Contemporary vs. Modern & Transitional Designs
Modern, contemporary and transitional decor are popular choices for interior design layouts, but people often mistake these styles for one another. Although they share certain traits, modern design focuses on clean lines, while contemporary looks include more curves. Transitional styles blend the updated feel of contemporary design with more traditional details.
What you’ll learn in this article:
What Is Modern Design?
Sometimes confused with contemporary decor, this design has various defining features. Modern rooms typically have an earthy or neutral color palette that promotes a clean, casual vibe. Some layouts also incorporate striking orange, green or blue hues in small amounts to boost their visual appeal.
Straight, clean lines are the hallmark of modern living room, bedroom or dining furniture. Simple, unadorned silhouettes and tailored upholstery help distinguish modern pieces from similar furnishings. Function is another central tenant of modern room decor. Seating, tables and accents should all have a specific purpose within these layouts, and decorative trinkets and knickknacks are typically absent.
Most furniture in this style features natural elements like wood and stone, making it easy to pair modern furnishings with other styles. Since many modern tables and chairs feature light or dark wood finishes, you can also add them to rustic, classic or coastal layouts.
Modern Room Ideas
In bedrooms, complement your bed frame with headboards in neutral or earthy colors to achieve a more modern look. If you want to organize your novels for late-night reading, add a sleek bookcase. Or, consider a storage ottoman to stow extra sheets or blankets. Does your bedroom have a high ceiling? If so, modern chandeliers provide plenty of light and coordinate well with the rest of your decor.
To create a modern living room design, start with a coordinated collection, a sofa featuring straight lines or a set of streamlined accent chairs. Introduce natural elements with a wooden bench, coffee table or accent table to make the space more casual and inviting. For a little extra flair, add accent pillows or wall decor in complementary hues.
What Is Contemporary Interior Design?
When comparing contemporary vs. modern style, you’ll notice contemporary layouts lean more toward curved silhouettes, saturated colors and bold accents rather than straight edges and earth tones. In these designs, neutral hues like black and white are common upholstery colors and finishes. Neutrals provide a backdrop for brighter accent hues, allowing these more vibrant colors to shine.
Fabric and texture are also important in contemporary interior design. Soft, comfortable furniture such as upholstered living room sets and accent chairs often feature in contemporary layouts along with natural materials like smooth metal, wood and stone. For instance, you may see furniture legs and hardware with polished metal finishes used in some pieces, such as a chrome end table.
Decorating a Contemporary Layout
Unlike sleek modern furniture, curved lines take center stage in these layouts. In a contemporary living room design, sofas with rolled arms, glass top end tables and circular coffee tables work well as the foundation of your ensemble. Bring in plush armchairs, loveseats and sloped back chaises if you need to expand your seating to accommodate guests.
You can take the same approach in a contemporary bedroom. While modern spaces emphasize wood finishes and earthy colors, opt for something like a crisp white or chic black bed to create a contemporary look. When mixing in materials and textures, consider storage pieces like a silver chest of drawers or an embossed nightstand with metallic hardware.