Is contemporary the same as modern?

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In the dictionary “Contemporary ” and “Modern” mean the same thing, but in design terminology they are very different. Today we’re gonna take a few moments to define the two terms as a designer would.

Modern design is a retro look that has a 60’s and 70’s feel to it. For this reason it’s also known as “Mid Century Modern.” It has simple, clean interiors, and employs earthy materials like leather, teak, linen, and wood. Some traits of the furniture used in this style include polished metal, molded plastic, and plywood. Furthermore, the furniture is open and raised up off the ground, which is more conducive for a fresh, open feeling. The walls are often white, which adds to the expansive¬† ambiance. Here’s an example of a mid century modern kitchen:

Mid-century Modern Kitchen

In the 60’s and 70’s the design depicted above would have been considered contemporary. Because contemporary means what is currently in style.

Today contemporary style is defined by clean lines with a casual atmosphere, open spaces, neutral colors, and elements inspired by nature. It strives to blend beauty with functionality.

Today’s trends also include large windows, unique shapes, and open floor plans. Some popular finishes today are gray oak, white lacquer, cedar, and stone. The finishing details and furniture are simple and use clean lines. Functionality, comfort, and sustainability are key factors in a contemporary home. Below are couple examples of contemporary kitchens.

Having said all this, lets remember that since the English definitions of contemporary and modern are so similar you’re technically not incorrect by using the two terms interchangeably. So if you search for “modern kitchens” you’ll find plenty of beautiful contemporary kitchens mixed in with some mid century moderns. But at least now we all know the difference.


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