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Minimalist vs Modern Interior Design: What to Consider

When it comes to interior design, two trendy styles have emerged in recent years that have captured the imaginations of homeowners and designers alike. Whether it’s for a simple cosmetic redecoration or a full home design overhaul, they have become the cornerstone of many recent property transformations.

These two styles are minimalism and modern (often used interchangeably with contemporary) interior design. 

While both share some similarities in that they incorporate clean lines and tidy aesthetics, they are distinct and different in their own right.

Homeowners preferring simplistic yet elegant room decors may find that modern aesthetics fit their tastes more than minimalist tones and colours, while others may favour minimising clutter and choose a noise-free lifestyle (metaphorically speaking). 

Minimalist vs Modern Interior Design: What to Consider

Image Credit: Studio Four

The salient point is that modern and minimalist design styles are not mutually exclusive, and they do incorporate some similar values. Both styles, with their stylistic qualities, often create a sense of spaciousness in homes, especially with the use of bright colours and maximising clean lines.

A home’s architectural features can be focalised relatively easily and used to attract the right kinds of buyers come sale time, many of whom may be prepared to offer a little more if a space meets their needs and vision. 

There is however more than meets the eye when opting for a contemporary or minimalist approach.

This short guide will explore the key differences between both the design philosophies and provide advice to help you choose the one that fits your lifestyle and living needs better.

Understanding Minimalist Interior Design

Minimalist design is a philosophy that embraces simplicity, serenity, and the elimination of excess clutter. It’s an interior design trend that’s proving very popular even in this day and age.

It is characterised by a pared-down aesthetic that encourages simple, clean lines, and restrained use of materials, colours, and textures.

The underlying principle of minimalism is to create an environment that is calming, uncluttered, and free from visual distractions.

Let’s look at some key characteristics of minimalist design:

  • Neutral colour palette: Minimalist spaces often feature a subdued colour scheme, relying heavily on shades of white, grey, beige, and black. Vibrant colours can be used in minimalist spaces but earthy tones like neutrals are often seen as more tranquil. If you want to use colour, consider a single colour throughout the entire scheme like in this sophisticated green marble kitchen.

  • Streamlined furniture: Pieces are chosen for their simple, geometric forms and lack of ornate details. The idea is that consistency is key and any overt features on furniture, ornaments, and decorations risk contrasting with each other stylistically.

  • Open floor plans: Minimalist interiors prioritise open, unobstructed spaces that promote a sense of airiness, zen and flow.

  • Minimal decor: Accessories and decor are kept to a minimum, with each piece serving a functional or purposeful role. Even personalised picture frames that offer uniformity on your walls can help you achieve this look.

  • Natural materials: Elements like wood, stone, and concrete are commonly used for their organic, raw beauty and durability.

Minimalist vs Modern Interior Design: What to Consider

Design: Melanie Beynon | Photography by Tom Blachford

Embracing Modern and Contemporary Interior Design

Contemporary and modern interior design is a broader, more sophisticated and sleek design philosophy. It’s not as simplistic as minimalism but rather takes influence from a range of home decor styles that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

It is characterised by a focus on clean lines, smart use of materials, and a departure from traditional design conventions. Unlike minimalism, modern design allows for more experimentation with bold colours, patterns, and unique shapes. That said, contemporary design does, in some cases, incorporate minimalist elements.

Here are some defining characteristics of modern or contemporary design:

  • Sleek lines: Clean, straight and clutter-free lines are prevalent in modern furniture and architecture, but modern styles incorporate more variety and shapes.

  • Innovative materials: Modern design embraces the use of unconventional materials like steel, glass, and concrete, often in unexpected ways to evoke a sense of harmony and visual appeal.

  • Open floor plans: Similar to minimalism, modern interiors prioritise open, flowing spaces that intertwine together seamlessly.

  • Bold colours and patterns: While minimalism favours a subdued colour palette, modern design often incorporates bold, saturated hues and dynamic patterns.

  • A healthy blend of old and new: Contemporary design often combines vintage pieces with modern elements, whether it’s smart home tech or appliances that blend naturally with surrounding tones.

Deciding Between Minimalist and Modern Design

When choosing between a minimalist or modern design for your home, be careful to consider your personal preferences, lifestyle, and daily needs. Assuming that you plan to live in the space for an extended period, ultimately it is more beneficial to choose a style that gives you the aesthetic and practical fulfilment you need day to day.

  1. Visual appeal: If you prefer a more serene and clutter-free environment, a minimalist design may be the way to go. If you're drawn to bolder, more expressive spaces, modern design could better suit the space you currently have.

  2. Functionality: Minimalist design excels in creating highly functional spaces that prioritise organisation and reduce visual noise. Modern design, while still focused on functionality, allows for more creative expression and personalisation. Artists or creatives may find a modern design lends them more freedom to express, while minimalism may be a little more restrictive.

  3. Maintenance: Minimalist interiors tend to be easier to maintain due to their lack of excess decor and clutter, so for those who want easier and less stressful upkeep, it’s certainly favourable. Modern spaces, with their unique materials and bold elements, may require more maintenance and cleaning, but there comes the benefit of personalisation to make up for it.

  4. Adaptability: Both minimalist and modern designs offer healthy degrees of adaptability for inhabitants, but modern design may be more conducive to incorporating evolving trends and personal touches over time. Minimalist tones and hues are timeless and evergreen, which, for those who live a fast-paced life and value tranquillity, may be preferable. Those who want a dynamic, vibrant living environment may find modern aesthetics more fulfilling, particularly if they want to change things up down the line.

Of course, should the time come to review selling your minimalist or modern home, you will need to consider what prospective buyers may find appealing.

For all of a home’s quirks, palettes, features, and space (or lack thereof, depending on what you have), it’s always worth trying to create a more ‘neutral’ appearance for a bidding buyer. 

When marketing your property for sale, think carefully about capturing its best architectural features in photos. Think about the placement of furniture, anonymising spaces, and emphasising the most attractive parts that will draw people in. 

Fundamentally, everybody is different, but minimalist designs may be more appealing for time-strapped buyers who want to customise, while modern designs may require more upheaval to renovate. That said, modern designs are incredibly popular, so if you find the right buyer, you may find yourself getting a healthy offer.

Minimalist vs Modern Interior Design: What to Consider

Design: Rachcoff Vella | Photography: Tatjana Plitt

Don’t Forget About Colour

Remember, the key to successfully incorporating colour and vibrancy into your minimalist or modern space is to do so intentionally and with restraint. Too much clutter and coloured pieces often overpower the decor and undermine the streamlined, consistent style you’re aiming for. 

Small, incremental upgrades and subtle pops of colour here and there can allow you to achieve a healthy blend of both styles.

Whether you ultimately choose to embrace minimalist or modern design for your home, the most important factor is creating a space that reflects your personal style and meets your practical needs.

With thoughtful planning and attention to detail, you can create a stunning, vibrant living environment that perfectly captures the vibe you are going for. 


Jenny Kakoudakis

Jenny Kakoudakis likes to blog about interiors. She launched award-winning Seasons in Colour in 2014. When she is not chasing criminals out of the financial system (her day job), she gets creative by redecorating her own home.

Download her free bathroom renovation guide here.


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