Modern and contemporary are very similar concepts, which makes it difficult for most people to tell the difference. After all, the words are synonyms. Both have basic, minimalist designs, with clean lines right from the beginning of the design process. Both modern furniture and contemporary furniture focus on the architecture of the piece. That’s why in certain items, you will find similar materials, like steel. The similarities between modern and contemporary furniture are a design benefit because we can easily mix the pieces in the same space. But if you are looking for an all-modern or totally contemporary design for your space, knowing the difference is important.
In terms of design, modern furniture refers to a certain time. The mid-twentieth century is the birthplace of modern furniture, so it’s helpful to think of the color palette of that era. Earth tones, wood surfaces, and warm designs flooded the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and that is exactly how you can tell which pieces are modern. You will often hear the term “mid-century modern,” but real design experts know that is redundant because “modern” comes from the mid-century.
Contemporary always means the here and now. Seems easy to remember, right? It is, except that means when discussing furniture, the word contemporary will change application as the times and tastes change. It makes the definition fluid and ever-changing. While the use of the word contemporary will change incrementally, after the span of a few years, contemporary furniture might be defined by a totally different standard than it is today. Don’t worry, for the most current explanation, we have you covered.
Modern vs. Contemporary Materials
Modern furniture can best be described as earthy and warm, so most materials you will find include the following:
Contemporary furniture is often more futuristic, and usually has materials such as:
But both modern and contemporary furniture focus on a minimalist design, with pronounced architecture. That is why you will often see a modern table that has a wood top, with steel legs, such as these Shunan tables. If the space is entirely modern, we suggest you stick with the wood and white steel, but if you are blending contemporary and modern, the black steel legs will allow for a smooth incorporation with the monochromatic colors of contemporary furniture.
At this point, you probably understand modern furniture is more colorful than contemporary. Modern furniture will almost always have wood or wood tones, and earth tones like green, orange, and yellow. These Kilo Bar stools (that double as tables) encompass the color palette of modern design, especially as they are paired with wood. The colors of the Aura rectangular cushion would also fit into any modern space’s color range.
The contemporary route focuses less on color, finding most pieces in white, black, or grey. The Sliced side table is a perfect example of contemporary furniture, which focuses more on the smooth material of powdered coated steel than introducing color to the room. The minimalist legs paired with the steel make this table the perfect addition to any contemporary space.
When decorating a space with modern furniture in mind, the materials and colors are important, but the texture really sets the pieces apart. Products where the features of the texture are the main design will accent your modern space. The Etna square cushion has corduroy bands of velvet and is available in three natural-tone colors. The rustic canvas of the Sahara cushion looks great on a leather couch for the modern flair you want. When it comes to seating, it’s hard to find anything more modern than the Bokk stool by PUIK, especially in the combination of tan leather and black steel legs. But the showstopper of your modern home will be in the living room, with the Kilo Calorie coffee table. This coffee table is the epitome of modern style, created using birch wood paired with tones like soft grey or green.
If you want contemporary furniture at the heart of your home, look no further than the Dost chair by PUIK. It’s available in a few colors, but the dark grey wool paired with the black steel legs is the ideal contemporary piece. The curved back gives this chair the futuristic aesthetic that will categorize it as contemporary for years to come. You will find the answer to all your contemporary seating needs with the Option chairs by PUIK. They are all-black with those sleek steel legs and felt cushions. The best part about these chairs is the geometric combinations. You can either choose all uniform shapes for your cushions or mix and match for a funky, contemporary vibe.
Side Tables: Two Different Takes
Having a functional side table in either the bedroom or living room adds to the versatility of any space. We carry two tables that exemplify modern furniture and contemporary furniture, respectively. The Tepsi table by PUIK in the color combination of white and natural is a fun take on a standing serving tray, the modern way. The birch wood gives you the material you desire in a modern space, and where the steel bolts meet the natural wood legs give the piece a playful quality.
For a contemporary space, the Vouw side table embodies the futuristic, geometric features needed in contemporary furniture. Made of aluminum, the Vouw side table doubles as a stool for additional seating, and has the smooth texture to fit in with the rest of your contemporary collection.
Once your main furniture pieces are chosen, the details of your space will decide if it is considered contemporary or modern.
To finish off a contemporary room, adding accents like this Duplex shelf in black will bring geometric style to your walls. These wine-bottle-inspired steel candlesticks add a quirk to the otherwise lustrous and focused contemporary design of your space. Adorn the room with its final touch of metal, using this metal basket made from powder coated round iron. Use it as a fruit basket or throw holder, and your room will be contemporary chic.
The modern aspects of completing a room all come back to that cozy, warm-toned aesthetic. Add a knit throw like this Roy throw by KAAT with fringe edges to your couch or leather chair to finish off the look. To really create the earthy essence of modern style, bring the leafy greens indoors with these hanging herb pots by Zuperzozial. If you need that last touch of wood to your room, the Scope clock is perfect for enhancing your freshly modern space.