Contemporary vs. Modern

Way before I even started working in design I always wondered what the difference was between “Contemporary and Modern”. Logically speaking both terms sounds exactly the same. It wasn’t until one lazy, Saturday morning I was planted on my couch watching one of my favorite Bravo TV shows ‘Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles’ in which Josh Flagg broke it down for the viewers as to what each term meant in the Real Estate Industry. Since then I have been able to effortlessly explain the difference, and hopefully all of you will now understand it as well.

“Contemporary” architecture and style is, literally, what is being created and produced right now. It is dynamic, meaning it’s constantly changing. It can be quite eclectic for this reason – contemporary style isn’t tied down to one specific style – it’s of the moment and borrows bits and pieces from a variety of styles and eras.

“Modern” style describes a static (era-specific) design style that breaks with those pre-Industrial Revolution traditional styles. Simply put, modern design is connected to the age of machination and is typically referred to of that of the 1920s-1950s (although some make the case that modern design refers to anything from the 20th Century).

One reason these two terms are used interchangeably, and, perhaps, confusingly, is because many of the characteristics and elements of modern design (a.k.a. mid-century modern or retro) are popular right now. Thus, modern design is in integral part of today’s contemporary design. We’ll see in 20 years what the new contemporary style is! Here are some examples of modern vs. contemporary designs.

Plain and simple: Contemporary is what’s happening now in the present time, and Modern is a specific time in an era or history.


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Article by Stefan- CEO/Founder of Interior Design and Architecture




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