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Exploring the Nine Styles of Interior Design: Modern Design

January 2, 2023

We should all seek inspiration and respite in the design of our living spaces. The decor we surround ourselves with, the arrangement of patterns and colors, how we use light and space… these elements combine to reflect who we are as individuals and what we aspire to become. And while uniquely personal, our interiors tell our guests the same. 

When done well, interior design should fall neatly into one of nine distinct categories. Over the next several weeks, we’ll look at the conventions and themes that define each category and offer style advice for choosing a countertop that helps you achieve your design.

For our first category, we look at one of the most widespread and popular trends in contemporary interior arrangement: Modern Interior Design.

Characteristics of Modern Design

To begin, let’s take a look at the hallmarks that define modern style. In short, Modern interior design emphasizes minimalism and simplicity. It’s characterized by using uncluttered geometry and focusing on function and practicality over flourish and ornamentation. The Modern style draws much of its inspiration from the Bauhaus design and De Stijl art movements of the early 20th century, which stressed industrial materials and geometric shapes.

"De Stijl" is a Dutch art movement that rose in popularity throughout the 1920s

A key characteristic of Modern Interior Design is to maintain clean symmetry within the final product. This is often achieved through simple, unadorned furniture and architectural elements such as metal or glass that imbue a sense of order and balance. Unlike other design categories where color is used as an instrument to concentrate attention, Modern Design employs neutral color palettes to create crisp minimalist aesthetics. The underlying hues within whites, blacks, and other muted color tones are left to interact with abundant natural light to create interest and depth.

Natural Light is essential

The prolific use of natural light is a distinguishing facet of Modern Design. Large picture windows, skylights, and clerestory windows create bright, open, and airy interiors, which is critical for keeping modern designs warm and welcoming. Without abundant natural light, the Modern style’s minimalist underpinnings can make an interior cold and austere.

Clerestory windows beam light further into the recesses of your house

Floorplans should be open

A famous staple of Modern Design is the open floor plan. These interior layouts are characterized by large, free-flowing spaces with few walls or partitions. In both office and home, open floorplans encourage collaboration and sharing while also allowing natural light to penetrate deeper into the structure.

100-Year-Old Home: Modern Kitchen with Classic TouchesKeep the furniture simple

In furniture, modern design is often defined by clean, simple lines and a focus on functionality. Furniture pieces are often made from industrial materials, such as metal and glass, and are designed to be as simple and unadorned as possible. This type of furniture is often paired with neutral-colored upholstery to create a sleek, contemporary feel. 

Use texture to add interest

Texture also plays an important role. While modern design is often associated with smooth, sleek surfaces, texture can be incorporated using materials such as wood, stone, or concrete. The right mix of texture can add depth and interest to a space while maintaining the clean, minimalist aesthetic that defines the genre. When using hardwoods, lighter-toned woods such as white oak, maple, and birch are given preference over darker hardwoods like walnut and cherry to amplify the effect of natural light within the space. Wood's inherent warmth and flowing grain effectuate an understated contrast to the cold and unyielding composition of steel, glass, and concrete.

Modern Design is versatile

One of the main benefits of modern interior design is its versatility. Because it is based on a simple, uncluttered aesthetic, it can easily be adapted to many spaces and styles. For example, modern design can be incorporated into cozy, intimate floorplans where space is at a premium. It can also pull off a deliberate look within extremely large floorplans (such as a corporate office) that might otherwise look bare if attempted in another design style.

Modern Design can be difficult to achieve in a remodel

Though a versatile choice when building new construction, Modern interiors can be difficult to achieve in remodels. So important is the interplay of light and geometry to achieving a Modern look that any project involving a scope of work less than a full-scale remodel risks falling short of the intended outcome. To achieve a cohesive and unmistakable modern interior, the structure must be capable of inviting an immense amount of natural light into the space, which typically involves changes to the structure's envelope in addition to its interior.

Countertops to use in your Modern Design

Stick to the core principles of Modern Design when selecting your countertop:

Go neutral in color:

White, grey and black are staples, so begin there. If your design calls for black or dark grey countertops, your home needs to seep in natural light. Remember, Modern Design is warm and inviting, and you’ll need plenty of natural light to prevent your space from appearing stark and uninviting.