Contemporary or Modern? Your Guide to Making Sense of Design Styles for Home Staging
There are lots of design styles out there, and new ones develop all the time from current lifestyle trends. These design movements have names like American Colonial, Modern, Arts and Crafts, Shabby Chic, Victorian, and more. At this point, you’re probably pausing to think something along the lines of, “Wait, is it modern I’m looking for, or contemporary? What is the difference anyway?”
If this dilemma sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There are a lot of terms that get thrown around with interior design; some of them are so similar that they’re practically indistinguishable, while others are actually subgroups of larger design styles.
Since the goal of home staging is to appeal to as many people as possible, I would recommend going after larger design styles instead of focusing on more narrow ones. I’d also recommend shying away from anything niche or aimed at specific ethnic groups, such as Bohemian, Asian, African, etc. These are all fantastic when you are decorating your own home, but such a specific style, even in just one room, may alienate too many buyers.
Styles that have wide appeal such as Transitional, Traditional, Contemporary, etc., work very well for home staging. Styles specific to the architecture of the home can be a little tricky. For example, while Craftsman furniture may work perfectly for a Craftsman home, would Victorian furniture work for a Victorian home? Not so much for today’s buyers.
The styling of your staging will be based on two major factors: location of your listing (neighborhood, lifestyle trends, etc.) and architecture of the home (arts & craft, modern, etc.).
According to Design Shuffle, the Traditional style uses the antique furnishings, rich colors and symmetrical room layouts first created in 17th-19th century European and American designs. Formal in feel, Traditional rooms are very balanced and often use pairs of chairs, lamps or tables.
Another element of the style is the use of detailed ornamentation; nail head trim, crown molding, button tufting and other finishing touches are used lavishly. (These details are often also used in original and innovative contexts in the other design styles.)
Magazine to know: Traditional Home
Also check out our Home Style — Traditional Pinterest board here
The Modern style took the first step away from the ornateness and formality of the styles that came before it. It technically encompasses a lot of smaller movements, including art deco and art modern.
After Mid-century Modern exploded on the scene, clean lines and industrial materials became the face of the Modern style. Open space, bare windows and white-walled rooms are dotted with molded plastic, leather, chrome and glass furniture to create the bare, serene feel of modernity.
Also check out our Home Style — Modern Pinterest board here
The photo above is the South Place Hotel in London, designed by Sir Terence Conran‘s firm. We actually used this hotel as a case study on styling tricks learned from hotel designs. You can read the blog here.)
Contemporary style is sometimes confused with Modern style. The basic difference is that they are of two different time periods. Modern designspecifically refers to 20th-century designs — for example, Eames chairs. Contemporary is what is happening now. It can be confusing, since most people use the word modern when they mean to describe Contemporary. This mistake is also made frequently in major magazines.
The Contemporary style often continues along the same lines as modernism by using lots of space and making simple, bold arrangements. However, contemporary designs sometimes borrow the organic lines, details and materials of past styles as well. Currently, I am seeing a lot of reclaimed woods, farmhouse-modern types of interiors and the use of industrial elements in today’s Contemporary designs.
Also check out our Home Style — Contemporary Pinterest board here
According to Interior Design Pro, Transitional style blends Contemporary and Traditional designs into a harmonious look. So think classic furniture shapes and styles mixed with current materials and finishes. For example, an antique Louis chair might be reupholstered in a graphic print.
Occasionally this formula is reversed, and contemporary furnishings are given a traditional fabric treatment. Another popular variation on the style is mixing traditional furniture with bold, modern art.
The Transitional style works really well because not everyone wants to live in a traditional interior, even though the architecture of the home may be traditional.
I’ve also discovered that today’s buyers respond well to the Transitional style, because it can go both more contemporary or more traditional. It’s also fun to mix vintage items with the new. This design trick is done very well by Pottery Barn.
Also check out our Home Style — Transitional Pinterest board here
Other Popular Styles
These particular styles may be appropriate based on the architecture of the home.
According to Design Shuffle, Mid-century Modern is characterized by simple, clean lines and organic forms and textures, and is the most popular manifestation of the Modern style. Especially associated with American and Scandinavian design, the style features a lot of walnut, teak, chrome and stainless steel. Many famous pieces of furniture emerged from the period, including the Saarinen Tulip Table and the Eames Lounge Chair, and they’re still wildly popular today.
This style is seen very often on design blogs like sfgirlbybay. While it is popular there, it mostly works in more Bohemian and hipster neighborhoods. You also want to be careful when you are styling that Eclectic does not look too cluttered in photos. Eclectic style is very similar to Transitional style, except that it borrows from any and all styles to achieve a diverse mélange of other looks. It also uses bright colors and patterns. For example, an Eclectic living room might feature antique portraiture, French countryside chairs, a modern rug and Chinoiserie cabinets. The style is prevented from being too chaotic by using similar colors, shapes or textures throughout.
Also check out our Home Style — Eclectic Pinterest board here
The Scandinavian influence is also very popular on design blogs. Scandinavian style is much more than IKEA. It’s simple and minimalist styling, with white walls and floors, and soft color schemes.
In essence, according to World Guide, Scandinavian style refers to the design movement that emerged in the 1950s in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, as well as Finland and Iceland. Typical for Scandinavian design is beauty radiated through light color, the ample use of wood, and minimalism and functionality.
I personally love the black and white, comfortable and simple styling, but it can feel too bare at times. I personally have not seen this type of styling much in the United States but have seen it done in Europe very well.
A Word on Matching Interiors with Architectural Style
There are a few more styles I didn’t cover, such as Arts and Crafts, Coastal, Lodge Style, etc. These are very specific to the home’s architectural style and will work very well if staged this way. However, I personally do not recommend staging traditional homes like Victorian, Edwardian, etc., with traditional furnishings. Most buyers today want modern interiors and just a nod to the home’s original history. They may want to preserve the home’s architectural style but generally would not want to live in a Victorian-era interior. I have seen some amazing modern interiors in Victorian homes, like the photo above. The owner kept the original fireplace, molding and hardwood floors but used contemporary furnishings and modern decor to update the interior. I especially love the bold color choice in the adjacent room.
A FEW MORE RESOURCES IF YOU WANT TO DIG A LITTLE BIT DEEPER ON DESIGN STYLES:
- List of interior design style by Dwell Candy
- Design styles defined by HGTV
- Style guides for home interiors by About Home
- Decorating styles by Houzz