There is often confusion as to the name of a design style one has in their home. Personally, I like to use a particular style as a foundation, not a directive. I think it's important to consider personal items people may want to incorporate in their new design style, even though the items might not be considered that style. Design is very personal and fluid, but with that in mind, let's talk about a couple of the most common interior design styles.
Transitional style refers to a contemporary blend of traditional and modern styles, midpoint between old world traditional and furniture that's glass and chrome. The furniture incorporates lines that are less decorative than traditional designs, but not as severely basic as modern lines, resulting in what is now termed transitional furniture. These designs are classic, timeless, and clean. It is easy to change the look of this style with simple accessories. It is a very flexible style for those that like to refresh often.
Curves combine with straight lines in transitional style to convey a comfortable, relaxed uncomplicated design. A lack of embellishments with minimal accessories keeps the focus on the simplicity and sophistication of the design. Color palettes are typically neutral and subtle; and may be monochromatic, with color in art and accents, not upholstery and floors.
Unlike contemporary furniture, transitional style focuses on comfort and practicality to meet the lifestyle of the household. The scales of furniture pieces are ample but not overwhelming. Texture is important, and a multitude of fabric selections are incorporated to provide a balanced mixture.
Contemporary style encompasses a range of styles developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Pieces feature softened and rounded lines as opposed to the stark lines seen in modern design. Interiors contain neutral elements and bold color, and they focus on the basics of line, shape and form. Contemporary interiors feature tone-on-tone color palettes utilizing mostly gray, brown, taupe, cream and pure white. Shots of color are sometimes found on a single wall, in a striking area rug or in a special piece of art.
In addition, geometric patterns on accents are common. Furniture pieces have clean lines and smooth surfaces and silhouettes are slim without being dainty. Furniture is typically made of light-colored woods such as maple and birch (which also have minimal graining), frosted or clear glass, stainless steel, nickel and chrome. The lighting design is used as an artistic statement in a contemporary interior. Floor and table lamps have straight lines and sleek metallic finishes. Recessed or track lighting draws attention to well-placed art and accessories.
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Modern vs Contemporary
The differences are many. A Modern space tends to follow a strict style format while Contemporary has many variations in its interiors. Modern in its true form is rarely viewed as stark or cold, while some Contemporary interiors celebrate a bold starkness.
In Modern decorating, colors lean toward naturals or neutrals, but Contemporary has no problems swinging from one extreme to the other on the color scale. Modern design favors strong lines, while the Contemporary Style loves curves.
So are there any similarities?
Sure! Both styles tend to favor simple, uncluttered spaces with smooth, clean lines and artistic flair. Neither style prefers ornate designs or heavy elements, though recently Contemporary spaces are starting to bend this rule more frequently. In both styles, sofas, chairs, and ottomans have exposed legs, and both tend to gravitate toward reflective surfaces such as exposed metals and glass.
So what should you do?
This article was written to clear confusion, not to start saloon-style brawls. If a friend calls your very contemporary home "modern", don't be a smarty pants - just let it go. But hey, if the pretentious guy in the cubical next to yours starts referring to his contemporary sofa as a "modern art masterpiece", you have my permission to put him in his place.← Back to the Blog