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Is your cellphone within arms’ reach? Are you working on a space-saving, tower-free computer? Does your refrigerator make ice and filter water? These are just a few examples of how technology has changed our everyday lives. But whether you realize it or not, technology is also responsible for altering the way we design and decorate our homes. Case in point: modern lighting.
Modern lighting emerged during the turn of the 20th century, as the Industrial Revolution was putting its stamp on society. Not only were consumers enthralled with new inventions–like Edison light bulb fixtures—but they were falling in love with the idea of minimalism. It was this age of the machine that gradually created a shift in interior design, leading to a sleeker, more futuristic look that many know and love today.
What is Modern Design?
The Definition of Modern Design vs. Contemporary
Many people confuse modern design with contemporary design. The truth is, the two terms are not interchangeable. One of the main differences is that contemporary design cannot be pigeon-holed to one particular time period.
Instead, contemporary is defined by the most current trends. Consider the fact that the word ‘contemporary’ means “belonging to the present” and it makes perfect sense. Because of this, though, contemporary is ever-evolving. For example, the 2019 lighting trends you see now – rich-colored hues and wicker shades – may not be as popular by 2025.
Modern, on the other hand, refers to a specific date in history. As a result, modern design can be clearly characterized by certain elements.
The History of Modern Design
Modern design was part of a larger movement, known as Modernism. Initially, this was an intellectual crusade that started in the late 19th century, but it quickly spread to other areas.
In fact, artists were among the early adopters of modernism. They were inspired by the Industrial Revolution and the idea of pushing boundaries. That’s how abstract art, cubism, and Bauhaus were born.
The defining minimalism and geometric shapes found in these art forms eventually flowed right into design and architecture. By the early 1920s, modern design had taken hold in homes everywhere.
Somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘60s, mid-century modern developed, as a spinoff of the classic modern design. This was considered the peak of
The Main Elements of Modern Design
A modern home almost always has an open floor plan to emphasize the unified flow throughout. There are, literally, minimal walls and as little clutter as possible. It’s a less-is-more approach, which eliminates any unnecessary knick-knacks or ornamentation.
Features of the home have to match the minimalist flow, which is why modern cabinets are flat with slender pulls and furniture is squared off and may appear to float mid-air. You also won’t find crown molding or decorative trimming around windows. Even wood floors have minimal grain lines to keep the visual crisp and uninterrupted.
Function over form
If you’re familiar with mid-century modern lighting, you know that this was a period in time when function trumped form. Designers put much more focus on an element’s ability to perform than anything else. Of course, this applies to much more than lighting. Every item and feature needs to have a purpose, or it does not have a place in your home – simple as that.
Since the Industrial Revolution was a major influence, common manufacturing materials are incorporated into modern design. Polished chrome and stainless steel are two favorites, but you’ll also see glass and brass features are thrown into the mix, as well.
Pops of color
Modern design is known for its warm neutrals that make up the majority of the house. To help break up the monochromatic color scheme, designers will add pops of color through pillows, area rugs, throw blankets, an accent wall, or abstract art or furniture. They often choose a primary color – blue, red or yellow – and use it very sparingly.
How to Spot Modern Lighting
Now that you know the general look and feel of modern design, let’s find the right modern lighting fixture. Modern lighting today is not exactly what it was in the mid-twentieth century, but all the same concepts still apply.
- Warm neutrals
- Polished chrome
- Stainless steel
- Black steel
- Glass shades
- Energy-efficient LED lighting
10 Modern Lighting Pieces That Make a Statement
Despite it being a decades-old style, modern lighting is alive and well-suited for your 21st-century home. With more efficient materials and statement-making profiles, you’re sure to find a fixture for any room in your house. Check out this beautiful selection of modern lighting to get you started.
Five gold rings is an instant winner in modern design. But make those rings long, narrow and accented with twisted glass, and you have an abstract piece of art. Give something this impressive prominent placement for your guests to applaud, and you might even get a standing ovation.
This series of slim, hexagon cylinders has as much movement as modernism itself. Not only are there 33 LED lights wrapped in matte-black acrylic, but they can each be adjusted to varying lengths. Because of its rectangular base, the Soho works best above your dining room table, where it can spread out and shine.
The Brim has three key modern elements: minimalism, geometry and an eye toward the future. But because it’s a 21st-century fixture, it also embraces efficiency. Between the LED lighting and pure simplicity, this oversized pendant is clearly influenced by technology. Ironically, though, it’s wildly effective at adding drama to your grand foyer or main living room.
You don’t have to be an actor to picture the heavy can lights that illuminate center stage. They’re big, bright and can be moved up and down, which is exactly the same function as the Paddle Pendant by ET2. This is a modern take on those hard-working spotlights. The difference is it has a thin profile and smart LED lighting, so you can finally let your kitchen shine.
Inspired by free-moving mobiles from the early 20th century, this truly modern chandelier is a conversation-starter. It may not have any ornate details or a warm wood finish, but it does have clean lines and outstretched arms. In a modern home, that’s all it takes to invite you to the eat-in-kitchen or cozy reading nook.
The Sputnik satellite launched in 1957, which is why this starburst pendant is so well fitted for a mid-century modern home. That said, you can’t overlook the rectangular metal cage and filament bulbs, which further accentuate its abstractness. Plus, you can always choose the polished nickel finish for a more classic modern look.
Though this modern chandelier is circular like a drum pendant, it remains edgy with its rectangular insets and clean, flat lines. Plus, nothing complements a neutral color scheme better than polished nickel and clear glass. Whether you have a slate-gray living room or tan-toned dining area, use the Stellaris to round out the space.
The Belladonna is as close to flowery and baroque as modern lighting fixtures come. You can see there are natural inspirations for this linear artform, but they have been completely digitized to match modern technology. The only things left are the crystal accents and soft swooping movement, which are meant to be admired during an intimate dinner party.
Sometimes, the simplest features can transform into complex structures. The Viaggio is an example of exactly that. It has clean, round glass globes, a round steel base, and straight suspension lines. But when it all comes together, it’s a bright ball of activity that deserves to be the center of attention in a bare-bones dining room.
This is another example of mid-century modern lighting, where elements of nature wiggle their way into the design. Here, it’s the acrylic fingers that encircle the LED lighting fixture. They mimic the sea anemone with their dainty tentacles and electric glow. You’ll definitely want to enjoy this lively piece in your living room or kitchen table.