A modern furniture piece.

Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture

Modern and contemporary are often used interchangeably when discussing many subjects, but interior design is not one of them. In fact, modern vs contemporary furniture refers to two very different periods, and they can totally change your space if you don’t learn enough about them.

When furnishing a new space, you may wonder what the difference between modern vs contemporary furniture is. To give you some help, we have created this article for you.

Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture

The world of design is one of those areas that most people take for granted. However, it's not as simple as some think. There are many theories behind important design aspects. Some are as simple as color theory, but others are about how shapes affect the space and the perception of an area. That’s the reason there are so many different styles: the slightest change can result in a totally different approach.

Among the different styles, there are two examples of how there can be some similar characteristics, but result in two styles that people commonly confuse. Modern vs contemporary furniture are two designs that are often confused with one another, but taking a closer look and understanding what makes them unique can help you spot the difference.

Modern furniture in a living room.

How to Tell the Difference Between Modern vs Contemporary Furniture

When talking about modern furniture, we refer to an era that has passed. The materials are simple and easy to find, like wood, and they emphasize crisp lines, clean cuts, warm colors, and in general, a minimal view.

Contemporary, on the contrary, is not that simple, because it refers to the period we’re living in now. So, contemporary furniture today can be something very different from what it is going to be in 10–20 years. It’s in constant evolution and depends on the context of society at the time.

The History of Modern vs Contemporary Furniture

When talking about the modern style, we need to go back and look at the birth of modernism in 1800. The main idea in German Bauhaus schools and Scandinavian design was simplicity. Materials like wood, leather, and stone are key in this style.

After this time, the modern style evolves into mid-century modern, which covers more or less the 50s. This is also a very present style due to its simplicity of form and materials.

The history of contemporary design is not that simple to understand because it starts as a blend of other styles. But for a lot of experts, it was born around the 1970s when postmodernism rose to prominence. Contemporary is essentially a mix of modern and postmodern styles, with the presence of art deco, futurism, and other styles.

Modern furniture in a small living room.

When to Choose Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture

When trying to choose which of these two styles to use, there are a lot of aspects to consider. First, you may have to consider the budget because contemporary design uses materials that may have a more complex build. As a result, they can be significantly more expensive than what modern design uses.

Another aspect to consider is how much space is available. Modern design is perfect for small spaces, where every inch matters. The clean cuts and simple designs make it perfect to give a wide perception of space. Moreover, the use of multifunctional furniture, like extendable tables, allows for better use of the space.

If you are looking for a more serious and stylish look, contemporary can fit perfectly. It uses a color palette where white, black, and gray have the leading role. The simple shapes and the use of materials such as steel and glass give the space a futuristic look that radiates freshness.

Modern Furniture Design Ideas

When looking for modern design ideas, some key facts can help you find the perfect furniture for your space. These key aspects are basic but important to harmonize the space.

Modern furniture piece.

In modern style, everything has a function and can be used regularly. Unlike other styles where a lot of furniture fulfills only the function of occupying space, every piece of furniture has a purpose and is going to be used almost daily in modern furniture.

Keep decoration to a minimum. Don’t think about buying a lot of decorations like small figures, jars, etc. A texture can do that job without suffocating the space.

Finally, colors can be up to you. There is no right or wrong way to use colors in modern style furniture, but it is important to remember that the main character is the material you are using.