“Contemporary” refers to what’s happening now in design. “Modern” refers to a historic period in fashion, architecture, and design.
Contemporary labels threads that are flowing through and coming together today. Modern dates to a break with the Industrial Age or Machine Age.
Contemporary style, on the other hand, has not defined an era. It evolves and changes as a matter of course. It is dynamic and eclectic. While it may include elements of the Modern Era, it is more about what is current. In time, contemporary may define a direction or period. But, it’s essence is to combine bits and pieces of styles that engage and appeal to contemporary eyes.
You’ll see more colors, shapes, and curves, more rugs, pillows, and accents. And, you’ll find new materials and integrated visual elements, including artworks both contemporary and modern.
The Modern Era was marked by steel and concrete, stucco and whitewash, and unadorned and minimalist interiors and exteriors. The modern strips away ornamentation. It prefers flat surfaces, monochromatic and neutral palettes, and cubes and rectangles without texture. It does without wallpaper, bright colors, and carpets and fabrics.
When it comes to lighting fixtures, the same “rules” apply.
Contemporary lighting includes fixtures new to the inventory. They include pendants, track lighting, high hat spots, and task lamps. Contemporary interiors designers have also recalled chandeliers, wall sconces, and recessed lighting. What’s new and contemporary are the ways designers mix and integrate fixture design and lighting effects. Contemporary designers ignore floor lamps and table lamps in favor of light play, new materials, and evolving lighting technology.
Consider the Avalon, a pendant that mixes and matches traditions into a dynamic look. The intersecting cubes is a play on the Modern, but the simple candlesticks remember Colonial influences. This play on several periods creates a Contemporary statement in satin gold.
The Avalon satin pendant fixture hangs low and thin with just enough twist on the expected to intrigue and delight the eye. Functional enough to light a dining area, it still offers something fresh and unique.
The Uranus, on the other hand, is strictly Modern. It’s made possible by contemporary lighting engineering and technology. But, in terms of design, it is sharply angular, absent ornamentation, and purely functional.
Uranus is acrylic and gold aluminum caught up between design eras. Absolutely futuristic in its stark angles and industrial joints, it rejects the lush and elegant in line with the Modern design book. Still, its materials and engineering make it Contemporary dynamic and challenging. But, in the long run, Uranus seems more comfortable in environments defined by simplicity, geometry, and monochrome accents.
Contemporary vs. Modern Lighting
The words are often confused, but “contemporary” and “modern” are distinct visions in interior design. You could best summarize the difference by recognizing that, while you might find
modern elements in contemporary rooms, you won’t find contemporary pieces in modern layouts. It’s not a difference to worry you, but it can help you shop.