Contemporary vs. Modern Architecture

Contemporary vs. Modern Architecture



Are you confused about what the difference is between contemporary architecture and modern architecture? Read on to learn more about these two very different styles and the sort of look they break to a home.

The Basic Difference Between Contemporary and Modern Architecture

To put it simply, modern architecture typically points to a type of style built between the early 1900s and the 1950s. It's a very distinct, defined style and it doesn't change.

So while you might think of "modern" and see images of houses built today, that's actually not what it means in terms of architecture.

The contemporary design essentially means "the style of today." It's not something that can be pinpointed exactly, because styles and fashions and trends change so quickly.

To put it simply, "modern" refers to a specific time period in American history and "contemporary" refers to the ever-changing trends in house design of today.

Modern ArchitectureNow you have a better understanding of the basics, let's break it down a little more for you.


The modern design came after a long period of highly decorated and ornate home design that held high favor at the end of the 19th century. At the time, eclecticism, Victorian, and Edwardian style were the lay of the land and architects felt the need to go against these traditions.

Modernist architecture emerged in the 20th century and created homes that didn't have that ornate flare that homes of that time were so used to. Instead, the homes had open floor plans, asymmetry, and huge panels of windows or glass walls.

They wanted to create a simple home that was also highly functional. They left out anything unnecessary.

At the time that modernism was created, technology was starting to take hold. More and more people were starting to move away from their roots and into fast-paced environments. This left little room for creativity, spirituality, and emotional connection.

Modernists wanted to allow the people who lived in their homes to feel closer and more connected to nature. And because of this, they built homes to get rid of the boundaries between inside and outside. They wanted the outside of the home to complement the environment around it.

Today's Modernism

In today's world, you might look at a home designed to look modern and consider it to be cold. Those stark lines and minimalism might seem off-putting at first, but when you step inside, you might be surprised at just how warm it all is.

This is probably because of the dark, rich woods and marble that homebuilders used to create their homes, and all the warm colors that were popular at the time.

Contemporary Architecture

While modernism put down roots in nature and simplicity, the contemporary architecture looks at what is going on right now.

Architects that build homes towards the contemporary style usually create their homes to be as innovative and advanced as they can.

These homes will almost always appear more complex than modern homes do. They try to incorporate all different kinds of styles and create free-form lines and movements within the structure.

Contemporary homes started to appear in the 1970s, but that doesn't mean that the style stayed the same. Remember, contemporary style sticks with the times and what is popular right now.

Contemporary homes and modern architecture share a lot of different features, so it can be hard to pick out which is which. Sometimes a contemporary label on a home means it has influence from different styles.

Today, many contemporary homes pay homage to craftsman-style homes while keeping up with large, open floorplans that modern homes made popular. What's interesting is that they never rely too heavily on one style; instead always looking at all of them as equals.

Contemporary Architecture Today

As of 2018, a contemporary home is one that includes many high-tech features. Eco-friendly homes are on the rise, and with that comes the development of more energy efficient measures and sustainability.

Homes made from repurposed barn wood or old shipping containers are also quickly rising in popularity.

Modern vs. Contemporary

Let's put the visual differences between contemporary and modern architecture aside for a moment. There's another interesting difference between the two.

In general, when listed as "modern," homes sell a lot faster. This is surprising because truly modern homes are more expensive than contemporary homes.

The reason for this could be the fact that people believe in a negative connotation of the word "contemporary". Many think the word means "dated".

Which Is Better?

If you're looking for a home and you're not sure if you prefer modern architecture or contemporary architecture, just remember that both styles of homes offer their own beautiful benefits. They're just different.

If you're ever unsure of the definition, think of it this way: modern indicates a specific time period and contemporary means "right now."