To the uninitiated eye, modern and contemporary designs are one and the same. Most people would typically use other terms when trying to describe the look and feel of a home. For instance, one might use the words clean or neutral when trying to describe how they feel about a furniture arrangement. The words contemporary and modern have much deeper meanings and people incorrectly use them as interchangeable terms.
Modern furniture design is often characterised by having clean, simple and minimal designs. However, this isn’t because modern necessarily stands for those design principles. What modern furniture actually refers to is the time period in which it has been designed. Nowadays, people value the concept of minimal design due to space constraints and a trend towards simple living. As a result, modern furniture now often refers to clean and minimal design concepts; it’s a movement that has been interpreted with cultural changes, trends and needs—making the term ‘modern’ an idea which is always changing, never static.
Contemporary, on the other hand, often refers to designs that are new but draw inspiration from eras that have passed. By definition, contemporary means to “live or occur at the same time”. In essence, it means to pull designs that were once popular in the past so that we can use them in our current time. If you enjoyed iconic furniture from the past of a certain period of time, then contemporary furniture could be right for you. It’s made to be stylish, comfortable, and appeal to our current tastes instead of being widely accepted as the norm, the way that modern furniture is defined.
The Founding of Modern Furniture
Prior to the 19th century, furniture was often seen as elaborate and expensive, but rarely ever functional. Complex designs were common and much of the styles were considered avant-garde at the time. When World War II concluded, people started to live and think differently. Waste was reduced, the new, wide availability of modern materials heavily influenced furniture designs and it was a huge departure from the artistic style of 19th-century design.
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