What’s The Difference Between Modern And Contemporary Houses

Modern House

Many people tend to use “modern” and “contemporary” style home design interchangeably. However, there are actually stark differences between these two popular trends. In this post, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of these two terms and discover what they really mean. We’ll take a look at the origins, features, and notable designers of both styles.

Contemporary House Design

A house with a “contemporary” design simply means that it follows the styles of the present day. Its aesthetic and architectural elements don’t reflect a specific time. And its features could evolve based on popular styles.


A contemporary home style borrows qualities from other designs, such as Art Deco, modernism, minimalism, and other global styles. However, it doesn’t focus on a particular trend.


A contemporary house interior has the following defining features:

  • Stark minimalism – Contemporary home designers usually just use bare essentials to ensure an uncluttered space.
  • Neutral palettes – Beige, black, gray, taupe, ivory, and shades of white are the usual color scheme of the interior.
  • Clean lines – Contemporary homes boast uninterrupted and clean lines that exude simplicity.
  • Organic silhouettes – Furniture pieces and indoor architectural accents often resemble elements of nature. The materials used for these features are also sourced from organic materials (e.g., hemp, jute, bamboo), albeit with the addition of chrome, nickel, and steel.

Notable Designers

Want some examples of contemporary home style? You might like to take inspiration from the works of the following notable designers:

  1. Frank Gehry – Designed by Gehry, the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica, CA is an existing Dutch colonial house with a touch of contemporary features.
  2. Peter Pennoyer – Pennoyer’s residence in Millbrook, New York boasts of the typical contemporary home design with a backdrop of Greek Revival style.
  3. Rick Joy – Joy designed The Tubac House with modernist elements and energy efficiency in mind. The components also include locally sourced rustic materials.

Modern House Design

Unlike contemporary home design, modern house style refers to a specific period, which is from the early to mid-twentieth century. It is also the precursor to the contemporary style.


Modern design started to emerge during the peak of the modern art movement. And it was born as a response to the overly cluttered, ornate, and fancy architecture of the late 19th century. The Scandinavia design and the German Bauhaus are the two key design inspirations behind this trend. And the major designers and influencers during this period were Ray and Charles Eames, Le Corbusier, and Florence Knoll.


Homes following the modernism design trend have a distinct lack of flair and ornament. The interior shows off a large open floor plan with a strong horizontal composition. Homeowners with square homes typically follow the modernist design to maximize space using low-key furnishings and a monochromatic color palette. By sticking to minimalist and simple designs and color schemes, designers can avoid the cold and cluttered feeling inside the home.

The walls and windows are usually huge and are made of glass. This allows the designers to blur boundaries between the outdoor and indoor areas. Through the glass walls and windows, homeowners can enjoy the views outside while letting in more natural light and air. This also allows the designers to use the surrounding area to enhance the interior vibe of the house. For example, the lines of the cantilevers or the roof are often used to continue the lines of the landscape around the house. Most importantly, the emphasis of a simplified home is on function – getting rid of all the unnecessary details and frills.

Notable Designers

Are you thinking about designing your dream home based on the Modernist Home stylebook? If you are, you might find interesting inspiration from the works of these designers:

  1. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Located in Plano, Illinois, the Farnsworth House that Mies van der Rohe designed is now fondly considered as National Historic Landmark.
  2. Philip Johnson – Johnson’s The Glass House was also inspired by Farnsworth House and is also a National Historic Landmark.

Contrary to popular belief, modern and contemporary house architecture designs aren’t really the same. Modern style is associated with a specific period, while contemporary design is still currently evolving following popular trends. And by understanding the stark differences between these two designs, you’ll be able to make a better decision when it comes to the features and elements you’d like to have for your home. Of course, you could also throw in a touch of both styles in one design. Whichever is your preference, make sure to contact an expert to guide you.

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