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Modern style - the Fundamentals

You may have heard the term 'modern style' and wondered exactly what it means. In this blog post we do a deep dive into modern style interiors and see just what it entails - including what a modern home might look like and how to recognise elements of modern vs contemporary design...

What is a modern design style?

When it comes to interior design, 'modern' doesn't always mean what you might think. Rather than the latest and greatest interior design trends, modern style refers to a particular look that emerged around the turn of the 20th Century.

Modern Style

Up until that time, people favoured heavily patterned and lavish interior decor schemes. Modern design offered an alternative, focusing instead on clean lines, simple shapes and a lack of adornment. Influenced by Scandanavian and German architecture, modern design has remained popular ever since.

What are modern design elements?

Typically modern design favours a pared back and functional look. Spaces are light, airy and open. Furniture often has a low profile and is kept relatively sparse, while patterns and detailing are minimal.

Modern Style

These days, modern design also takes cues from a number of different styles. Today's modern style home might include elements from minimalism for example, with high gloss finishes and square boxy furniture. Or you might note a Scandanavian influence through blonde wood furniture and fun geometric designs. Other influences include mid-century modern, farmhouse and industrial decor.

What makes a modern house a modern house?

In a modern house everything has a purpose and is typically free of fussy embellishments or unnecessary details. Beauty and form are still important, but equally so is function. As a result, modern homes feel simple and spacious.

Modern Style

A catch cry of the modern house might be 'less is more". Think open plan living and large bare windows (no curtains), strong clean lines and natural materials like wood (teak or oak). You might also see stainless steel, glass, concrete and leather used in modern homes.

White is an ever popular colour choice for walls and furniture, along with other neutral colours such as light greys or beige. Bolder colours are often used as an accent in soft furnishings, rugs or statement pieces of art.

How do you make a living room modern?

Space is paramount in modern homes, so one obvious step is to de-clutter your living room. Streamline your furniture and your accessories with the 'less is more' mantra in mind.

For example, a typical modern living room might only have a rug, a sofa, a side table and a standard lamp. Paring back to the essentials ensures your room feels spacious and calm, with plenty of room to move about.

If you are looking to update your existing furniture to be more keeping with modern style, then choose pieces with long narrow exposed legs. Keeping furniture up off the floor with plenty of space underneath helps your living room feel more spacious too.

A rug is an important anchoring piece. Choose a large wool rug in a geometric pattern or a long wool sheepskin rug or even a Morrocon Berber. Finally a tall arched lamp (chrome or brass) placed in one corner of the room will complete the look. You have all the bases of a modern style living room covered!

How can I decorate my bedroom modern style?

Bedrooms are well suited to the modern style as simple shapes and a neutral colour palette often result in very calm and restful room. So if you are keen to move away from more traditional bedroom decor towards something more modern, try incorporating a couple of these elements into your bedroom:

  • Swap out your ornate headboard for something more minimalist in nature. A platform bed for example or just a plain simple headboard in natural wood with no extra embellishment.
  • Up the comfort factor by placing a large shaggy sheepskin area rug under your bed. Just make sure your rug stretches out evenly on both sides -that way your feet have a soft cosy landing spot in the morning.
  • Streamline your bedding. No floral or heavily patterned bed covers, keep them plain and simple. You could also remove any extra pillows or cushions from your bed. Remember, less is more in modern decor.
  • Focus on the accessories. Hang a colourful print on one wall or place an indoor plant on your bedside table to bring character and warmth into your room.

What is contemporary vs modern interior design?

If you are not an interior designer, it's easy to get confused by modern vs contemporary design elements. Both styles share a lot of similarities - simple and streamlined, they both favour neutral colours and clean lines. Open plan living is common to both and they both provide light, airy and spacious homes that feel warm and inviting but don't go overboard on decoration.

But there are differences too. Contemporary design is all about what's hot in the interior design world today. It's edgier and is always changing from season to season. Modern design on the other hand is rooted in the past and doesn't change at the same pace. Modern decor consistently favours neutrals while contemporary design likes contrasts and may include bright or clashing colours.

What is the difference between contemporary and modern


Again, modern and contemporary sound like they could be the same thing. So what's the difference when it comes to furniture?

Remember modern style furniture will feature strong lines, simple shapes and natural materials like wood and leather. Contemporary furniture can include these elements too, but also embraces other influences in line with current interior design trends.

At the moment, contemporary furniture often features curves and organic looking shapes. Neutral colours are still popular but may be broken up with bold or contrasting colours too.

Believe it or not, short wool sheepskin is having a moment as an upholstery choice for contemporary lounge furniture - not just large shaggy bean bags, but also modern style armchairs with exposed legs covered in short wool sheepskin. How marvellous is that?

When it comes to interiors, modern design style is characterised by clean lines, simple shapes and functionality. With a 'less is more' attitude plus a focus on natural materials and a neutral colour palette, it's no surprise that modern style decor continues to be a popular home renovation style today. Contemporary decor shares many elements of modern style, but also includes other influences reflecting the trends and fashions of the day. Either contemporary or modern style - or a combination of both - will provide you and your family with a stylish, comfortable and inviting home.


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