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Style Guide: Contemporary Vs. Modern, What’s the Difference?

A Guide to Contemporary and Modern Furniture and Interior Design Styles

Modern versus Contemporary. Blue Contemporary sofa vs white curved modern sectional.

Have you ever been confused about the difference between contemporary and modern styles? If so, let this be your beacon to finding chic style enlightenment! 

Contemporary and modern are both general style terms that are used to describe a wide range of interiors and furniture. The terms are also a bit unique because, unlike design styles that reference a specific era, contemporary and modern are both styles that change according to the prevailing tastes of the time. 

Aside from changing over time, contemporary and modern also share some standard design motifs that can make them seem similar at first glance. Below we'll go over distinguishable facets of each style so you can tell them apart quickly and easily. 

Here's the quick answer:

The term contemporary refers to a style that aligns with current tastes, but the modern look is one that's based on making a statement with elements that look to the future and emphasize innovation. In other words, contemporary is used to describe furniture that “fits in” with today’s preferences while modern is used to describe furniture that “stands out” in a new or unexpected way.  


What is Contemporary Style?

During the 1990s and 2010s, the word contemporary was commonly used to describe an interior style that was centered around rooms with neutral-toned color palettes and furniture with minimalist, straight-lined appeal. Many contemporary living rooms featured cream-colored walls with light brown wood floors accompanied by low-profile upholstered furniture with track arms.

In recent years – well, really since we all were forced to actually live in our homes during the Covid-19 pandemic - there have been many changes happening within the world of contemporary style. The contemporary style that has been emerging since 2020 still favors straight-lined foundational pieces, but now it’s more and more about blending in traditional pieces, opposing styles, and maximalist color motifs 

Here’s How the Contemporary Shift is Going: 

Most contemporary interiors are sticking with large-scale pieces that we have been seeing in contemporary homes for decades. Think low-to-the-ground upholstered sectionals and sofas with straight track arms, rectangular dining tables that prioritize practicality over frills, and painted bedroom case pieces with crisp corners.  

Now is where it get's interesting, though. Once they've established a contemporary look with “standard contemporary” foundational pieces, contemporary enthusiasts are now starting to add in accent pieces and artwork from different eras or that showcase wildly different styles to make a statement and give their rooms a shot of something new.

More and more we are seeing casual upholstered living room sofa sets being paired with unexpected accents like cottage-inspired china cabinets or bold, mid-century modern accent chairs to stunning effect. 

As the style continues to evolve, we expect to see furniture manufacturers pick up on what people are looking for by creating contemporary pieces that also blend intentional design elements from past eras. We are already seeing clean-lined beds with large, upholstered headboards being made for contemporary bedrooms, and a similar trend can be found in dining rooms where dining tables and dining sets with rustic or industrial accents are popping up just about everywhere.  

If you’re looking for new contemporary furniture to brighten up any living, dining, or bedroom space, check out Furniture Row’s collection of contemporary furniture! Here are some of our favorites:

Collage of contemporary Products at Furniture Row
Pictured above
1. The Trinity Track Arm Sofa is the perfect chic addition to any space, as is the Trinity Padded Arm Sofa, both adorned in lusciously soft upholstery and complete with crisp tailored detailing.  


2. With the Bennett Upholstered Bed’s winged velvet-adorned headboard and tufted detailing, your room will revitalize with contemporary appeal and high-end taste.

  1. Button Tufted Tall Gray headboard Bedframe

3. The Ash 4 Pc. Queen Bedroom Set makes great use of clean, contemporary lines and a striking rustic palette to transform any bedroom into a soothing yet sophisticated oasis. 

4. If you’re looking for living room seating that is both laid-back and luxurious, the plush feel and soft style of the Delaney 2 Pc. Sectional is perfect for you! 

5. Adaptable and attractive, the Studio Track Arm Sofa showcases streamlined track arms and a flexible design to deliver unprecedented comfort without compromising on modern style.

6. The Central Park Dining Set is both refreshing and timeless with its charming neutral-toned palette and curvaceous design, made to accommodate gatherings with class and practicality.

  1. Central Park Dining Set

7. For comfort and coziness, the Perth 3 Pc Sectional brings together classy track arms, tapered espresso-finished square feet, and three vibrant abstract-printed throw pillows to promote relaxed, contemporary coolness. 


8. With its mid-century inspirations, the Stylus Sofa features a tuxedo backrest, wide track arms, and textured neutral-toned upholstery atop a bold wooden plinth base for a magnetic foundational piece. 


9. The Edge 5 Pc Dining Set reinvents natural beauty into an inviting arrangement including a gorgeous black steel, trestle-based dining table, and complimenting panel-backed side chairs with stylish wooden seats for a refreshingly contemporary color and texture palette. 

