If the Oxford English Dictionary is to be followed, the words modern (‘a current or recent style or trend’) and contemporary (‘following modern ideas in style or design’) are fairly interchangeable. Ask an interior designer, however, and you’ll get a very different answer. For them, modern and contemporary designs, while they may share some of the same traits, are two very different and distinct styles.
Despite what the name suggests, modern design refers to styles which were popular anywhere from 1920 to 1970. The most popular of these is mid-century modern, which was fashionable during the 1950 and 60s; this period is often what interior designers are thinking of when they use the term ‘modern’.
Inspired by Scandinavian and German design, the look is clean and simple. Form and function are key to modern design, as are natural materials (think wood, leather and stone), which were championed by leading designers of the age including Eames, Knoll and Le Corbusier.
Contemporary design means what is happening as opposed to at any specific point in time. This means it is forever changing and makes it hard to define when it comes to just what an interior might mean when they use the term. Right now, what they most likely mean by contemporary is a design that is minimalistic with clean lines, neutral tones, and natural materials (along with steel, chrome and nickel).
While there are similarities between modern and contemporary design, there are differences too, which make them stand apart from each other. They include:
Because the lines between contemporary and modern designs are blurred, deciding about which style works best for you won’t necessarily be easy, especially as contemporary design is always changing. This is why retaining the services of an interior design company isn’t a bad idea if you have the budget. Interior designers can meet with you and get to know who you are and what you want to achieve with the look of your home. Then they can make it happen.
Remember, though, to find a local designer who will be available to meet with you before coming up with design ideas – if you live in the North East of England, for example, make sure you find an interior design company based in the North East. This way, you’ll be able to build up a relationship over the life of the project and are much more likely to end up happy with the results.