How To Differentiate Modern And Contemporary Furniture


There Is A Difference

In most contexts, the word “contemporary” is often synonymous with “modern”. These words have taken on new meaning throughout the history of interior design however, with their own unique associations to specific eras and styles of furniture. 

While some elements of modern and contemporary furniture and interior design may overlap, their distinct features will set any interior space apart as it draws its primary inspiration from one of these styles. 

What Makes A Modern Room? 

Modern furniture design is generally associated with early to mid 20th century furniture that borrowed heavily from the modernist movement. This groundbreaking era of artistic and philosophical development eschewed excess, ornamental designs and championed the mantra “form follows function.” This perspective ultimately lead to the sleek, and efficient looks in both architecture and furniture that we now associate with the term “modern” as it relates to design. 

Inspired by technical innovation in material manipulation and manufacturing, early 20th century groups like the German Bauhaus or Deutscher Werkbund art schools brought this conceptual movement alive into everyday life with their designs. Using earthy materials like wood, stone, and polished metals along with neutral and natural color palettes, these designers created furniture that looked aesthetically uniform while filling its practical purpose in homes and offices. 

By the 1950s, American design had taken on a more informal look to earlier movements. What we heavily associated with mid-century modern design began to integrate simple structures more heavily with elements of nature. This movement catered to the needs of American families daily lives, combining open floor plans with organic and utilitarian furnishings. 

What Makes This So Different From Contemporary Designs? 

While modern and Mid-century modern both borrow heavily from the eras associated with the modernist movement, Contemporary design tends to be more dynamic, combining worldly elements for more contrasts and colors and structures. Contemporary style grew in popularity from the postmodern art and philosophy took root, but this design also pulled from other movements like art deco and futurism. 

This style can vary more widely than modern designs, however it’s often distinctly colder and bolder in contrasting colors and shapes. Whereas modern furniture champion function and utility, it’s contemporary counterparts focus on a more robust presentation.

At Hip, we’re happy to help you find the style that fits the interior of your home and the aesthetic you want to foster in your life. We pride ourselves on mid-century modern furniture that provides comfortable use, fit, and look for your home, and we know whether you’re looking for a bold statement or something more nuanced and functional, we can help you find the piece you’re looking!