When thinking about lighting design, understanding the difference between “modern” and “contemporary” is no easy task. Is it a style, as in mid-century modern? Sometimes. Or does it mean the lighting is new? Sometimes. Or that it incorporates the latest technological advances? And yes, sometimes.
While they are each styles in their own right, they both also have the unique ability to complement and blend with most home décor styles. These features make them popular styles and add to the confusion about their differences and similarities. Below are answers to many questions about lighting design and how to refresh a home with modern or contemporary lighting. In addition to answering lighting design questions, you’ll find plenty of inspiration on ways to use modern or contemporary lighting throughout the home.
What Is the Difference Between Modern & Contemporary Lighting Styles?
Although “Contemporary Design” and “Modern Design” sound like they mean the same thing, they are not identical concepts or styles. Yes, there is some overlap, but each is a very different design aesthetic at its core.
The confusion begins with the term “modern.” While many may think that means new or contemporary, the modern design style is more than one hundred years old. It refers to a distinct period that begins around the early 20th century and ends in the 1970s and 80s. Modern design is a minimalist style featuring clean lines, natural materials, and reflective surfaces. The style reached its peak popularity in the 1950s with the everlastingly popular Mid-Century Modern. Not only has mid-century come to represent the style for many, but it can also still be found in modern ceiling lights.
Bronzeville 3 Light Multi Light Pendant by Sea Gull Lighting
This office’s clean, straightforward design emphasizes and enhances the visual appeal of the Bronzeville 3 Light Multi Light Pendant by Sea Gull Lighting. Its daring design mixes high-end fashion with mid-century modern sensibilities. The light seeping out of the seeded glass globes creates a warm and ambient glow throughout the room. This stunning pendant makes a striking statement in any room.
On the other hand, the overarching theory that guides contemporary design style is much more fluid. Contemporary design is about the now, what’s current, and the most recent trends in décor. It is continuously evolving, making it an excellent fit for designers and homeowners who like to update their homes often and stay up to date with the leading edge of style.
However, current contemporary design is greatly influenced by the modern design tradition. Both lean towards minimalism, neutral or tone-on-tone color palettes, bright metallics, and natural woods. Modern design — particularly mid-century modern — generally uses more bold accent colors such as retro red and orange. In contrast, contemporary décor leans more towards a neutral black and white color palette. Both styles are inviting, airy, and elegantly simple, as evidenced by their continuing appearances in design trends and modern wall lighting.
Kelly By Kelly Wearstler Nodes 23 Inch Wall Sconce by Generation Lighting
This stunning bathroom featuring the Kelly By Kelly Wearstler Nodes 23 Inch Wall Sconce by Generation Lighting captures all the elements of current contemporary style – clean lines, natural materials, and a natural black and white color scheme. The lighting’s minimalist yet bold design offsets the black shiplap, filling the room with drama and personality.
What Makes a Light Fixture Modern?
From an aesthetic perspective, modern lighting is simple in shape, features curves or bold straight lines, and is made from bright, reflective materials such as chrome, glass, and polished finishes such as nickel, brass, and black. This type of lighting usually has a futuristic or minimalist vibe that can be quite eye-catching.
Hudson Valley Lighting Lindley 50 Inch LED Linear Suspension Light
A blend of modern and contemporary sensibilities, the Hudson Valley Lighting Lindley 50 Inch LED Linear Suspension Light is the very definition of modern sophistication. Two pieces of glass come together and encapsulate each LED light for a look that is intriguing when unlit and absolutely stunning when lit. Each piece of glass can be twisted in different directions, putting you in charge of the look of the light.
Modern outdoor lighting feels right at home, with the porch-living-outdoor room trend still going strong. Simple, clean lines and bright LED lights welcome friends and family and encourage guests to stay and visit. These areas are becoming even more like outdoor rooms with greenery and stylish furniture.
Kichler Lighting Mercer 16-Inch-Tall Outdoor Wall Light
Under the gentle glow of a pair of Kichler Lighting Mercer 16-Inch-Tall Outdoor Wall Lights and the Ryler 12 Inch 1 Light LED Outdoor Flush Mount by Kichler Lighting, layers of light create the perfect atmosphere for outdoor evenings. When lit, the clear seeded glass shade of the Mercer creates a subtle pattern on the exterior walls. The Ryler delivers architectural sophistication to mid-century or modern homes. The white decorative glass contrasts beautifully against the metal finish, whether lit or not.
How to Use Modern Lighting in Unexpected Places and Ways
Lighting can transform ordinary rooms into extraordinary experiences and make a breathtaking difference in the design of a room. These unexpected places and ways to use lighting to elevate interior design can offer inspiration for every room in a home.
Tilda 5 Light Mini Chandelier by Arteriors Home
For a glamourous, spa-like experience without leaving home, hanging a chandelier in the bath area is the way to go. The Tilda 5 Light Mini Chandelier by Arteriors Home infuses this bathroom with overhead pampering. Light glows through the curved iron arms covered in wooden sticks. The whitewash finish gently complements the muted color scheme, creating the ideal space for relaxing the body and refreshing the spirit.
Suzanne Kasler Soleil 16 Inch 1 Light Semi Flush Mount by Visual Comfort and Co.
When choosing a light for the laundry room, why be boring? The Suzanne Kasler Soleil 16 Inch 1 Light Semi Flush Mount by Visual Comfort and Co. adds functionality and chic to what is usually a utilitarian space. The bright blue wallpaper, checkerboard tile, and stunning lighting make doing laundry so much more enjoyable.
Hubbardton Forge Cityscape 51 Inch LED Linear Suspension Light
Fulfilling two of the central tenets of modern style — form and function — the Hubbardton Forge Cityscape 51 Inch LED Linear Suspension Light ups the ante by bringing in a bit of fun. The mid-century vibes are strong in this dining room with its neutral palette and unexpected area rug that echoes the sophistication of the lighting. The sculptural lines of the lighting serve an additional purpose: lighting as art. When lit, the effect is a glowing cityscape floating in midair.