The difference between Modern and Contemporary Design

Mar 7, 2023

4 min


Uncover the advantages of studying two designs that are commonly perceived to be alike.

In your next 3D rendering project, If clients consult you about a house design that has been around for a while but continues to adapt to current trends, what advice would you give them?

Contemporary design. 

This house design is the only style that has always been around, among other styles which only existed for a particular time. 

How come it existed all the time when Contemporary means "Modern?" you may ask. Well, the word contemporary may be synonymous with modern in most dictionaries, but when talking about design styles, these two are different. 

In this blog, we will talk about the difference between contemporary and modern design. Here are their differences: 


Contemporary design gained immense popularity during the 1970s, influenced by an individualistic spirit and global trends. Its roots can be traced back to earlier times, while Modern design has a long history. Modern design was a way to get out of the excessive ornamentation of the previous era. Its origin can be traced to the Arts and Craft movement that began in Britain to oppose the inhumane impact of late 1800s industrialization. It further developed and became the core of the Bauhaus movement in 1919, whose primary principle is "Form follows function." Modern design existed from the 1900s to the 1980s. See the details below: 

1900s - 1950s: Modern 

1950s - 1960s: Mid-century Modern

1970s - 1980s: Postmodernism


Technically, contemporary designs were created by renowned artists such as Mario Botta, Frank Gehry, and Jean Nouvel. On the other hand, the modern design traces its roots to heavyweights like Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, and Florence Knoll.


The contemporary design incorporates features from various genres, including minimalism, art deco, and deconstructivism, and also borrows certain aspects from Modernism. The latter, on the other hand, prioritizes minimal functionalism and rejects the lavishness that preceded it.


Contemporary showcases styles "of the moment." which means that it adopts the elements of whatever design is trending. Thus, the contemporary design elements– their form, color, line, and texture,-- vary from time to time. But according to Design Ideas Guide, Contemporary design includes ideas and elements that are steady over the years: 

  • Simple Spaces without clutter (same with Modern design, probably the reason why most people confuse modern with Contemporary)
  • Exposed elements, i.e., wooden sofa legs or exposed beams. 
  • Organic silhouettes

Modern design style, on the other hand, has a fixed definition of what its elements are: 

  • Crisp lines (found in some contemporary designs), Strong lines. 
  • Neutral palettes, mostly accents of black and white
  • Balance
  • Functional décor pieces (since Modern design follows the Bauhaus movement's primary principle, "form follows function.”)

After outlining the disparities between Contemporary and Modern design in relation to their respective periods, leading figures, styles, and elements, we can now explore some of how these two design movements share similarities and drawbacks, especially regarding their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Contemporary design is often used by artists who build properties that aim to reduce their carbon footprint. The popular contemporary design uses ordinary and straightforward, and natural materials. (Less process, lower carbon consumption).  
  • Since Contemporary design blends different elements, the house interior, which employs this style, rarely looks outdated. 
  • Often spacious. 

While modern and contemporary designs share commonalities such as functionality and an emphasis on simplicity, they diverge significantly in their historical underpinnings, design methodologies, and responsiveness to evolving trends.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial when selecting a design style for a project, as each style carries its own distinct characteristics and design philosophies.

When considering a modern or contemporary design, clients should carefully assess how these styles resonate with their personal preferences, the existing architectural framework, and the envisioned aesthetic for their space.

In such creative endeavors, visualizing the potential outcome becomes pivotal. Utilizing high-quality 3D rendering services provides a tangible preview of how these design styles can harmonize with or reshape a space. This invaluable tool assists clients in making informed decisions regarding the interior ambiance of their homes.


This article was last updated on Feb 23, 2024