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What's the difference between modern and contemporary interior design?

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


January 7, 2019 - Karl Yeh

"Okay, so modern is a time period. Typically known as mid-century modern. It's any design that you could see in the 50's and the 60's. Contemporary is ever changing, whereas modern you can't change it. It's always the 50's and 60's."

Wondering how the interior of your new home was designed? What was the inspiration? What other design options are there? In this video, we discuss the difference between modern and contemporary interior design and how they are represented in a home. We also explore traditional and transitional interior design. Finally, we also talk about what's popular and what you can find in today's homes. 

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Hi everyone. I'm Karl Yeh and welcome to another Homebuyer's School video, a channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics, and tips from home buying experts.

Remember, if this is your first time on this channel and you want to get the latest strategies from the experts, hit the subscription button below, hit the little notification [00:00:30] bell so you don't miss anything.

Today I'm joined by Deborah Armstrong, Senior Interior Designer with Brookfield Residential. Today we're going to do a little bit of, I guess, classroom activity. Not that this is Homebuyer's School, but the question we want to answer is:

What is the difference between modern and contemporary interior design?

Deborah Armstrong:         

Okay, so modern is a time period. Typically known as mid century modern. It's any design that's, you could see in the 50s and the 60s. Contemporary [00:01:00] is ever changing, whereas modern you can't change it.

It's always the 50s and 60s.

Karl Yeh:          

What does that mean, 50's and 60's design?

Can you give a couple examples of that?

Deborah Armstrong:       

Yeah, in the 50s and 60s if you look back, I mean, I remember those days, but they're very clean lines. 

Everything is very, very clean. The furniture was raised off the floor. No skirts on sofas. A lot of wood teak.

Karl Yeh:          

[00:01:30] Would hardwood floors be an example of 50s, 60s?

Deborah Armstrong:         

Absolutely. Yeah. Yep. They were the narrower boards, they were site finished, but yes, definitely hardwood floors, area carpets.

Karl Yeh:           Yeah, and then the type of furniture. What kind of,

How would you define modern as a type of furniture?

Deborah Armstrong:       

Again, very, very straight clean lines. 

There was a molded furniture, whether it be wood or plastic that we saw back in those days. Accessories were very clean lines as well, not fussy at all. 

Karl Yeh:           Okay.

What is the difference between that and contemporary interior design?

Deborah Armstrong:         

[00:02:00] Contemporary is ever changing. It is what is current today. Five years ago what was contemporary then is not contemporary today.

Karl Yeh:          

Yeah. Like you said, it was ever changing. Let's go back to modern.

What is in a modern home, what type of materials did they use?

Deborah Armstrong:         A lot of wood-metals. A lot of chrome. Glass-

Karl Yeh:           Leather?

Deborah Armstrong:         

Leather. Yeah. [00:02:30] Leather was very, very popular back then too, and even plastic. To look like leather.

Traditional vs. transitional interior design

Karl Yeh:          

There's another thing that I want to talk about too is in traditional versus transitional.

How does traditional and transitional go together with contemporary versus modern?

Deborah Armstrong:         Well, they don't really.

Karl Yeh:           Okay.

Deborah Armstrong:         

Again, because modern is a time period set on its own in the 50s and 60s. Contemporary is what is current now.

Maybe with transitional you could mix [00:03:00] what is current now with very traditional furniture, so you get a blend of contemporary and traditional and that's called transitional.

Karl Yeh:           Let's talk about traditional.

What is, first of all, what is traditional interior design?

Deborah Armstrong:         

Traditional is usually based on the eras between, in the 18th century and the 19th century. It's quite fussy furniture, elegant, heavy draperies, beautiful fabrics.

Woodwork was very ornate, heavy [00:03:30] crown moldings, the furniture itself too was very heavy and ornate.

You had certain areas, particularly the Chippendale, the Sheridan, the Queen Anne furniture are very common during that traditional period.

Karl Yeh:          

When you say traditional, what in my mind that brings about royalty, would that be correct?

Deborah Armstrong:         

It has a, yes, you could say say that. Very fussy, very elegant.

Karl Yeh:           Something you'd [00:04:00] probably see in Buckingham Palace?

Deborah Armstrong:          Yes.

Karl Yeh:          

Okay. Okay. I guess in today's interior design world what is, I guess, popular?

Deborah Armstrong:       

Right now we're seeing a lot of a comeback with the modern furniture known is mid century or some people refer to retro.

Again, we're starting to see those really clean lines again. Minimalistic looks.

Karl Yeh:           Yeah, so I guess you could say that modern [00:04:30] has become contemporary.

Deborah Armstrong:         Yes, you could.

Karl Yeh:           Okay.

Deborah Armstrong:        You could.

Karl Yeh:          

Do most home builders now appeal to that contemporary design or are there, not that we want to name any of them, but are there any that are very specific to a traditional look or transitional look, or is it mostly all contemporary-

Deborah Armstrong:         

Yeah, I think most of it's contemporary nowadays and how people are changing [00:05:00] the look of their home is how they decorate it.

They're putting their stamp on it through their decorations and maybe some of their interior selections, whether it be carpet or tile to work around those design aspects.

Does type of interior design impact how a house is built?

Karl Yeh:           Does this design actually impact how the house is actually built or no?

Deborah Armstrong:        No, not at all.

If you're looking for a modern home, exactly, it will. Yes. You will build a home that has the look, much more clean lines for that [00:05:30] modern feel.

Karl Yeh:           Yeah.

Deborah Armstrong:       

Very straight clean lines on the outside and we are seeing that.

We are seeing some builders, not specifically, I mean it's the home owners custom design that's dictating that.

Karl Yeh:           Okay. Perfect. Anything else then in terms of modern contemporary interior design?

Deborah Armstrong:       

No, just have fun with it all. They're all great and everybody likes a little something different.

Karl Yeh:           Perfect.

Deborah Armstrong:         Anything goes nowadays.

Karl Yeh:           Thank you very much for joining us. We'll catch you next time.


Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional interior design questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

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