Choosing furniture for a home is not something to be done in a moment. With so much choice in terms of style and other factors, it pays to spend some time browsing home and interior magazines, websites, and blogs for inspiration.
Whether you have an ultra-modern apartment or a period home, there is plenty to look at.
In this article, we are talking about two of the on-trend furniture design styles in fashion today – modern and contemporary. But what do these terms mean, and what is the difference between them?
We hope we can explain this in simple terms, so let’s begin by looking at modern furniture.
A. What is Modern Furniture?
If you check out a range such as EQ3’s modern furniture, you may notice something unusual. These designs are based on styles that were in vogue some time ago, rather than being bang up to date.
When we refer to modern furniture, we are talking about a design movement in the early part of the 20th century.
Scholars will tell the era for modern design came between 1920 and 1950. During this period, designers did all they could to move away from the fussy and detailed styles of the Victorian and slightly later furniture designs.
If you want an example of a famous modern design school, look at the Bauhaus movement in 1919. The many designers who emerged from the Bauhaus scene favored clean, sleek, and minimalist styles still echoed today.
So, modern does not mean up to date – that’s what contemporary furniture is!
B. What is Contemporary Furniture?
Many of the 20th-century design trends that remain popular today have their roots in the modern design movement. The style of modern furniture made today remains true to the ethos of those early 20th century designers.
Rather than being a design movement, contemporary simply means ‘of the time.’ Contemporary design today – in 2021 – is what is popular and trending. It may differ considerably from what was contemporary, for example, in the 1980s.
It follows, then, that contemporary will be the style of furniture you see most in stores, catalogs, and other sources, so let’s outline the differences in design between these two types of furniture.
C. What are the Differences?
While modern design is strict in adhering to a formula, if you like, contemporary is influenced by what is popular at the time. It’s difficult, therefore, to describe entirely what to expect from contemporary furniture.
For the following explanations, we are talking about what contemporary furniture generally resembles. The four main areas of difference are style, color, lines and materials, so we will have a brief look at each of these.
The style of modern furniture remains the same in replicas and examples inspired by the movement. This means simple and clean with no fussy detailing. Modern was as much about practicality and ease of manufacturing as it was about how things looked.
For example, contemporary furniture will look good in an average setting – your traditional living room, and is not bound by strict design rules. A modern chair would look out of place in such a setting, while a contemporary example simply fits in without any effort.
As contemporary furniture design is loose and changeable, the color palette used can cover the entire spectrum. You can find furniture of this type in bright, bold colors and more neutral, paler, perhaps pastel shades.
Modern design shies away from color and remains neutral – black and grey, perhaps beige and brown – to remain simple yet stylish.
The lines on contemporary furnishing can be just about anything, yet they have one major difference to modern. Modern furniture is all about geometry and straight lines; contemporary furnishings will always embrace curves.
Straight lines go together easily, while curves tend to be harder to achieve. This is another nod to the modern design movement, also being about manufacturing with ease.
You will find that contemporary furniture is usually made with wood and often upholstered. Modern furniture uses natural materials, including wood, but also veers towards plastics and metal.
This gives it the clean and sometimes industrial look that the modern design movement leaves its legacy.
When applied to furniture design, the terms modern and contemporary can be confusing as, at first, they seem to be the wrong way around!
Think of modern furniture as being designed to a set of rules – rules devised in the 1920s and 1930’s – while contemporary furniture fits no set or rules at all and can be anything the designer wants.
Whichever you prefer, we hope we’ve helped you understand the difference between contemporary and modern furniture.