Is It Contemporary or Modern Design?

Posted on | December 6, 2011 | 3 Comments

When it comes to identifying an interior as “Contemporary” or “Modern,” I confess that I hesitate before answering. My answer sometimes sounds more like a question. There are those who consider the two terms to be synonymous. While I know that’s not the case, I recently I decided to better educate myself on the difference between the two design styles.

Coming about at a time of social reform, the Modernism Movement ran from the 1930’s to the mid 60’s. Modernism was a response to traditional design, emphasizing minimalism, simplicity and function. Modern interiors are clean, characterized by angular frames, low profiles, and geometric shapes. Natural materials like leather, linen and teak are used, as well as chrome, metal and glass.

Images Courtesy of Design Lines, Ltd.

“Contemporary” refers to today – the present moment in interior design, furniture design or architecture. To refer to something as “Contemporary” is to simply describe the latest styles and trends.

Aha, “Modern” and “Contemporary” are definitely not interchangeable terms. Contemporary refers to the current style. According to Judy Pickett, founder of the Raleigh interior design firm, Design Lines, Ltd., the two do have similarities. “Today’s Contemporary designs harken back to Modernism, favoring clean lines, and uncluttered décor. Don’t look, however, for Contemporary interiors to be sparse or uncomfortable,” Judy says.

“It’s true that North Carolinians have generally leaned towards traditional styling. Yet, in the last five to ten years, we have seen a real shift in the popularity of Contemporary design,” explains Judy. “It’s fresh, uncluttered and honest. It has real wood, and natural fibers – what homeowners want today.”

The Modernism Movement turned the establishment upside down with its stripped-down form-over-function nuances and its anti-establishment stylings. And while today’s homeowner generally chooses a Contemporary style, few know that many of the pieces and looks they most enjoy are entirely inspired by Modernism.

Images Courtesy of Design Lines, Ltd.

“Most of my clients today choose a Contemporary style,” says Judy. “Modern elements such as the tulip table or a striking piece of art really pull together a design and make an undeniable statement.”

Judy Pickett, FASID, is a leader in the North Carolina interior design community, and the founder of Design Lines, Ltd., a successful and well-respected Raleigh interior design firm.

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3 Responses to “Is It Contemporary or Modern Design?”

  1. Emily
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:49 AM

    Great Article! I get so tired of people using the terms interchangeably. This is definately something I will share with others. Thanks!

  2. Liz Hughes
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:03 AM

    Thanks Emily. I now feel better about knowing which term to use.


  3. Ellen Reed
    December 6th, 2011 @ 6:31 PM

    clear, concise and to the point…..I like it!…..smiles

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