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Minimalist Design & Modern Design: What’s the Difference?

Modernism and minimalism are two of the most popular interior design styles right now. Both utilize clean lines, natural lighting, and other design elements that can improve comfort, mood, and even productivity. While they may share similarities, modern design and minimalist design are distinct styles. Below, we discuss their differences, how they’re used in interior decorating, and how you can combine these designs in your home!

What Is Modern Design?

Open Living Room With Modern Design Features. Photo by Instagram user @bestidblog

Photo via @bestidblog

Modern design—not to be confused with contemporary design—refers to a specific aesthetic developed in the early to mid-20th century. It relies on a neutral color palette featuring earth tones to create a simple, open feeling. Modern furniture tends to be made of materials like metal, wood, and glass with soft furnishings like rugs and throw pillows used sparingly as accent pieces rather than acting as focal points.

How to Design a Modern Home

Modern interior design emphasizes the relationship between form and function, so focus on comfort and simplicity. As you start designing a modern interior, there are a few key things you should keep in mind.

Keep Colors Neutral & Patterns Simple

To implement modern interior design into your own home, begin with neutral walls and hardwood flooring, then select furniture pieces with clean lines and solid-colored fabric. In the living room and bedrooms, add dimension with subtly patterned throw pillows. To add texture in the kitchen and bathrooms, install a backsplash with a simple, geometric pattern.

Stick to Clean Lines

Modern Designed Home Focusing on Clean Lines. Photo by Instagram user @kerrykirkphoto

Photo via @kerrykirkphoto

Structure is key to modern interior design, so choose furniture with clean lines for your modern space. Swap overstuffed armchairs for a straight-backed sofa. Remove the cabinet hardware in your kitchen, and use flushed cabinets with invisible pulls instead.

Let in Natural Light

Modern Design Bathroom with Lots of Natural Light Sources. Photo by Instagram user @chadmellon

Photo via @chadmellon

Add mirrors throughout your house to add light and create the illusion of extra space. Another good way to improve your home’s lighting is by leaving windows unblocked. Hang simple blinds or shades for privacy and to help regulate temperature, but skip heavier window furnishings like curtains or drapes.

Create Focal Points

Modern Living Room Design with Focal Point On the Wall. Photo by Instagram user @westelm

Photo via @westelm

Place a large, modern painting behind the sofa as a statement piece. Hang a unique light fixture in your dining room. Or allow a single piece of eye-catching furniture to take center stage. Additions like these instantly give your home more depth and personality without being excessive.

Build Around the Basics

Modern Living Room Design Built Around Typical Furniture. Photo by Instagram user @leclairdecor

Photo via @leclairdecor

You don’t need to worry about decorating your home all at once. Focus on quality of items over quantity when designing with modern furniture and decor. Start small and use each room’s basic features to guide your decorating decisions. If you have a gorgeous glass-top coffee table, for example, consider using other reflective elements—like mirrors and glazed ceramic vases—around the room to create the theme throughout.

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What Is Minimalist Design?

Mimimalist Bedroom with White Bedding and Simple White Curtains. Photo by Instagram user @homebykoskela

Photo via @homebykoskela

Minimalism is more of a philosophy than a specific design style. It follows the idea that “less is more” in life, and that a home’s form should support its function. Like modern design, minimalist interior design embraces clean lines, neutral colors, natural lighting, and functional furniture. But where modern design allows for more spontaneous decoration, minimalist design is about only using pieces that serve a purpose.

How to Design a Minimalist Home

The goal of minimalism is to limit waste and maximize purpose. That doesn’t mean you need to strip your home of any personality. Rather, you should focus on finding furniture and home decor that adds value to each room. As you start designing a minimalist interior, there are a few key things you should keep in mind.

Declutter Before You Design

Decluttered Closet in Minimalist Bedroom. Photo by Instagram user @decluttrme

Photo via @decluttrme

The first step to incorporating minimalism into your home is to get rid of clutter. Store, donate, sell, or throw away anything you no longer like, want, or use. Following a minimalist design scheme is much easier when you begin with a clean slate.

Think About Function

Consider how you use each room before you begin designing, as this will guide what you should include. Place a console table that can function as a drop zone in your hallway. Or add stools to a kitchen island so you have a spot where you can sit down for a quick meal.

Free Up Floor Space

With a minimalist look, you’ll want to keep rooms open and airy so that they seem larger and cozier. Try to keep line of sight clear and avoid cluttering up floor space by using furniture with exposed legs and floating shelves on walls.

Blend Style & Storage

Invest in an ottoman with a hidden storage compartment. Hang certain clothing items from a Z-rack in your bedroom instead of hiding them inside a dresser. Or install swing stools beneath your kitchen island for an attractive, space-saving seating solution.

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Can Modern Design & Minimalist Design Mix?

Mixing modern interior design and minimalist interior design is actually quite common. Because both modernism and minimalism utilize similar design elements and emphasize form and function, they can work well together when blended in home decorating.

How to Design a Modern Minimalist Home

When mixing modern and minimalist home design, apply the guidelines of modern interior design—like a simple color palette and natural materials—to the minimalist philosophy of “less is more.” As you start designing a modern minimalist interior, there are a few key things you should keep in mind.

Play with Texture

Modern & Minimalist Living Room with Multiple Textures and Furniture Styles. Photo by Instagram user @cottageandsea

Photo via @cottageandsea

Lay down a shaggy, neutral rug to warm up any hardwood floor. Use throw pillows to soften up structured armchairs. Or give your modern dinner table extra dimension with a simple runner.

Use Geometric Furniture

Look for furniture with bold geometric shapes and clean lines. Opt for a rectangular coffee table with exposed legs. Add Eames chairs around a kitchen or dining room table. Or incorporate unique shapes and lines with table centerpieces, plant pots, and photo frames.

Hang Artwork

Modern & Minimalist Home Design with Large Art Prints in Bathroom. Photo by Instagram user @oloriprints

Photo via @oloriprints

Put up a single large painting behind the couch to tie your living room together, or hang a few simple prints above the nightstand to create visual interest on an otherwise neutral wall. Though modern minimalist design tends to favor an unadorned look, selective decor can add a lot to any home’s look.

Decorate with Plants

Modern & Minimalist Design with Plants Placed in Dining Room. Photo by Instagram user @westelm

Photo via @westelm

Whether it’s hanging ivy in the dining room, a potted herb garden in the kitchen, or a house plant centerpiece in your living room, greenery is a fantastic way to liven up your home without adding too much clutter.

Add Personal Touches

Remember that modern minimalism is merely a starting point. There’s nothing wrong with putting your own spin on the basic principles of interior design. In fact, interior design experts recommend letting your personality shine through in the look and feel of your home, so make sure to add personal touches to help your home feel lived in and comfortable.

Want more modern minimalist design ideas? Check out these minimalist bedroom ideas, this guide on how to design a minimalist living room, and these tips for designing a minimalist kitchen.


Need to make more room at home? Extra Space Storage has self storage locations throughout the U.S. that can help you design the modern minimalist home of your dreams. Find available storage units near you!

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