Is it Modern or Contemporary?

What really is the difference between “Modern” and “Contemporary”? Even within the design community these words are often used interchangeably. The truth is the two are inherently different.

A trade resource (ie not available to the general public) from Moen discusses the fundamental differences between the terms “Modern” and “Contemporary” and how knowing the difference/clarifying their clients wants can help a designer’s success:

“Modern isn’t a style. It’s a way of thinking,” says architect Bryan Russell, a partner in the Atlanta-based Dencity Design. He says that modernist designers seek creative solutions for design problems. By contrast, contemporary is just a style and differs from traditional only in looks, he says. A good illustration of this is the traditional Cape Cod house: a simple box with symmetrical windows topped by a gable roof. A contemporary house might replace the gable with a shed roof, or with a flat roof surrounded by a parapet, and lose some of the detailing. But, because it’s basically a distilled version of the traditional home, major elements and proportions remain. Inside, the design will call for the same materials as a traditional, but with less trim and molding.

The modern home might be radically different: a box cantilevered over the top of another box with large corner windows, for example. That’s because the designer is more concerned with views to the outside than with composition. “Modern thinking is based on asking questions about how to solve problems and not necessarily following the tried and true,” says Russell.

Are you modern or contemporary or somewhere on the spectrum in between? To read the Moen article in it’s entirety, click here.

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