Contemporary & Modern Design

The words contemporary and modern have increasingly been used interchangeably when describing a design. While this may be tempting when considering all they currently share, we need to remember a key difference between the two.

7b724ca27951f83892743c0504297932.jpg

In a nutshell, contemporary design embraces the present day trend(s), whatever present day that is, while modern design embraces a movement from a set period of time: the early to mid-20th century. An ever-changing time period compared to a fixed one. We're looking at a fluid definition versus a structured definition. 

As of 2017, both contemporary and modern design:

  • Reject the over embellishment that is heavily present in traditional design
  • Utilize open space, straight lines, and a no nonsense functionality (slightly different than the over embellishment listed above)
  • Subtle use of color to give character but those uses tend to be reserved for accent walls, accent furniture or accent pieces
 Over embellishment of the mirror.

Over embellishment of the mirror.

 No nonsense functional mirror.

No nonsense functional mirror.

It's an easy mistake to call a contemporary design a modern design- and vice versa- since they share- in regards to 2017- more similarities than differences. 

But a contemporary design in the 1970s included: bold colors, shag carpet (everywhere) and an excessive use of brightly patterned walls. The 1970s saw this branching out from the dry, sometimes soulless, modern design. The same use of lines and organic shapes are present but now there are new shades of color and more curvy shapes. It was no longer modern, it was contemporary. 

If we attempted to sell a house with a 1970s interior as contemporary now, we'd never sell the house. 

Takeaway: Contemporary does not equal Modern. 

Although, we do want to point out that modern interior designs seen today aren't quite the same modern as the original. Take these two living rooms.

 Present day modern style home. 

Present day modern style home. 

 1950s modern style home.

1950s modern style home.

We can quickly claim both of these rooms possess modern style design. But the sheer size of the furniture and the use of colors are different. Both still modern? Indeed. One of these considered modern and contemporary? Also, correct. 

Takeaway: We call almost everything that is obviously not traditional and obviously not modern but is a current trend as contemporary.

Modern came about because traditional design needed an antagonist. Contemporary was born shortly after to encompass the popular design styles that simply did not fall under the strict requirements of traditional or modern. 

 Contemporary style that is inspired by modern design

Contemporary style that is inspired by modern design

 Heavily inspired by modern, but still a contemporary style

Heavily inspired by modern, but still a contemporary style

Join the conversation! Leave a comment on what you think the differences are between modern design and contemporary design. 

Images via Pinterest