The words “modern” and “contemporary” get thrown around together a lot, often used interchangeably to refer to something that’s happening now, in the present — for example, “modern love” and “contemporary fiction.”
When it comes to art and design, there is an important difference between modern and contemporary.
The term “modern” in the design world comes from the Modern art movement, which spanned between the 1860s and 1970s. Modern artists explored new approaches to seeing and portraying nature and art in their work. This is captured, for instance, in the work of Manet, Monet, Picasso, and Matisse.
Modern furniture design developed along with the Modern art movement, and mid-century modern refers to furniture design specific to the 1950s and 1960s.