wide open and seamlessly flow from room to room. Rather than incorporating differences in pattern, contemporary interiors add visual interest by adding different textures, staying away from prints entirely or adding in only one bold color or print strategically in the space. Contemporary interiors also tend to stick to stark contrasting, muted, neutral colors, quite unlike their traditional counterparts.

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