Modern vs. Contemporary: What's the Difference?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Modern and contemporary are terms often used interchangeably to describe a certain design look, but these styles aren't the same at all. As a matter of fact, they're actually quite different. In our first blog of 2018, we're going to cover the differences between these two design styles and share some pictures of a modern condo renovation we recently completed!

In interior design, the term "modern" is mainly used in reference to midcentury modern design, which was the design aesthetic popular in the mid-20th century. This style has its roots in the Modernist movement that began in the late 1800s. Its main influences are the German Bauhaus schools of design and the International style, which grew from the Bauhaus style in America. Scandinavian design, with its emphasis on simplicity and function, also played a role in the development of midcentury modern design.

Midcentury modern designs feature clean, unadorned interiors. These designs can be viewed as a rejection of the ornate flourishes popular in other design styles such as Gothic and Victorian. Midcentury modern designers believed that form followed function and as a result, built-ins and hidden storage are often features of these designs. There is also a lack of clutter, with sleek lines in both organic and geometric forms taking precedent. The midcentury color palette tends to veer more neutral and when color is used, it is bold primary colors serving as a pop. Walls are usually white and floors are typically left bare; if rugs are used, they are usually made of a sturdy material like wool.

Natural materials like wood, leather, teak, and linen are common in midcentury modern interiors, as is the use of molded plywood, plastic, and polished metals. In particular, stainless steel and chrome are huge in midcentury modern designs. Open floor plans are also popular in this design style.

So if the above sums up the midcentury modern style, what is contemporary design? Simply put, contemporary design is what's being created and produced right now. It's dynamic and constantly changes as trends go in and out of style. The reason why contemporary and modern design are sometimes confused is that midcentury modern is a popular style right now and is being incorporated into contemporary designs. But unlike the contemporary style, midcentury modern design is a fixed entity; it is a design style that won't ever change since it refers to a certain moment in time (the 1920s to the 1950s).

Now that that's covered, let's get onto the fun stuff. Our most recently completed project was a modern condo in the Gold Coast. Our clients were moving from a suburban home in central Illinois and wanted their new city condo to feel modern and sleek. We think it was mission accomplished!

The bare wood floors are accented by a navy blue wool rug.

The kitchen contains several modern elements: a custom glass built-in, leather barstools, and metal finishes.
Midcentury modern chairs compliment a beautiful view.
Another glimpse into the modern space.

And because we're RDID, we had to have fabulous built-ins that fit with the condo's modern design aesthetic.

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