What is Contemporary Style?

Updated 2/3/23

Modern Bedroom

If you have done any research on furniture design, you've probably seen "Contemporary" and "Modern" used almost interchangeably. While contemporary furniture borrows many aspects of the modern style, the two are not the same.

Learn the difference between the two styles of furniture and help guide your search for contemporary family room furniture. Then take your search for the perfect contemporary pieces for your family room to Bassett Furniture, where you'll find quality without compromise.

What is Contemporary design?

Contemporary interior design takes its cues from whatever is popular at the current time. It is a dynamic design style that changes with the current trends, so contemporary design today may look very different from contemporary design 50 years from now.

It incorporates features from a variety of styles and eras, blending them with the overall minimalist look. At the current time, Mid-Century Modern design is trendy, so contemporary furniture looks similar to modern style.

Contemporary vs. Modern

But Modern style is different from the Contemporary style. Modern design refers to a static style that breaks with the pre-Industrial Revolution traditional style. The modern style draws inspiration from the rise and dominance of industry in the early-to-mid-twentieth century and allows much less flexibility than contemporary design. 

Serafina Sofa

Decorating a Contemporary Home

Easy to clean, highly functional, and unadorned are the hallmarks of the contemporary style. You can achieve this look by including the following features.

Start with a neutral color palette. Beige and white dominate contemporary interior design with furniture extending the neutral tones. You can make a room pop with a few vibrant accent pieces or artwork. 

Look for sleek lines and smooth textures. Contemporary furniture borrows its emphasis on functionality from the modern style. Comfort without fussiness characterizes contemporary furniture. Straight, clean lines, boxy chairs, and couches intermingled with an occasional sensuous curve give a contemporary family room an uncluttered inviting appeal. Tables are often made of lacquer, highly-finished wood, or chrome and glass. Chairs, sofas, and tables are raised off the floor on lean legs for a light and airy look. High-gloss, smooth surfaces are the perfect complement to contemporary furniture in your family room. Tables that gleam, simple display areas that shine, and largely unadorned walls keep the look clean and sleek. 

Let the light shine in. The contemporary design relies on lots of natural light to illuminate all of the gleaming surfaces. Large windows left untreated or with either minimal treatments, such as mesh shades, narrow blinds, or Roman shades, allow plenty of natural light in the room and keep the look simple and polished.  

Go easy on the accessories. Keep the room uncluttered with a few simple accessories that might add a pop of color or break up the linearity of the furniture. A few uniquely shaped sculptures, vases, or accent chairs will stand out among your contemporary furniture. Consider one piece of large-scale art to create a focal point for the room.

What is Contemporary furniture?

To identify contemporary furniture, look for the following characteristics:

• Splashes of a vivid accent color, perhaps in throw pillows or wall art

• Hard edges and gentle curves

• Natural materials, including wood, glass, and stainless steel. For example, look at the combination of wood grains and metal accents in the Savoy Bachelor’s Chest and the Palisades Etagere

• Minimal ornamentation, such as our mirrors, offers a minimalist design with subtle, floral accents within the distressed crossbars

• Solid fabrics, or very modest geometric patterns

Contemporary vs. Modern furniture

Modern furniture harkens to a particular design movement, the Modernist movement that began in the early 1900s.

Liam Dining

This movement was a reaction against earlier, more ornamental designs; it favored simplicity and minimalism. It’s sleek, clean.

Contemporary furniture, meanwhile, has a more fluid definition. It is the furniture of our day, so it changes with time. Current contemporary furniture incorporates aspects of modern furniture—such as its clean lines and simplicity—but it also includes aspects of art deco and post-modernism, adding flair and boldness to minimalist designs.

Contemporary Pieces at Bassett Furniture

To see how contemporary pieces can work within your home, schedule an appointment or a call with a design consultant. Our designers can assist with inspiration and practical tips, whether you’re filling a new home or adding new touches to a room.