If you’re like most people, you’re probably pretty confused about the difference between modern and contemporary, and rightfully so. Both terms are very often used interchangeably, even outside of the kitchen design realm. Within the world of kitchen design, many kitchens possess qualities that can be considered both contemporary and modern. So how does one distinguish between what’s modern and what’s contemporary?
“Modern” is often used to denote kitchen designs that are the opposite of traditional. However, the term modern actually refers to the design styles of a specific time period between the 1920s and 1950s, when designers began to break away from the pre-Industrial Revolution design aesthetic. While colloquially referred to as “modern” in short, the correct term is actually “Mid-Century Modern”. This design style rejected the lavish embellishments and adornments of old, and embraced a cleaner, simpler design which featured natural materials such as wood, linen and leather, as well as plastics and metallic materials. Simplicity and neutrality characterizes modern design, and the visual goal is to be more expansive and less cluttered.
In terms of kitchen designs, modern kitchens reject pillowed or inset door styles in preference of flat-paneled, frame less kitchen cabinets. There is an emphasis on straight, horizontal lines, so you won’t find corbels, fancy curlicues or other adornments accessorizing these cabinets. As a matter of fact, you won’t find many decorative accessories at all. You may find lots of natural wood tones, metallic appliances and hardware, and consistent accent themes.
The term “contemporary” on the other hand, simply means “current”. Whatever is in style and popular at a given moment is part of contemporary design. For this reason, a contemporary kitchen can have modern elements, but it can also incorporate aspects of more classical styles. Because of this fluidity there aren’t very many standards to go by when creating a contemporary kitchen. The popular shaker door style is currently a very common feature of contemporary kitchens, and its simple style makes it a great option to incorporate into a contemporary kitchen that leads towards a more modern design.
While there are lots of official classifications and definitions in interior design, the best thing to do when designing your kitchen is to find the elements that are right for you. Kitchens have become much less stringent in design and a lot more eclectic. You don’t have to be bound by specific design rules. It’s more important to prioritize your preferences and work within your means. At the same time, however, don’t go overboard. When it comes to design, less is always more.