Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture

Modern vs. Contemporary Furniture – Is there a Difference?

If the time we live in “right now” is considered “modern times”, but “contemporary” is also a word describing the present, then is there a difference between Modern and Contemporary furniture? It’s only common sense to think of Modern and Contemporary as one and the same, right?

The confusion begins when people speak about Modern Furniture, what they are in fact referring to is a style called “Mid Century Modern” based on the Modernist art movement. The style name is generally shortened to “Modern”.  Contemporary furniture, on the other hand, generally refers to the styles that are popular in the present. The means that the style of contemporary is forever changing to keep up with current trends, whereas Modern furniture refers to a design style from one specific time period.

What is Mid Century Modern Furniture?

The Modernist movement (c. 1918-1950) focuses on form and function. This movement celebrated advances in technology during the industrial revolution. One specific example of this is the development of tubular steel, which for the first time, introduced curved steel structures within design and architecture.

Prior to this period, furniture was generally hand-crafted and more ornate. Mass production did exist prior to the 1920’s, but started to become more prevalent post 1920 and characteristic of the style. Mid Century Modern design can be described as clean, unadorned lines, and relying on more natural materials such as timber and leather. However, plastic, steel and plywood were also used in Modern furniture design also. The furniture is typically long and low, sitting up off the floor on legs rather than directly on the floor. This gives the space an open, clean and airy atmosphere.

What is Contemporary Furniture?

Since “Contemporary Furniture” is defined as the style of furniture that is popular in the present, the design is forever growing and evolving. What was considered contemporary furniture design 20 or 40 years ago, will be different to what is considered contemporary furniture design today.

Currently, the contemporary furniture design concepts have common elements of: simplicity, subtle yet sophisticated, conscious use of different textures, white and neutral shades, a fresh look as well as clean lines. Moving as far away from a “cluttered” feel as possible, the style showcases the amount of space in a room, rather than a focus on things.


So can furniture be both Modern and Contemporary?

Coming from two separate time periods, can furniture styles be both modern and contemporary? In fact, contemporary styles are often based on the concepts of Modernism. Even in the description of Mid Century Modern design concepts and what is evident in contemporary styles, the crossover between the two is clear. This is so evident, that even some pieces that were created almost 100 years ago, still have an up-to-date, practical and on-trend look.

Modern design is popular today because of the current preference for simplicity of form, varied natural materials, practicality, function and neutral shades. Further information of Modernist furniture design, famous designers and examples of the furniture is readily available to view online. As you’ll come to notice Modern furniture styles are extremely prevalent today.

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