While the term “modern décor” might bring to mind the flying cars and automated homes of the Jetsons, this now classic decorating and architectural style is actually fairly old. It arose out of the German Bauhaus art school in the early decades of the 1900s and reflected the mindset of the modernism movement. Simple, clean, and functional, modern style was a sharp contrast to the Art Deco look so popular at the time.
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Contemporary vs. Modern
Many people use the words “contemporary” and “modern” interchangeably, but they are not the same. Modern, as already explained, refers to a particular style. Contemporary, on the other hand, simply refers to those styles in vogue at that time, and so “contemporary” is a fluid, ever-changing concept. Because modern décor is currently extremely popular, it falls under the contemporary umbrella, adding to the confusion. The bedroom from Madison Modern Home shown here is a prime example of midcentury modern design.Continue to 2 of 24 below.
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Form Follows Function
The modernism movement embraced the concept, “Form follows function,” meaning that the most important aspect of a piece of furniture (or space) is its intended use, rather than its appearance. In other words, appearance, or form, is secondary to function. This doesn’t mean modern style is ugly; it means that it is typically without unnecessary adornment. Clean lines on furnishings and plenty of open space in the room are essential components of this look.Continue to 3 of 24 below.
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Modern Color Schemes
Traditionally, the modern color scheme is neutral: Various shades of brown, cream, tan, black, gray, and white predominate. Early Bauhaus designers used small touches of red, yellow, or blue as accents. As the style matured, neutrals remained the primary palette, but the use of bright, cheery accent colors became more common.Continue to 4 of 24 below.
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By far the most popular variation of modern style is what’s commonly referred to as mid-century modern, or MCM. Created in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, MCM reached the pinnacle of popularity during the 1950s and 1960s, practically defining the decorating style of those decades. Midcentury modern is once again red-hot on the decorating scene, with no signs of fading away anytime soon.Continue to 5 of 24 below.
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Modern and midcentury modern decor embrace natural materials, particularly wood, as seen in the primary bedroom from Capital Building shown here. However, the use of plastics and chrome is an integral part of the MCM look, adding the color, shine, and celebration of all things mass-produced that are so typical of this style.
About This Term: Primary Bedroom
Many real estate associations, including the National Association of Home Builders, have classified the term "Master Bedroom" as discriminatory. "Primary Bedroom" is the name now widely used among the real estate community and better reflects the purpose of the room.
Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge to make The Spruce a site where all feel welcome.Continue to 6 of 24 below.
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Clean-lined geometric patterns are prized in the modern style. “Atomic” designs are an especially fun touch in a midcentury modern bedroom.Continue to 7 of 24 below.
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Spotlight on Art
Fussy knickknacks, unnecessary collectibles, and general froufrou are nowhere to be seen in the modern bedroom. Instead, this style spotlights artwork, especially large paintings, posters, or prints on the walls.Continue to 8 of 24 below.
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An offshoot of midcentury modern, Scandinavian modern—as shown in this lovely room from Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire of Mini Moderns—embraces a similar clean, streamlined, and functional look but tends to use white far more than the other neutrals, particularly on the floors and walls. Classic IKEA furniture is an example of Scandinavian modern design.Continue to 9 of 24 below.
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One thing you’ll see a lot of on midcentury modern furniture are legs, particularly metal hairpin or simple wooden dowel legs. The raised profile of MCM furniture is characteristic of the airy openness of the style and makes these pieces especially well-suited to small rooms. This bedroom from Emily Henderson shows off a quintessentially midcentury modern dresser.Continue to 10 of 24 below.
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While a subdued color scheme is a hallmark of modern décor, pops of bright accent color keep it from being lifeless. Red and orange are especially popular as accents, although any favorite color can play the part. Just look at how the shots of color light up this otherwise white room from Causa Design Group.Continue to 11 of 24 below.
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Modern style is versatile enough to work with just about anyone's needs. Create a bedroom that works for you; after all, functionality is a basic theme of modernism. Madison Modern Home incorporated a small work area in this modern bedroom.Continue to 12 of 24 below.
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Despite the simple lines, neutral colors, and lack of accessories in the typical modern bedroom, the look isn't at all boring or sterile. Just one special touch, such as the dandelion light fixture in this room, is all it takes to add interest.Continue to 13 of 24 below.
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Open and Airy
The modern style is not one for clutter or lots of furniture. Instead, an open, airy vibe adds to the overall clean and simple appearance.Continue to 14 of 24 below.
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For the most part, surfaces in a modern room are smooth and often shiny. Polished floors, lacquered or highly polished furniture, accents of metal—especially chrome—and glass all add to the clean, modern vibe. This modern attic bedroom by interior designer Stanislav Ermolenko is a gorgeous example.Continue to 15 of 24 below.
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A Show of Personality
Whatever your decorating style, feel free to have some fun adding your own touches to the mix. In this lovely midcentury modern bedroom from Kimball Starr Interior Design, the owner's African painted masks add color, pattern, and a huge dose of personality to the room.Continue to 16 of 24 below.
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Midcentury modern homes generally have large windows and plenty of natural light. Simple curtains or shades provide privacy without blocking the sunlight or adding visual clutter to the space.Continue to 17 of 24 below.
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Serene Modern Style
The soft colors, simple lines, and lack of clutter give the modern style a calming, relaxed vibe, making it an excellent choice for the primary bedroom.Continue to 18 of 24 below.
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Angular Light Fixtures
Although midcentury modern design is mostly clean and without excessive ornamentation, one exception to that rule is the use of angular or unusual light fixtures, particularly “atomic” styled fixtures, as seen in the beachy modern bedroom from Amy Lau Design shown here.Continue to 19 of 24 below.
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Minimalist Primary Bedroom
Minimalism is similar to modern design in that it emphasizes a very clean, simple look without a lot of adornment. Often, midcentury modern furniture fits well into this “less is more” decorating philosophy. This gray and white minimalist bedroom from A. Gruppo Architects uses a colorful painting to add a spark of color.Continue to 20 of 24 below.
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Simple platform beds are a common sight in the modern bedroom, particularly Scandinavian modern style.Continue to 21 of 24 below.
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Modern Mix and MatchContinue to 22 of 24 below.
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Hanging light fixtures break up the mostly horizontal planes of a modern bedroom. This peaceful, beautiful primary bedroom uses copper pendants to great effect. So serene and lovely.Continue to 23 of 24 below.
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Natural Materials as Decor
Modern style celebrates natural materials, such as wood and stone, as artwork in their own right. Midcentury modern architecture often used wood not just as flooring but also to panel the walls and even the ceiling. This bedroom from Geometrix Design shows off a beautiful wooden accent wall.Continue to 24 of 24 below.
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Although midcentury modern typically is fairly subdued in color, exceptions are the rule when it comes to interior design. This fun and colorful room from Keeping Interiors shows off the power of a lively rug to spark up the overall mood.