Popular Contemporary Styles 


Boho is a free-spirited, imaginative style that started in the 1960s and 70s and continues to be used in today’s contemporary homes. Boho starts with clean-lined foundational pieces that showcase natural materials like leather, organic fabrics, and occasional tables made from wood. Where boho really leaves its mark is in its use of playful retro accent pieces and artwork. Boho accents like accent chairs and bedroom pieces are often curvy and eccentric, and boho decor features plenty of living greenery, retro artwork, and hand-woven accents. 

Click here for boho pieces from Furniture Row!

Gray Straight Lined sectional with Rustic organic wood decor around it.

Pictured Above: Perth 3pc. Sectional

cream colored bedroom set in a boho decorated room

Pictured Above: Bonn Storage Bed

Distressed warm toned light brown dining set in boho dining room

Pictured Above: Interlude Dining Set


Casual is a design style that’s an off-shoot of the contemporary look that was common from the 1990s-2010s, but with more of an emphasis on curves and comfort. Casual style furniture is often centered around plush upholstered pieces with lounge-worthy features and softer details which come to be seen through relaxing rounded silhouettes, soft, darker-colored fabrics, and simple wood tables and chairs. 

Check out our casual furniture here!

Blue 2 Seater Sofa with clean lined open coffee table and side table

Pictured Above: Studio Sofa


Light cool-toned brown bedframe with upholstered headboard

Pictured Above: Brighton Bedroom Group



Eclectic is an unconventional style that is very much in line with today’s tastes. The eclectic look is defined by integrating pieces that showcase different styles, materials, or colors that aren’t usually paired together, but can be to create a refreshing new dimension. The main difference between eclectic interiors and contemporary interiors is that contemporary interiors still prefer straight-lined foundational pieces whereas eclectic interiors can opt for anything.  

We also have eclectic furniture for every taste!

Live Edge Wood Dining Table with Bench, light fabric parsons chairs, and server.

Pictured Above: Studio Sofa


Grey-ish Blue microvelvet sofa set

Pictured Above: Vista Sofa 

Warm mid-toned brown bedframe with headboard cutouts

Pictured Above: Atwood Bedframe

What is Modern style? 

The modern look is generally one that looks to the future and prioritizes innovation at all levels. Today’s modern style continues this demand for innovation as it’s widely known for pieces that showcase sleek, streamlined design elements, sophisticated construction materials, and state-of-the-art functionality. 

Unlike contemporary, modern is a term that’s less broad in scope and is usually only reserved to describe furniture and interiors that appear “state of the art” or particularly innovative when compared to their peers. In fact, modern furniture almost always attempts to convey some sort of “wow-factor”, and it often does this by being different than contemporary furniture. 

It makes sense, then, that because contemporary furniture has been defined by straight lines and laid-back fabric upholstery for the last few decades, modern furniture has been differentiating itself from contemporary via pieces with extreme curves, unexpected design elements, and sophisticated finishing materials!  

If you aren’t sure if something is modern here’s a quick check you can do.  

  • First, check the “lines” of the piece. If the arms, back, and bottom of the piece all showcase simple, straight lines like many contemporary pieces without an element that makes them unique, then it probably is not modern.


  • Next, check the construction materials. If the piece you’re considering is made with common materials in neutral or “standard” colors, then it is most likely not modern. 


  • Finally, check the features. If the product has failed the first two checks AND it doesn’t have some kind of innovative functionality, then it is definitely NOT modern!  

For all those who strive to create a Pinterest-worthy room full of modern style, we have plenty of modern style furnishings at Furniture Row, plus favorites like these that uniquely blend bold style and cutting-edge features. 


Modern Products
 Pictured Above

1. The Macon 7 Pc. Power Reclining Sectional epitomizes sophisticated modern design, featuring pillow-top arms and deep seating adorned in performance upholstery, plus ratchet adjustable headrests for all-around comfort. For optimal practicality and use, this sectional also showcases a hidden pull-out trundle for spacious sleeping as well as a rolling storage chaise. 


  1. Blue Sectional with storage chaise, adjustable head rests, and extra pull out seating.

2. Plentiful and plush, the Calista 5 Pc. Sectional holds its unique shape with fixed cushions and floating compact arms, making for a captivating modern silhouette and a head-turning foundation for any space. 


  1. White curved sectional with gold pillows and gold geometric shaped ottomans

3. With its modular design, power reclining features, and convenient console, the Cosmos 6 Pc. Sectional embodies the caliber of modern innovation that can transform any living space. 

