Many people use the words “contemporary” and “modern” interchangeably as if these two words are completely the same. But upon closer scrutiny, you would readily see that these two words have distinct connotations. The term “contemporary” refers to the present day or current period. On the other hand, the word “modern” may refer to an immediate past or even to a remote past. Yet despite these shades of difference, many among us, including some so-called pundits, still liberally use these two words interchangeably as if these two words are truly synonymous. It would be good, therefore, to note at this point that not all words that are seemingly synonymous are truly synonymous!
Contemporary and Modern Interior Design Concepts
The distinction between the terms “contemporary” and “modern” becomes more apparent when these two terms are used to refer to interior designs. On the one hand, contemporary interior design refers to any interior design that characterizes the present day. Hence, any design concept that appears awesome and relevant to the contemporary human beings can be readily considered as contemporary. However, it is important to note likewise that contemporary interior designs can easily become outmoded. What may be considered contemporary and in vogue today may easily become irrelevant tomorrow.
On the other hand, modern interior design specifically refers to any interior design concept that was in vogue in the recent past, specifically, that of the period between the 1920s and 1950s. During this period, interior designs were characterized by an extensive use of expansive neutrals, natural materials, pops of colors, and even clean and low lines.
Can Modern Interior Designs Be Considered as Contemporary?
Last Saturday, I had visited real estate in San Clemente, California that was up for sale. The design of the interiors of the house was definitely modern, characterized by large open spaces, strong angles and lines, fewer furniture, natural materials, white walls, and lots of windows. Seeing all these characteristics inside the house, I was inclined to say that the house was typically modern. However, at the back of my mind, there was a gnawing and unexpressed confusion on whether the interior of the house was likewise contemporary. Well, in the end, I made up my mind that despite the seemingly modern designs of the interiors, the house is still truly contemporary for its interior design is obviously currently relevant.
It is a fact that some concepts of modern interior design can be easily considered timeless, and for this reason they may easily qualify as contemporary interior design concepts. This fact also surely muddles the very vague delineation between contemporary and modern interior designs.
Who Would Decide What is Contemporary or Modern?
There are surely no clear-cut criteria that could immediately help us decide what design is truly modern or contemporary. An experienced interior designer, for example, can easily transform a design concept from the 1950s into a relevant contemporary concept. Moreover, a contemporary interior design may easily become outmoded and antiquated. Hence, when figuring out whether a particular interior design is contemporary or modern, it would be best to delay judgment, for any impromptu judgment on this issue may easily evolve into a misjudgment.