Modern vs. Contemporary Interior Design: Is There Even a Difference?

For the average person, the words modern and contemporary can mean the same thing. In the realm of interior design, however, these two refer to two approaches with similarities and distinctions that make each of them unique. In this article, we will walk you through the definitions of modern vs. contemporary interior design.

Understanding Modern vs. Contemporary Interior Design

Alessandra Wood, a design historian and Vice President of Style at Modsy, gives a simple definition of modern vs. contemporary interior design. “Modern design refers to a movement that began in the early-20th century and lasted through the post-war era. Contemporary design, on the other hand, is a term used to describe a new interpretation of the modern movement.”

Before we delve deep into what makes each approach unique, we must talk about their similarities first. Both styles focus on minimalism, favoring simple, functional, and uncluttered spaces that lean towards smooth clean lines and form. Ornate designs and heavy elements are a no-go, though this can be a little bit more flexible depending on the current trend that falls under the ‘contemporary’ update.

Now for the differences, one of the major distinctions between the two is that modern contemporary refers to a specific design movement. On the other hand, contemporary design shifts depending on what’s on trend. In other words, contemporary house interiors are harder to pin down because they can shift through time. Meanwhile, the classic modern interiors have a more distinct aesthetic that zones in on specific elements such as balance, crisp lines, and warm neutrals.

What Makes Each Home Interior Design Unique?

Modern vs. modern contemporary can be pretty hard to visualize, so we listed the distinction between the two below. Use this list the next time you find yourself choosing between the two:


  • Modern: Clean lines and sleek shapes
  • Contemporary: Clean lines and chunky or more avant-garde shapes


  • Modern: Restrained colors
  • Contemporary: Stark hues


  • Modern: Accessible materials like plywood and fiberglass
  • Contemporary: Industrial materials like glass and steel


  • Modern: Fixed. Gives a nod to the Modernist movement of the late 1800s.
  • Contemporary: Ever-changing. Reflects the modern visual cues of the present.

Modern vs. Contemporary Interior Design in Action

Now that you have a better idea of what makes each home interior design style unique, here are a few examples that can give you a visual example of how they are in action. IEO Interior Design & Construction has previously worked on two residential projects—in Bonifacio Village, Quezon City, and in Cliffside, Anvaya Cove, Bataan—which perfectly encapsulate the differences between modern and modern contemporary styles, respectively.


The Bonifacio Village property followed the modern style, while the Cliffside residential unit was applied with the modern contemporary interior design approach. The treatment in the living room and dining area aesthetic perfectly captures what sets one apart from the other. Bonifacio Village residence has a neutral palette, while the Cliffside property projects a moodier but still minimalist feel to it. The furniture choice for the Bonifacio Village also uses cleaner lines while Cliffside has more experimental slopes and forms.


The same elements can be noticed in the bedrooms of each property. The darker hues of the Cliffside property were executed in such a way that it still gives a homey feel to the spaces. However, there is also a more experimental twist on the choice of furnishings like the use of vanity lights, chandeliers, and the gold accents on the cabinets that lend just the right amount of warmth to the bedroom.

On the other hand, the Bonifacio Village residence stays true to its easy-on-the-eyes theme with its light palette and the muted fabrics of its furniture, bedding, and room accents. The blue and nude patterned rug ties everything together and keeps the room from looking plain and boring.

Modern vs. Contemporary Interior Design: Which One is Your Pick?

Modern and Contemporary design share some similarities, but they can also look worlds apart depending on how you execute them.

Do you find one of these home interior designs calling out to you? Whether you’re leaning towards the more classic modern interiors or want to explore the dynamic beauty of modern contemporary interior design, IEO Interior Design & Construction can give you the home of your dreams.

For the layman, modern vs. contemporary interior design may seem to mean the same thing. But for experts, they are two distinct approaches.

We are a full-facility interior design and general contracting firm that specializes in commercial and residential projects. Our comprehensive range of construction and design services lets us deliver the best results to our clientele based on their goals, requirements, and budget. Get a free interior design consultation with us today!

Done With Your Build? Let’s Get Designing Next

If you want to transform your place into a potential dream home, we at IEO Inc. can make it happen. Expect us to use nothing but the best interior design techniques to spruce up your house.

Schedule a free interior design consultation to know more.