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contemporary versus modern

Take it from us; you don’t want to get these two sizzling styles mixed up.

Design-savvy friends rejoice. We’re here to clarify what defines contemporary versus modern. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they are two distinct design eras. To confuse you further, modern is never contemporary, yet, contemporary can be modern. (More on that later.) .

So what is Modern and why do we love it?

Modern is a precursor to contemporary design. The modernist movement, which began in the late 1800s, produced the modern style we know and adore today. At the height of the modern art movement—think German Bauhaus Schools of Design, Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll—conceived modern.

An emphasis on form with function defines modern. Natural materials, neutral-hues, earth tones, simple shapes and sexy silhouettes are some of the unique characteristics of the well-loved aesthetic.

Modern then morphed into mid-century modern (the 1950s, 1960s) which is still alive and well in Denver, especially in a neighborhood like Krisana Park, and continues to be an inspiration of design today. Which brings us to contemporary.

Contemporary originated in the 1970s, but contemporary doesn’t refer to a specific period—it’s au courant. Turning the spotlight on the latest trends of today.  

The design is fluid, constantly evolving and highlights the trends voiced by the most prominent design savants of today. Contemporary borrows bit and pieces from past influences, which is why the obsession with mid-century modern has permeated into today’s approach to home compositions. (And why contemporary can be considered modern.)

Although by nature, contemporary design is relatively ambiguous, there are some characteristics frequently seen such as nice neutrals, clean lines, stark minimalism and a mix of metals. Unlike modern, contemporary proudly celebrates form over function.

That’s the word on contemporary versus modern—modern emphasizes function and has turned into a timeless style that, in some cases, carries into contemporary, and contemporary is a voice for the trends.