What Are The Characteristics Of Modern Furniture?

modern furniture

Modern furniture can be summed up in one word: precise. There is a focus on function over form, but this doesn’t mean that it lacks style. It leans towards clean lines, neutral tones, natural materials, and overall simplicity in its design. For inspiration seekers, this makes modern furniture the perfect fit.

We’re here to break down the characteristics of the style and highlight designers who we feel embody the movement.

modern furniture

The History of Modern Furniture

Up until the early 1900s, opulence was the prevailing design style. Opulence demonstrated status, and ornate and intricate furnishings were a status symbol for many. In fact, the longer it took to create a furnishing, the better it was seen. Much like today, people loved to show off their home interiors. Painted vases, detailed wall trims, and brightly colored and textured upholstery were in abundance. This was also in line with the fashion and architectural design styles of the day, which were Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Neoclassical.

This changed in the early 1900s with World War 1. Suddenly, there was a shift towards functionality, also heavily influenced by the economic struggles of the time. Modernism, in more than just design, began as a rebellion against the opulence of the period before. Industrial advancements meant that furniture could be mass-produced, and materials like glass and metals could be used in the production process. This production process saved labor costs and time, money, and extra materials.

Despite starting out as just a bonus of industrialization, modern furniture soon found its niche in terms of style and aesthetics. Although mass-produced, this didn’t mean that furnishings weren’t also made with a designer’s eye in mind. The Bauhaus school and Deutscher Werkbund of Germany were influential players in the growth of the style, with many Bauhaus students going on to be pioneers of the design style. Their designs embody Modernist furniture: simple geometry, round corners, and the frequent use of metal.

modern furniture

Characteristics of the Style

Modern design lends itself to clean shapes, shiny finishes, and function over form. In essence, the characteristics of Modernist furniture are a direct contradiction to its ornate style predecessors. Modern design is often confused with contemporary design, which currently expands on Modernist trends but lacks the simplicity and unification of texture and color. Nevertheless, modern design has several hallmark characteristics that make the style stand out.

  • Clean Lines: Lines are what make the style. While some edges are rounded, especially corners or accent furnishings, there is a prominent trend towards straight and simple lines. Modern design is very minimalist in nature, and these clean lines give an impression of simplicity and stability in a space. They are also a contrast to the rounded and detailed edges of Victorian and Art Deco furnishings, which used any means possible to add an ornamental flair. Modern design is a no-fuss style.
  • Gloss Finish: A glossy or shiny finish gives the illusion of more space in a room. Single-toned leathers have a good natural finish that adds to the aesthetic without being overbearing on a space. This is also a simpler finish than the brocades that were present before World War 1.
  • Simple Shapes: Modern furniture can be simplified down to its shapes. At its core, the geometric nature of the designs embodies the movement most accurately. Simple shapes offered two key advantages—a clean visual appearance and easier manufacturing processes. As a key element of the movement was mass production, basic shapes were much simpler to produce with the technology of the time.
  • Function Over Form: Functionalism, another movement in the 1900s, also greatly influenced modern design. Functionalism broke furnishings (and buildings) down to their most basic form, creating designs that were built with their function in mind before aesthetics. While aesthetics still played a role, this reduction to function introduced multifunctional and modular furnishings that we still use today. Furniture that acts as storage, can be moved to change shape, or items that have multiple uses are all products of this movement.
  • Neutral Colors: Where the Victorian style embodied bright and sometimes garish colors, the modern design movement stripped this back to understated neutrals. This shift helped to open up the visual perspective of a room, adding a lightness where the designs could stand on their own.
  • Natural Materials: The final key marker of modern design is the use of natural materials. Exposed wood and metal are the most common, with chair legs and backs frequently made of these materials and left on display. Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair is a perfect example of modern design: the exposed chrome-plated steel legs add a dynamic flourish to a minimalist and clean seat.
modern furniture

Modernist Designer Spotlight

The modern design movement branched into Functionalist modern, transitional modern, and commercial modern, with the advent of even more industrial advancement opening the door to boundless design and manufacturing possibilities. There are many designers who continue to create modern furniture, brought into the 21st century with expert craftsmanship and global inspirations.

Thayer Coggin are industry leaders in modern design, and they particularly draw from mid-century modern inspirations. They have been designing furnishings since 1953 and have remained committed to modern design ever since. From modular seating to swivel chairs, they encapsulate the minimalist modern design style into every piece they create, also offering custom upholstered furniture from their selection of fabrics and materials.

Lazar takes the modern design style and elevates it, with a heavy focus on simplicity, luxury, and making a bold decision. They know how to find the balance between style, functionality, and comfort, and this shines through in each design that they offer.

Modern Furniture in Boca Raton

Inspired by what modern furniture has to offer? Look no further than our Boca Raton interior design showroom. We’d love for you to visit our showroom and see these modern inspirations in person.

Give us a call today at 561-961-4149 to schedule an appointment with our design consultants we can’t wait to work with you to revitalize your style with modern design.

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