Modern vs Contemporary Style Window Treatments

Sunshine Drapery sliding glass doors window treatment

Is Your Design Style Modern or Contemporary?

Many people think that modern and contemporary decor are the same thing--however, in design and in art the two are distinctly different styles that do share some similarities. The biggest factor in the difference is the time frame. Modern design is rooted in the early to mid-1900's and contemporary design is the trends of the present.

History of Modern Design

Modern design style is the decor and design of the modernism movement, which began in the late 1800's. Modern design is based on the simplicity and function of style, which is very old. Modern decor is linked to the beginning through the middle of the 20th century. In the 1950's and 1960's, the modern styled changed to the mid-century modern and later in the 1970's and 1980's changed again into postmodernism. Mid century modern looks a lot like modern design with the additional splashes of bright color added strategically to it and postmodernism does not. Postmodernism is very bold, breaking all the rules of tradition with a certain irony and whimsy about it. It's more about the form of the decor and not about the function, which is opposite of the modern design than is all practical.

History of Contemporary Design

Contemporary style became popular in the 1970's at about the same times as postmodernism rose in popularity. Contemporary design borrows elements from both modernism and postmodernism plus includes other styles such as deconstructivism, futurism and art deco. Contemporary style is ever changing with each decade and is not ever tied to a certain period of time like modern style.

Differences Between Moderrn and Contemporary

Quite a few differences exist between these two design styles. A modern decor follows a strict style format and contemporary has many variations. Modern is rarely viewed as stark or cold while contemporary can be seen celebrating a bold starkness with minimalist features. Modern decor has a function but contemporary decor may concentrate more on the form and not the function. The modern design color palette is in the form of naturals or neutrals that give off a warm and inviting feeling. Contemporary design enjoys stark contrast with mostly blacks and whites and can swing to mainly black or white in a room. Modern design favors strong and straight lines whereas contemporary loves curves in the lines of furnishings. Contemporary design picks up the latest trends and often includes large expansive windows to morph the natural world to your interior. Both styles do include geometrical elements, but in different ways. If may be a geometric light fixture in a bright gold hanging from the ceiling in a modern space. In a contemporary space, it would be large scale sculptural features, such as a series of exposed beams against a stark while ceiling.

Similarities Between Modern and Contemporary

Because of the similarities between the two styles is most probably why some people have a hard time distinguishing between them. Both styles favor uncluttered spaces that are simple with clean lines and an artistic flair to elicit a comfortable and calm feeling in a room and make it inviting. Neither style prefers heavy elements or ornate designs. Contemporary style can morph into these as the trends change. In both styles the sofas, ottomans and chairs have exposed legs. They both tend to navigate toward the reflective surfaces such as glass and metal. you can also find exposed wood features in both styles in the structural beams and raw wood end tables with metal bases.

How to Tie in Your Window Treatments

Contemporary window treatments are ornate in design with elegant and thick fabric in drapery. Custom made shaped valances complete the look in a balloon style or any other style other than just plain and straight across the window top. Popular shapes include the M shape, scallops and waterfall designs. You can really add a lot of contemporary style when the valance and drapes have pinch pleating such as the royalty had back in the day. Consider drapes made from velvet that pool gracefully onto the floor for a more dramatic appearance. Modern window treatments usually have an open floor plan and they integrate light with crisp lines and the use of natural materials. Motorized roller shades fit in a modern room seamlessly in a neutral shade of white. If you are incorporating drapes into your modern room, they should be of light materials that are breezy with an easy and simple look to them. You can add pops of color in your modern room with throw pillows and tie backs for the drapes in matching colors. Another great idea for a modern room is to add a floor rug with a trendy design and match the colors in the drapery tie backs and throw pillows as well as having a chair upholstered in a matching color to tie it all in together.

Examples of Contemporary Style

Some examples of contemporary style are found in the flooring choices. Floors should be bare and smooth and made of wood, tile or vinyl. The tiles need to be on the same level as well, and if they are not, use a tile leveling system to prevent tile lippage in the future. You can add colorful geometrically shaped rugs to warm a bare floor and use the colors in the rug for accent pieces throughout the room. Wall hangings and paintings are few and far between in this style. The wall accessories will add accents of color against a stark white wall and there should be ample space between photos or paintings with a minimalist appearance. Lighting is often used to illuminate wall hangings in the form of spotlights that highlight the accents on the walls. The frames are most often black, white or metal finishes in this style. Remember to leave open space on the walls because it is as important as the pieces you put in the room.

Examples of Modern Style

Modern style is trendy and changes often. You can have a streamlined palette of white walls and add one accent color in chairs and on bookshelves. Exposed wood beams in conjunction with modern pendant lights create a light and airy feel in an open plan with a dining room and sitting area. A white kitchen can be accented with about three colors of decor and a colored pendant light over a table or kitchen island. The chairs should be a neutral tan color to offset all of the white starkness and soften the room. A modern dining room may include a solid wood table with deep grain and modern chairs with metal legs near a statement wall painted in a dark shade such as burgundy or royal blue. You can introduce one item as a colorful element to each room for modern style--it can even be large, such as your kitchen island. This primer will help you to stay within the guidelines of your decorating style whether it is modern or contemporary and tie in all the draperies and furnishings to have a home that is a piece of artwork.
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