Thoroughly Contemporary Millie? Not So Much

“Thoroughly Contemporary Millie.”  That movie title just doesn’t roll off the
tongue, does it? And maybe that’s because using the word
“contemporary” as a substitute for “modern” isn’t always
correct. In terms of design, contemporary refers to a look that is new, fresh,
timely, and constantly changing.  By
contrast, the word “modern” refers to a period of time, that period
of time which the movie, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” featured.  On the other hand, the TV show “Modern
Family” would probably be more accurately titled “Contemporary
Family.”  Likewise, modern dance
refers to a style which evolved early in the 20th century that rejected the
rigorous structure of classical ballet. In contemporary dance, just about
anything goes. Modern art refers to a style and philosophy of an entire era
spanning decades and the term usually brings to mind artists such as van Gogh,
Matisse, and Picasso, to name the most familiar.  Contemporary art is what artists are
typically doing now in the early 21st  century.

Theoretically, in the furniture
world, including the world of high-end office furniture, modern refers to a
style of furniture which became popular in the mid-twentieth century. Furniture
that looks like this would still be called “modern.” And strictly
speaking,  contemporary refers to a style
that is new, fresh, different from the era it follows.  It’s difficult to define contemporary, but
you pretty much know it when you see it. In reality, the world in which we live
and work, these terms, modern and contemporary, are often used interchangeably.  And sometimes the styles are mixed.

That gave me something to think about
as I sat a spell. In what ways am I modern – identifiable, consigned to a
particular era?  In what ways am I
contemporary – willing to look at things afresh, adaptable, streamlined?  And in what ways am I classic – structured, traditional,
timeless? It seems to me each of us is probably meant to be a combination of
all three styles!

The term for that would be
“eclectic”, but we’ll save that style for yet another blog post.