Modern vs Contemporary Lighting: The Difference

modern vs contemporary lighting defined image


A huge misconception that is probably still being debated to this day is what exactly defines a design style as either modern or contemporary.

It’s a common myth that is told that they are the same, where they may seem similar is some scenarios; by definition they hold a different meaning.


Does that mean contemporary styled lights can’t resemble a modern design style whatsoever? No, and that works both ways. But the main thing to understand that there is a difference, and if you want to get things right when it comes to getting your room “matching” in design styles; then knowing the difference will help a bit when searching for a lighting fixture that matches your wanted theme.


To start getting a grasp of what exactly the difference is between the two design styles, we should define both modern and contemporary as it is defined today.


The definition for modern goes something like this:

“Relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past.”


Where-as the definition for contemporary goes something like:

“Belonging to or occurring in the present.”


By these two definitions alone it is a bit easier to start grasping what the major difference is between the styles. To break it down, modern is something that is longer lasting and is more of a defined design type, unlike contemporary.

With contemporary you have a new design in the present, becomes popular for its time period, then slowly matures and eventually is no longer considered ‘current contemporary.’ Instead, you would define it as, after its time has passed, as early 2000’s contemporary (just as example).


If that sounds confusing, lets think about it in another way. Contemporary is not so much a set design style but rather a way to define a need for something in today’s world. Where-as with modern it is much more defined and long lasting through the basic principles of modernistic design principles.


And if that hasn’t confused you enough, when you bring modernism into the mix it gets a bit weird. Modernism is a style or movement in arts and design that’s goal is to break and “clash” with traditional and classical designs. This basically means that these types of styles are either of modern type or contemporary; depending on what the exact style matches.

But that’s besides the point, as we’d like to hope.


Why does it matter?


But why does any of this matter anyways, I just want my darn room to look good!


I guess if you aren’t a person to care about these types of things as long as design and style looks good to your own eyes; then it doesn’t matter.

But for those of whom are using the words of modern and contemporary interchangeably, they are not appreciating and acknowledging the true difference between the two styles. To be truly a contemporary design as of today, you need to match along with the design needs of today. To be truly a modern design, you need to match those fundamental and solid design aspects of modern styles. Without doing so, you might have a modern / contemporary room; which of course doesn’t matter if you personally don’t care if you have a modernistic, current contemporary, and early 2000’s contemporary space (so many different styles, so little space!).

This all really comes down to one thing; do you care enough about design to want to know the difference and go out of your way to go one way or another? If yes, then understanding the difference’s is critical to your success (when it comes to designing and planning). On the other hand if you don’t, no need to worry; just do what works for you and fits your own personal theme of design.


Quick Recap

This post hopefully has been of some help to you and your learning process of design. We just want to quickly recap what the differences are in a short few sentences to jog your memory. Heck, maybe re-evaluating the whole concept of the two and their differences will bring light to it all for you.

Here we go…

Modern is defined mostly by a much more structured set of style which is still to this day being taken after in many areas of new pieces of art and design. Where-as with contemporary it is ever changing to fit the need of the current time and will not stay as a current design of the time period forever.

Don’t be confused by contemporary though, as it is seemingly the hardest one to grasp. Although a light fixture can be no-longer considered as current contemporary, it’s basic core design style can be considered modern.


If you have any questions at all about the difference between contemporary and modern still; feel free to comment your questions down below. We will gladly try to answer any question you may hold, no matter how simple or complex they may seem!