Modern Furniture Design - Modern vs Contemporary Style​


How would you describe modern furniture design? Discover everything you need to know about this style and how it can work for you.

With so many different styles and design choices available, it can be difficult to know which one is the best for you until it’s too late and your home is filled with the wrong design. We take an in-depth look at the ‘modern’ furniture style and compare it to the contemporary design so that you have a better understanding of which fits your wants more.

Modern furniture design can be difficult to classify as there are so many different takes on it, but we’re going to cover the minimalist interpretation. Here are a few key background points on the minimalist modern movement and what to look for when classifying this style of furniture.

Modern Era Decor

Less is more with this type of design. People who enjoy this type of modern design tend to believe that the more stuff you have, the more cluttered your area can feel. Modern furniture design takes the bare necessities and makes them fashionable. You’ll likely find abstract art on white walls with white leather furniture. Along with this minimal feel, there tends to be a blast from the past. Many modern furniture designs take elements from the 60s and 70s and bring them to the present.

The Modernist Movement

This movement began around the 60s in New York and has spread fast throughout the world. The combination of simplicity, minimalism, and modern chic are what defines this movement and the epicenter remains in the modern high-rise apartment that populates New York City. As we mentioned, less is more with the modernist movement, and some go as far to say that 100 items is too many to be classified as a minimalist. In modern furniture design, that 60s beginning is still felt with many allusions to nature.

What is Modern Furniture?

The idea for modern furniture comes from this minimalist movement that started in the 60s, though the true assertion that minimalists can have no more than 100 items has faded in recent years. Modern furniture is likely to be block-like in design and have little to no natural flow to it. Your square, white-leather coffee table is a common favorite for modern furniture design.

Background and Influences

As alluded to, the minimalist movement had a major influence on the modernist style. Less is more, and the complex patterns and vibrant colors typically found in a bohemian style will be left behind for an industrial, cold environment. The cold feel of a modernist apartment is done on purpose as many prefer the rich-chic feel that it provides.

What are the Characteristics of Modern Furniture Design?

In order for furniture to be considered part of this minimalist modern design, it must adhere to the patterns laid out by some of the most famous designers. Features, colors, and materials are three of the most important identifiers of a modern furniture design.

Distinguishing Features – Square and hard corners are your best friend with furniture. Leave the crazy angles and bent lines to lamps and chandeliers. The coffee tables should be a solid block and the couch should host a smaller size than your typical farmhouse design. Many regard this as being ‘uncomfortable’ looking, but the design is supposed to echo that minimalist feel.

Colors and Materials – Whites, grays, and blacks will typically be the vibe a modern interior designer is going for. Black will likely be used as emphasis, with the white colors being the bulk of the design. Leather seems to be a designers’ favorite material in a modern furniture design. Woods and earthy materials are also common statement pieces in a modern design.

Modern Versus Contemporary Furniture Design

What is the difference between modern and contemporary furniture? In a sense, they certainly are synonyms, but as far as furniture is concerned, there are many differences to look out for. It’s important to note that both styles are minimalist, but modern takes on a feeling of the past with many allusions to the 60s and 70s where the movement began. Contemporary designs use more modern materials like concrete and glass with wood being shied away from whereas modern furniture design often brings in natural materials.

Modern Designers

Harry Bertoia might be one of the most influential designers on today’s modern furniture. His artistic style encompasses much of what we consider to be minimalist in today’s world. Florence Knoll was another mid-century designer who can be considered the reason for much of today’s modern furniture design. She was an interior designer who established a popularity for the style.

Modern Furniture Ideas For Every Room

Now that we have an understanding of what the modern furniture design is, let’s get into designing your home using this type of furniture. Here are some ideas for each room based on the common trends found in the modernist and minimalist movements.

Modern Living Room

Living Room Furniture

  • Small, wooden coffee tables as the table space
  • Thin, golden standing lamps for light and accent
  • Sleek, white leather couches and uniquely shaped accent chairs should surround the space

Modern Kitchen

Dining Room and Kitchen Furniture

  • Stick with the wood for the table and chairs
  • Keep the furniture minimal

Modern Bedroom

Bedroom Furniture

  • Nightstands are important, but make sure they don’t take up too much space
  • Your bed should be the centerpiece
  • Wooden vanities with top-heavy designs

Office Furniture

  • The wooden desk is where the minimalist design will shine
  • A black or white, leather swivel chair
  • Plenty of white or gold accent pieces throughout the office on shelves or bookcases

Outdoor Furniture

  • Lounge and relax with a pool-side style chair
  • Similar style outdoor furniture to your living room couch
  • White, cushioned couches with square wooden linings

How to Choose the Best Modern Furniture Pieces For Your Style

In the end, it all comes down to what you want most out of your space. Do you have to adhere to the less than 100 items philosophy of the minimalist? No, very few designers do. However, if this modern style is right for you, then you’ll want to keep it simple and bring in furnishings with shapes and colors that compliment the modern furniture design best.

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