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Modern and contemporary interior designs are two styles frequently used interchangeably. Contemporary is different from modern because it describes design based on the here and now. The primary difference separating modern and contemporary design style is that modern is a strict interpretation of design that started in the 20th century. The contemporary interior design on the other hand is more fluid and can represent a sense of currency with less adherence to one particular style. In a sense, what we thought of as “modern” or “the now” is actually the contemporary style. For example, contemporary style may include curving lines, whereas modern design does not.


Contemporary design is often characterized by simplicity, muted tones, yet warmth and welcoming. More often than not, this style uses colours belonging to the neutral palette such as black, white, and grey. These colours are often highlighted by adding colour or texture accents such as marble and wood grain. Contrasting to its muted background, the decorations used for contemporary interiors are often bold and stunning pieces.
Another notable characteristic of a contemporary design is the use of lines. Lines play an important role in this style, whether it is a curved, straight, vertical, diagonal, or horizontal line, it will be ever-present in contemporary design. Sleek and smooth surface is also a trait popular to this style. The flooring is typically smooth as well as the walls and the choice of furniture.

What is Contemporary Interior Design?

When looking through a home & living magazine or catalogue of designs from interior designers, can you point out with certainty which among those home interiors bear the contemporary interior design? Most of us will probably not. 

In fact, even those who are enthusiasts when it comes to interior designs may find it hard to identify a contemporary interior design. The reason behind this is that contemporary style is constantly evolving, adding to the fact that it borrows certain aspects from many other designs even on its earliest days. These make contemporary interior design a complicated style to define.

What Makes a Contemporary Interior Design?

The next big question would be like the one above. If it’s a mix of everything and it constantly changes through time, then how can you say that a home has a contemporary interior design? This can be answered when we dig deeper into its origin.

Contemporary means “of the moment”. That being said, we may define contemporary interior design in Singapore as the current trend but this will be quite misleading. The design dates back in 1970 and thus, “of the moment” is likely referring to the trend back on that time. The common characteristics of this design include emphasis on lines and forms, minimalism and use of neutral colours.

Elements of Contemporary Interior Design

As mentioned above, there are three prevailing characteristics present in contemporary interior design throughout the years. These three are also considered the elements of the design. 

  • Lines & Forms

It is notable for homes in Singapore with contemporary interior design that lines and forms are heavily emphasized. These two are the major aesthetic elements in this style. Many interior designers opt to play with lines to create stunning furniture pieces, shelves, lightings and stairs in contemporary homes.

  • Minimalism

Just like many other interior designs that gained popularity over the last century, minimalism is also the centre of contemporary interior design. Elaborative decorations are omitted and replaced by sleeker and more space-saving elements.

  • Neutral Palette

Neutral Colours are also highly prevalent in contemporary interior design. Most designers opt for black and white interiors paired with accent colours. Typical accent colours also often do not stray far from neutral shades. This includes marble, wood grain and shades of blue.

Contemporary & Other Interior Designs in Singapore

Contemporary interior design is not alone in the “often mistaken for other design” style. In fact, this style is often confused with modern interior design and vice versa. This confusion might be attributed to the tendency of homeowners and designers to “crossover” designs. This means that some aspects of two designs are combined together to form another style. 

While modern interior design and contemporary interior design are often confused with one another, modern interior design has very distinct characteristics as compared to contemporary. In modern interior designs, the use of warm neutrals are very evident. Most homes are designed with white walls paired with warm accent colours. Balance is also an integral aspect of the design as seen on windows, shelves and furniture arrangements. 

Contemporary interior design is also often crossed with other designs to create unique and refreshing interior designs. One of the popular crossovers for contemporary style is Rustic. Rustic-Contemporary interior design places high emphasis on the use of wood as a design element. Furniture pieces are intentionally designed to imitate barn or farmhouse style woodwork while curtains are often white or cream and made of linen or other rustic fabrics.

There are also other styles often paired with contemporary design. Some of which include Scandinavian, Hampton style and Eclectic design.