Modern vs. Contemporary Lighting

Contemporary Design

By Clarissa Allison | August 12th, 2016

The terms modern and contemporary as they relate to design are used interchangeably so often that you’d be forgiven for thinking they are one and the same. Yet, they are actually very different approaches to decor. In this week’s blog, we’ll look at the history and meaning of both types of design, and provide some examples of lighting fixtures that fit the mold. Click the pictures to shop directly on


Modern design was born of several creative incarnations which can make it difficult to pin down. Created by the German Bauhaus schools of design with an emphasis on Scandinavian simplicity and function, modern interior design is a reflection of the modernism movement within the home. As such, there are static themes that can be identified in conjunction with this design movement.

Form is very important in modern design.  You may see geometric shapes, rigid squares or perfectly simple circles and ovals, with few embellishments to interrupt the flow of the piece.

A Modern space tends to be simple, stark and cold. The palette tends to lean towards naturals or neutrals and is recognized by clean, unadorned interiors. Many natural materials like wood, leather, teak and linen are utilized, as well as polished metal. Furniture is often airy and light, with lots of space underneath. Walls may be left white to encourage a minimalist feel. Modern interiors are seen with naked floors, with any area rugs made of natural fibers such as wool. Mid-Century modern is the most famous result of the modernism movement, since modernism reached its peak during the 1950s and 1960s. If you’ve ever seen a German Bahaus chair or any furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames, you have witnessed the incorporation of the elements of modern architecture. These designs have been highly inspirational and copied by designers worldwide.




Ferroterra by Eglo


The Ferroterra 1 Light Outdoor Floor Lamp by Eglo Lighting is the perfect example of an expression of modern art.  This lamp  features a Globe Shaped Frosted White Glass shade surrounded by a sphere of randomly spaced metal rings.

Elk Organics Semi Flush Ceiling LightThis 3 light Semi-Flush Mount from the Modern Organics collection by ELK will enhance your home with a perfect mix of form and function. The features include a Polished Chrome finish applied by experts. Remember, if your order total exceeds $50, it qualifies for free shipping in the contiguous U.S.!

Bruck’s European and American Artisan, mouth-blown glass is known throughout the world for its quality and beauty.  The Bruck Poise pendant has LED or Halogen light source options, mounting options, and finishes  to allow for a unique design. Most of Bruck’s mini-pendant glass allows for easy screw-on / screw-off for a simple installation.


Contemporary by definition means “existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time.” This applies perfectly to contemporary interior design. The term actually can incorporate “trendy” design, in addition to modern. Contemporary design can be very eclectic because it borrows pieces and styles from different eras and is ever-changing.  Far from consisting simply of newly designed elements of “right now” shapes and forms from modernism, art deco, and industrialization can also find its way into this type of design.

A contemporary home will include harmony with nature and the surrounding landscape. Finishes will consist of or mimic elements like cedar wood or stone, but they can also possess pops of color on an otherwise simple palette, like a textured floor rug or a collection of the same chairs in graduating hues. Bright colors should be used sparingly to keep the eye focused: limit it to an accent wall, or a set of matching table lamps. The finishing details of furniture can still be mainly in-ornate, but are also softer, containing more curves and depth than modern design. Both comfort and longevity are key in a contemporary home.

Sophisticated neutrals are applied in this theme. The use of monochromatic and tone-on-tone pieces allow the lines and shapes within a space to emerge.  Remember, neutral doesn’t have to be just cream, white, and beige. You may add an item of greyish-blue, or a cream color with a dash of pink, even greenish-gold.


Aquarii by LBL LightingSeasonal ocean surf-inspired blown-glass globe with layers of color. Inspired by the organic nature of churning ocean surf, this hand-blown glass globe features complex layers of color and bubbles to ensure no two pieces are exactly alike. Includes (1) 50 watt low-voltage GY6.35 base Xenon bi-pin lamp or 8 watt replaceable 500 lumen 80 CRI 3000K LED SORAA® module and 6′ of field-cuttable suspension cable.

Keene Wall Mirror by Kenroy Home

This Mirror is part of the Keene Collection by Kenroy Home and features a Natural Slate Finish.


Cosmic Leaf Pendant by Artemide

Appearing almost as an aquatic creature complete with scales, the Artemide Cosmic Leaf Pendant features a textured methacrylate shade that allows the light from above to play off the structure’s curves. The effect is a fascinating, ambient light, great for creating allure in the contemporary living room or bar area.


It’s easy to be confused by these terms, because both styles tend to favor simple, open spaces with uncomplicated lines and structure. However, try to think of contemporary lighting design as possessing more than modernism in its textures, shapes, colors and details that complement nature.

We hope this guide will help you decide what pieces to use in your next design project. Please contact us with any questions at The Louie Lighting Team wishes you and yours a safe and happy weekend.

Modern Lighting vs. Contemporary Lighting

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