How To's

Contemporary Lighting vs. Modern Lighting

The terms modern style design and contemporary style design are often used interchangeably – and incorrectly. But a little knowledge can go a long way to set the story straight and ensure you sound as brilliant and cultured as we know you are – whether you’re speaking with the designer putting together your dream space or carrying on a dinner party conversation.

Contempory Style vs. Modern Style | YLighting
The Link Low Voltage Mini Pendant and the Orb Chandelier from Hubbardton Forge. Both add a contemporary twist to classic designs. The Orb takes a classic round chandelier and adds sleek appealing curves, while the Links’ hand-blown glass are decorated with threads of white glass.

In the simplest terms, modern style is in the past and contemporary design is always in the present . . . maybe that requires further explanation and a little historical context. The word contemporary is nearly 400 years old, but its use as meaning “of the present” dates to 1866. So for the last 150 years, contemporary art, design, literature and architecture is what’s happening now by artists and designers living and creating today. To confuse things, it’s possible to create a contemporary style that is influenced by modernism. Fortunately, the modern art movement is a little easier to pin down.

Contempory Style vs. Modern Style | YLightingstyle living room
The Quill LED Suspension Light from Hubbardton Forge toes the line between modern and contemporary. The loft space with high ceilings and the furniture and artwork choices tilt the Quill toward contemporary in application.

Modernism has pretty solid parameters. The movement started in the late 19th century. Artists and the movement were influenced by and railed against industrialization. Impressionism in painting and sculpture and symbolism in poetry and writing also found its place in modernism. However, it wasn’t until the lead-up to the First World War and the social unrest that it brought, that Modernism really found its footing. While Manet and Monet are usually acknowledged as part of the Modernist movement, the rise of Picasso and Matisse a few decades after its start, provide the aesthetics many most closely-associate with the style today.

Contempory Style vs. Modern Style | YLightingstyle living room
The Planar LED Linear Pendant Light’s from design was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s visionary Fallingwater home from the 1930s. The Copeland Estelle Side Chairs are reminiscent of Japanese toriis, which also tie to Wright, who was a well-known dealer in Japanese works of art.

The modernist style was created to push against tradition in order to find new ways to experience art, to think about the world and portray the human condition. Ironically, today modern art could be considered part of tradition. It’s generally accepted that the modern art movement ended in the 1970s.

Contempory Style vs. Modern Style | YLightingstyle living room
The Cavaletti Table Lamp and Linear Pendant display the clean lines often associated with a minimalist modern look, as do the tables and chairs.

One last tip to keep in mind the difference between modern and contemporary design – chances are, you’ve heard of post-modern art, but not post-contemporary, so that gives you a hint that contemporary is still happening, while modern design has a (loosely) identified end-date from which it draws its style inspiration.

For More Inspiration:

Hubbardton Forge

Hubbardton Forge

With a history spanning more than four decades, Hubbardton Forge has built a reputation in the lighting industry and among designers and consumers for high quality and handcrafted artistry. With a team driven by design, the newest designs being created – from idea to finished fixture – are winning awards and accolades, but more importantly, they’re finding a place in the finely designed spaces of our customers. Best of all? All the magic happens under one roof in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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