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Modern vs. Contemporary Sofas: What is the Difference? - Megafurniture

Modern vs. Contemporary Sofas: What is the Difference?

Contemporary and modern sofas are the primary furniture pieces in the living room, giving the space its own signature style. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, modern and contemporary interior design are two different styles. But it is true that these two have some common elements. So what makes a piece of furniture modern or contemporary? 

Both contemporary and modern styles have their features and nuances. We will discuss the two interior and sofa styles in chunks to understand their differences and help you choose the best piece for your lovely home.

What Makes a Sofa Modern?

What Makes a Sofa Modern?

Modern refers to a particular design era in the early to mid-20th century. This interior style presents clean and unadorned furniture and architectural lines, neutral colour palettes, and notable functionality.

A modern sofa makes an area look spacious and fresh with its open look and uncomplicated silhouette. Here's how you can spot a good modern sofa:

  • Compared to traditional furniture designs, modern sofas have fewer details and ornamentations as they emphasise functionality over aesthetic detailing. Their sleek and simple looks complement many themes and palettes.
  • Modern sofas feature many straight and geometric lines that give the space a certain orderly feel. You will see many modern sofas with prominent lines and simple leg details to give them a lightweight look.
  • We consider smooth lines and neutrals to be staples of modern sofas. When shopping for a modern sofa, expect to see lots of neutrals like brown, beige, white, grey, earthy tones, monochromes, blacks, and blues. These pieces are paired with soft seat designs and metal or wood legs.
  • Balance and symmetry are also prominent features of modern sofas. Because of their simple nature, modern sofas commonly have well-balanced looks without heavy accents.
  • Modern designs prioritise aesthetic functions. This means they are designed to be highly functional. Designers of modern furniture pieces eliminate unneeded details that have no purpose.
  • Modern sofas are lightweight compared to bulkier classic sofa designs. They feature exposed legs that help make the living room look more spacious, especially for modern living rooms that are either limited or open-concept.

    What Makes a Sofa Contemporary?

    What Makes a Sofa Contemporary?

    Influenced by movements like Art Deco, contemporary sofas are basically the designs of the present, meaning they change as trends change. Contemporary takes design cues from what is trending at the moment but still keeps the form meets function principle, same as the modern theme. 

    Contemporary sofas are more dynamic and free compared to modern sofas as they incorporate multiple features from different eras. This means what is contemporary today may look different after some years.

    Here are the defining features of a contemporary sofa:

    • Like modern furniture, contemporary sofas also feature a neutral palette, but with a touch of solid contrasts like black and white. They also welcome brighter colours like red and orange to accentuate the neutral scheme. This allows contemporary sofas to stand out from the rest of the living room furniture. To achieve a successful interior design, you have to be mindful of inviting natural light into your living room to reflect the vibrant colours of the contemporary sofa.
    • Contemporary sofas feature soft curves instead of the straight lines that modern sofas have. These curves create a soft and varied look that gives a contemporary design a sense of layers. Contemporary style also welcomes geometric elements, especially leg designs.
    • Smooth lines, prominent edges, and seamless transitions of details make a contemporary sofa a striking focal point in any living room. Although symmetry is welcome in contemporary sofas, they also feature more challenging configurations and irregular shapes, making the piece more visually interesting.
    • Contemporary sofas present a mix of materials, both natural and manufactured, like fabric, leather, wood, and metal.
    • Like modern sofas, contemporary sofas are designed with function in mind, but more than modern furniture pieces, contemporary sofas are designed to provide more comfort than function. This means many details have significance for the sofa's functions. Contemporary sofas are more generous in terms of colours and sizes, emphasising functionality with their form.

      Modern vs. Contemporary Sofas: The Similarities and Differences

      Modern vs. Contemporary Sofas: The Similarities and Differences

      The confusion between modern and contemporary interior styles may have been due to some similarities that they share, like the form meets function principle and their simple, uncluttered looks. These two interior styles are highly comfortable and pleasing to the eye, especially for those who have limited space. Both styles get rid of ornate detailing and focus on delicate ornamentation. They also feature exposed legs, which make them look lighter and more space-efficient.

      How about the differences between modern and contemporary sofas? Let's discuss them in a table to give you a clearer comparison. 


      Modern Sofas

      Contemporary Sofas

      • Modern sofas are the products of a design evolution in the early to mid-20th century.
      • Modern sofas follow stricter design rules than contemporary sofas.
      • Modern sofas focus on functional aesthetics rather than ornate detailing.
      • The modern colour palette leans more on neutrals and monochromatic schemes like white, beige, grey, brown, green, and other natural hues.
      • Modern sofas feature lots of straight lines and symmetric silhouettes.
      • Contemporary style is an ever-changing style that adopts elements from different eras. Contemporary defines what's on-trend.
      • Compared to modern sofas, contemporary sofas are more freely designed and structured.
      • Contemporary sofas also prioritise function over form but lean more toward providing comfort.
      • Contemporary colour palettes invite a wider variety of hues compared to modern pieces. They feature more vibrant accent colours and striking contrasts.
      • Contemporary sofas welcome curves to maintain their airy visual appeal.



      There might be confusion between modern and contemporary styles since modern furniture pieces are today's trends. Ultimately, modern sofas are unique, clean, and beautiful, while contemporary sofas look more adventurous while maintaining their ability to provide comfort.

      What should you choose: a modern or contemporary sofa?

      Both sofa styles are amazing and comfortable. If you want a clean and uncluttered look in your living room, you may choose a modern sofa that features functional aesthetics. If you're looking for variety, you can break the strict look of a modern living room with a contemporary sofa.

      One thing to consider when shopping for a sofa is the longevity of your style. Although both can transcend trends, it's essential to stick with a theme that will complement your living room design.

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