That age old question has been brought up time and time again with modern style and contemporary style: what exactly is the difference?  These two designs are quite often integrated with one another (beautifully, I might add), however they are very different.  So how can you tell the difference, you ask?  Well, one thing is for certain; it is not as simple as we would like to think.  There are however a few basic characteristics to look out for when breaking it down.  Let’s take a look!


Plywood Lounge Chair-Midcentury Modern Design

Retro or midcentury modern…however you refer to it, “Modern” in the interior design world is a timeframe from the 1920s to 1950s that defines a style of furniture created.  In other words, this style of furniture is set in stone and will never change.  Contemporary however, is of the moment and ever changing.  To put it simply, midcentury modern does not change and contemporary style always changes.


Bertoia Style Barstool-One of the Most Recognizable Midcentuiry Modern Designs

Midcentury modern design can be recognized by the use of natural materials; leather, wood, linen and teak are very embossed in this style.  Other elements of shiny, polished metals and molded plywood can also be found in this specific design of furniture.  One of the main focuses of modern design is allowing open space and an “airy feeling” to be felt within a room.  Adding white walls to a modern living space also applies to this concept, and creates a feeling of a bigger space.

Hang-It-All-Coat Rack-Midcentury Modern Design 

And contemporary? Well, the definition of contemporary is “belonging to or occurring in the present,” which makes sense that it is ever changing.  With that in mind, contemporary design is more what we feel is popular right now.  So a contemporary designed home for example could possibly have elements of cedar wood, very large windows, use stone perhaps for counters and use clean, straight lines.  In twenty to thirty years down the road, this style will probably not be considered contemporary anymore.  Who knows what our future designers have in store!


Phin Chair-Example of Contemporary Interior Design

The biggest misconception I feel is that at the moment, wonderful designs from the past have found themselves in the comfort of our homes and offices that it is commonly mistaken for “contemporary.”  But now you know the difference, and you can choose to mix (or not) the undeniable design of Midcentury Modern!         


Whirl Barstool-Example of Contemporary Interior Design