4. The Begonia Panel Upholstered Bed doesn’t compromise on modern innovation, utilizing its polished crystal-enhanced hardware and button-tufted upholstered panel as exceptional accents to enhance the touch–engaged LED backlight of the headboard. 

5. A minimalist design and an eye-catching exterior made from sheets of aluminum with exposed rivets, instill a sense of modern appeal into the Aviator Coffee Table, plus it’s outfitted with a roomy pull-out storage drawer and military-style side handles to complete the innovative look.

Aviator Collection

 Pictured Above: Aviator Writing Desk, Aviator Coffee Table, Aviator End Table, Aviator End Table with Shelf, Aviator File Cabinet


6. The Moderno 5 Pc. Rectangle Table Set blends minimalism and modern lines while emphasizing upscale transitional styling, featuring a handy extendable rectangular tabletop and glamorous gold bar accents on the Parsons style Side Chairs for a pop of allure against its sleek, charcoal display. 


7. Both timeless and versatile, the Ivory Dining Set is a vision of rich color contrast and luxurious natural materials. The rectangular dining table features an impressive marble-veneered top with simple-lined post legs, and it’s flanked by four elegant parsons-style dining chairs. 


8. Minimalism has found its new home in the Hermosa Upholstered Bed. Resting on a resilient frame, this becoming bed is fully upholstered in a soft gray fabric, and its no-nonsense design is emphasized perfectly with its crisp, flawless panel headboard. 


9. The Grant Park Platform Bed combines a minimalist design with graceful and alluring modern lines. This marvelous bed showcases cherry veneers as well as a slightly curved paneled headboard, and it rests atop statement-making arched legs.

Popular Modern Styles 

Modern Glam 

Modern Glam is an opulent, bold style reminiscent of Old Hollywood's golden era that originated during the Art Deco period. This style begins with foundational pieces showcasing the clean lines of modern design for a sleek, streamlined appearance. Incorporating elements of glam style such as mirrored accessories, rich colors, geometric or art-deco patterns, and fun textures like velvet and fur softens its strong modern profile - bridging the gap between elegant and minimalist. 

Brown wood Dining Table with hollow circular base and white fabric parsons chairs.

Pictured Above: Lennon Dining Set

White and Silver modern glam bedroom set with mirrored trim and blue backlit headboard

Pictured Above: Begonia Panel Upholstered Bed

Organic Modern 

Organic Modern derives its serene style from a unique blend of modern and minimalist styles with a handful of earthy flair. It achieves its calming atmosphere through the strategic use of modern, streamlined foundational pieces grounded in soft, natural fabric upholstery. Then it adds to the down to earth vibe with accents that showcase exposed wood and organic curves, as well as items made with stone and marble. Finally, all that's left is as many living plants as your room allows.

For more on organic modern style and furniture be sure to check out our Style Guide: Organic Modern post!

White Marble top dining table with black wood base and light gray fabric parsons chairs.

Pictured Above: Ivory Dining Set

Brown Italian Leather Geometric Chairs with Track arms

Pictured Above: Gordo Chair Set

Grey Stained Wooden Bed frame with rectangular cutouts in headboard in a bedroom with organic textures and shapes

Pictured Above: Sydney Panel Bed

Urban, Urban Loft 

Urban style blends elements of contemporary, modern, and industrial styles that complement big city living. Materials like concrete, brick, and wood contribute industrial-inspired texture, which is balanced by large minimalist furniture pieces with clean lines and usually a dark, moody color palette. To bring it all together, urban style balances its modern flair with light and earthy colors, geometric designs, and one or two retro or industrial statement pieces for contrast. 

Crank Top table functioning as a desk with a metal bottomed stool that has a round wooden top.

Pictured Above: Crank Adjustable Table & Breakfast Swivel Stool


Brown Wooden Panel Bed in Industrial Styled Red Brick Loft

Pictured Above: Glenwood Panel Bed

Industrial Dining Set

Pictured Above: Whiskey River Dining Table

So, what is the main difference between Modern and Contemporary? 

Here’s the final answer: Both modern and contemporary are terms that change with the times, but contemporary can be applied to many different pieces while modern is less broad in scope. Contemporary refers to furniture with style that is in-line with the tastes of the present-day, but the modern look is generally one that looks futuristic and prioritizes innovation in some fashion. In other words, contemporary is used to describe furniture that “fits in” with today’s preferences while modern is used to describe furniture that “stands out” in a forward-looking way.  

We hope you enjoyed our guide on the difference between contemporary and modern interior design styles! If you’d like to learn more about anything to do with furniture, be sure to check out our new and improved Furniture Glossary which has helpful definitions for many more furniture design styles, general furniture terminology, and information about aesthetic design elements found on furniture the world over. Happy decorating!