How to Tell the Difference Between Modern Interior Styles

The ‘Big Five’ Style Genre Project (Part 2)

  • The Pure Modern Genre

Welcome to the second part of our basic style series on Design Baddie. In this post we are going to look at styles which fall on the modern side of the modern-traditional style spectrum.

If you haven’t read our first installment of this series, you can find it here:

What is an Interior Design Style Genre?”

No time?

Don’t worry, I got you. I’m going to briefly explain the basics of style “genres” by sharing a little of “behind the style system”

Pure Modern Interior Design Styles

An apartment with mid-century modern furniture is always tasteful and classic in a modern sense. Image by Unsplash.

Of the five style genres discussed on this blog, Pure Modern interior design style is all about styles that are one hundred percent modern.

Beginning with the early Art Deco and Moderne styles which sprang from the Art Nouveau movement in the very early twentieth century, these styles managed to maintain a level of intricacy and artistic flair, but in a way never seen before this time.

1. Art Deco

Art Deco style was both restrained and artfully bold. Abstract art and geometric forms inspired from early civilizations such as Egyptian are important to the style. Streamline Moderne embraced curves and took more than a few aviation era style cues.

Probably the most important thing to know about the advent of modernism is that it hailed a new way of thinking, leveraged heavily by the adoption of newer methods of construction which introduced new types of buildings. 

Steel frame and concrete construction and larger windows are just some of the major changes seen in buildings of the modern era.

Skyscrapers became possible, and the first ever was built in New York.

In the Art Deco style gothic stained glass work was also given an update. Craftsmanship was at an all time high in this era of style.

The modern Arts and Crafts movement sought simplicity, as did Frank Lloyd Wright, an American founder of modern architecture, who was heavily influenced by Japanese design. 

There was a move away from the stuffy, cramped and overly decorated Victorian homes with their tiny rooms and closets, toward more open plan and light-filled interiors.

The American Prairie style homes designed by Wright are an American icon and still emulated in residential architecture today.

2. Mid-Century Modern

Mid century modern is possibly the most loved modern style

The mid-twentieth century also saw the rise of Scandinavian furniture design in the fifties and sixties.  It was a time when many influential architects were creating their own furniture based on the idea of form following function. 

Natural materials, curved lines and graceful silhouettes with sometimes playful characteristics have kept mid-century modern style a part of our lives well into the new millennium.  Mid-century modern antiques are in high demand, and “new” mid century modern inspired styles continue to inspire furniture makers every day.

The end of the twentieth century saw a move to minimalism, which was most prevalent in the nineties, as a rebellion against the excesses of the eighties.

3. Contemporary

Contemporary means “of the now”. Styles of our current age tend to be light, bright and bring a fair bit of textural interest as well as greenery and artwork into the picture.

Since the turn of the twenty-first century into the new millennium style seems to only continue to refine itself. New contemporary styles continue to amaze us as we head into the 202Os.  Minimalism has softened and warmed up a fair bit and there are new takes on the sleeker looks with organic modern and contemporary styles looking to bring nature further indoors.

Design is becoming more curated, and customers and designers look for ways to bring Biophilic design front and center stage.

After all, the health of our planets and ourselves depends upon it.

Would you describe yourself as a “pure” modernist?

Which of the style boards depicted here most resonate with you?

Look forward to our up and coming design style profile series where we will be getting into further detail on each of the thirty major styles, with tips on color palettes, materials, furniture and some basic dos and don’ts.

Happy designing!

Read the next installment in this series “The Big Five Style Genres” here:

Modern category



Contemporary style is always of the moment, like Vogue magazine.  It incorporates whatever is new and happening.  Materials, furniture and decor in our lives right now, that in the next decade or two will be seen to epitomize and represent the 2020s.

Italian Modern


Italian modern style is the luxury high end of modern.  Italian style is bold, glamorous, curvacious and sensual. 

When you want sexy modern style, Italian interior fashion does what it does best: give you the same high performance you’d expect from the nation that brought you Lamborghini, Ferrari, Prada and Versace.

Add in the kind of audacious quirk that you’d expect from Milan fashion week, and the Italians have done it again. 

What, you ask?

Just proven that they are the avant garde elite of interior and home fashion.

Mid Century Modern


Mid century modern style is securely modern because as a modern style it arose out of a certain defiance of the traditional. 

Thus, the designs which now seem old enough to be classics to us, are still starkly different to anything that came before them. 

The middle of the last century is when modernism was reaching a new apex of its influence socially. 

Modern classics from this time were crowning symbols of modernism, and still have a crowd-pleasing effect on consumers fifty plus years later.



Minimalist design is something of a nineties phenomenon.

While it wasn’t exactly born in the latter twentieth century (modernist architect founding fathers Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier want to make sure you know that), it did reach a pinnacle to its appeal in the final decade before the new millennium. 

Legend has it that the minimalist movement had something to do with running away from the eighties screaming.

Organic Modern


Organic modern is a late 2010s-2020s contemporary modern style and I’d venture to say that, up with biophilic, has a shot at being the most influential style of the last decade. 

The look is high modern, through and through; but in examining it you will find multiple layers of naturally textured, organic textiles and weaves. 

Choices of fabrics and woven materials are often of a rawer or less refined nature than their highly processed counterparts. 

The thoughtful reuse of natural materials is encouraged in this style.

Reclaimed wood is a favorite.

Scandinavian Style

Scandinavian style broke the mold and took the world by storm with novel approaches to design in a strictly modern vein at the middle of the century. 

Influenced by the Bauhaus movement of the 30s which exemplied a dedication to crafting quality products for the masses, Scandinavian designers soon became legendary. 

A sensible Scandinavian approach to working with natural materials and employing good taste brought us aesthetically pleasing furniture which did not compromise on quality or design .

Urban Modern Style

Urban modern style is a softer and more updated version of industrial design style. 

Primarily a cosmopolitan style with distinctly modern materials, it generally has a lighter and less moody palette than classic industrial. 

Strong black accents are common, lending a hint of romanticism. 

This juxtaposes the more rugged textures, which are used in new, cutting edge ways in this contemporary style. 

Furniture is classic, modern and tailored.

Which of the 7 modern styles are most similar?

Urban modern, organic modern and contemporary may be grouped together because both organic modern and urban modern are fairly new and contemporary styles. 

Organic modern and urban modern have many similar characteristics, with the major difference being the more careful use of organic natural materials in the organic modern style. 

Organic modern is definitely a cosmopolitan favorite, but would work in other settings as a cousin to modern farmhouse style.  Contemporary is the universal donor here.

Italian modern should be considered contemporary, but it’s not strictly contemporary, as it is not exactly new. 

It is also most appealing to those who like luxe styles.

This one gets its own special place, though it could pass for an eclectic glamorous style.

It’s the bold furniture that really gives this style its modern spot.

Mid century modern and scandinavian are fairly synonymous, since Scandinavian design almost epitomizes mid century modern design. 

It is, not, however, the whole story. 

Scandinavian design can be said to specialize in a certain type of mid century modern design: that of the innovative use of wood in furniture at that time.

It is also “high” mid century modern.

Minimalist stands alone

Minimalism doesn’t need anyone to hold their hand. 

The only thing it really needs is something to oppose it.

Minimalism has found its nemesis in the diametrically juxtaposed style known as Maximalism.

Read more about the remaining four categories of modern-eclectic, pure eclectic, eclectic-traditional and pure traditional styles in our next installments.

We are on a mission at Design Baddie to make basic interior design information accessible and free to all! We will be giving away our future introductory interior design e-books absolutely free.

Happy style hunting!


Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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