It's common for most people to assume that the terms "contemporary" and "modern" are essentially interchangeable when it comes to design. This, however, is not the case. The modern style and the contemporary style each have their own unique characteristics which make them more easily identifiable. Luckily, we have created a guide which will help to ensure you find exactly what you are looking for when shopping for light fixtures to fit your home's current style.


LBL Interlace

It's often easiest for customers to think of "contemporary" as a branch growing from the tree of dynamic design. Simply put, dynamic design embraces change and is described as "adding new life" to its creations, which you will see is a major component of contemporary design. Born in the 1970s and ever-changing, the term "contemporary" captures all designs being produced to match current trends. For this reason, light fixtures which feature a variety of style combinations for means of creating something unique and appealing, are labeled contemporary. While contemporary designs are usually minimalistic, they are not limited to strong, straight lines like modern designs. Some of the main characteristics of contemporary lighting includes are:

  • Dynamic Design
  • Trendiness
  • Combinations of Elements from Different Eras' Styles
  • Unique Forms
  • Clean and Simple Lines
  • Emphasis on Comfort
  • Minimalism



Fredrick Ramond Impulse

Quite contrarily to dynamic design, modern design can be thought of as a branch on the tree of static design. Notable for simplicity and a clean look, modern designs are often also minimalistic, but they are era specific and era exclusive. The modern style was born in the early 20th century and hit its peak popularity between the 1950's and 1960's this specific era style is often referred to as mid-century modern. Modern design should not be confused with retro design, as retro designs are often considered more artistic with pops of funky colors. While retro design can include flat elements and shapes, a retro design may not always feature the geometric shapes that modern design is identified with. Some of the main characteristics of contemporary lighting includes are:

  • Era-Specific Design
  • Intentional Symmetry
  • Distinct Right Angles
  • Minimalism
  • A Clean and Fresh Appearance
  • Organic Color Patterns
  • Natural Materials



Kichler Moderne

As you can probably see for yourself, there are several characteristics of modern design and contemporary design that are shared. These shared elements often seem to be the reason that many see modern design and contemporary design as indistinguishable. Additionally, it doesn't make it any easier when we tell you that, in addition to these shared elements, contemporary design often incorporates elements of mid-century modernism. However, the similar design elements can also be an advantage, as modern products can be used in combination with contemporary products when furnishing a room. The shared characteristics between modern lighting and contemporary lighting are:

  • Simple lines
  • A Clean and Fresh Appearance
  • Minimalism
  • The Presence of Natural Materials (Woods and Metals)


Shop All Contemporary & Modern Lighting


We have selected a few products, so that you can test your new knowledge. We have pulled a contemporary lighting product, a modern product, and a modern/contemporary crossover product. Once you take the quiz, leave your answer in a comment below and we'll let you know if you're correct!

Kichler Armstrong

Tech Alina

Hinkley Fulton


Hint: Pay special attention to the angles, eras, and symmetry which the fixtures may or may not exhibit.

Good Luck!

Comment answers below!