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What Does “Modern” Furniture Mean, Anyway?


Furniture design has been through a number of iterations throughout history. For centuries, furniture was rare and extremely functional, though over time, ornamentation came into vogue. Couches, which have also been dubbed “divans,” “Chesterfields,” and “davenports” at various points throughout history were originally more like the modern concept of daybeds and were intended more for reclining than for sitting.

The year 1691 saw the first distinction made between formal spaces and casual spaces when Charles Augustin d’Aviler released the first edition of “Lessons of Architecture,” an architectural manual which emphasized a difference between more formal spaces and those that are “le plus habite,” the most lived in, creating the first concept of what we now know as the living room. It was this birth that began the transition towards today’s modern furniture.

Since 1691 there have undoubtedly been periods of interest in heavier, more ornately decorated, and more ostentatious pieces than modern home furniture. However, we have generally remained on a path toward ever simpler design. Today’s ultra modern furniture designs are characterized by straight, simple, clean lines and fabrics. Here, we’ll look at some of the characteristics often found in high end contemporary furniture and luxury contemporary furniture.

Modern furniture is…

  1. Simple. It tends to be straightforward in purpose and design. Most pieces have straight, defined edges and are simple for the eye to understand. There is some distinction between modern furniture and contemporary furniture in that contemporary furnishings usually have more figure and exposure of shape.
  2. Neutral in color. This is an area in which modern furniture and contemporary furniture are often confused. While splashy, bright, and vivid colors are characteristic of contemporary furniture, modern furniture is most decidedly neutral.
  3. Aesthetically interesting. Simplicity and visual satisfaction can be difficult to combine, though modern furniture tends to embody both qualities. Pieces are more like art than room fillers.
  4. Un-cluttered. Modern furniture is generally minimalist and is designed to free upward space, providing a more open and airy environment. Most pieces are designed with free space in mind.
  5. Useful. Modern furniture is designed to serve a purpose, if not three or four. Beds might not only provide a space to sleep, but storage underneath. Aside from aesthetic interest, modern furniture has built-in performance capability.

Undoubtedly, trends in home furniture will continue to change, though it’s hard to imagine furniture becoming even more simple and modern than it already is. Be on the lookout for new innovations, though! Modern furniture is constantly changing and streamlining.

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