Unlike previous modern furniture styles, such as Art Deco, contemporary furniture is often defined by its fluidity: put simply, there's no one 'look' that really dominates, which is a natural consequence of today's postmodern age. As such, it can be tricky to distinguish from other furniture styles - cue our convenient top 5 tips for identifying contemporary furniture...
From the 1960s, furniture began to really embrace the use of plastics and solid wood distinguished by bright, bold colors. Vibrant oranges, reds, blues, purples and lime greens were being used in ways that had barely been imagined before. Such colors are often combined with white in contemporary furniture to complement the ethereal nature of many modern interior spaces. Alternatively, contemporary furniture can also feature block colors of white and black, creating a striking appeal.
If you are looking at a table-top, chair or similar item sporting large areas of continuous bold color or white with no patterns or embossing, chances are that you have a piece of contemporary furniture on your hands.
Paired to the craze for bright colors in the furniture that took hold in the second half of the 20th century was a tendency towards a very simple and clean aesthetic style.
In some cases over the years, that has manifested in especially square, angular designs like those of Le Corbusier. In more recent times, however, it has often meant very beautiful, organically-shaped furniture belying the reputation of contemporary furniture in some circles as 'unnatural' or 'soulless'.
Older, more traditional furniture was generally created for homeowners who wanted a 'full' physical and visual experience in their property - hence, the more intricate and extravagant styles of many of those pieces.
Today's furniture, however, is often designed for the many different priorities of homeowners who want to give their rooms a more clean, spacious look. A typical piece of contemporary furniture is therefore very simply adorned as part of a crisp and fresh appearance, often incorporating just one or two colors.
The minimalist modern style is all about achieving a lot with very little, which in the case of contemporary furniture, helps to create clutter-free, practical and relaxing spaces.
That's why modern furniture designers are often all too happy to incorporate some extra drawers or shelving into a piece where there may have previously been more of a purely visual feature, with such items - ranging from bookshelves and coffee tables to TV stands and nightstands - also usually being much sturdier in design and manufactured to last longer than older furniture pieces.
Whereas the typical piece of furniture from the ages preceding 20th century modernism - or which owes a debt to the aesthetic of such days - is likely to make extensive use of traditional fabrics and older woods, more recent furniture draws more frequently upon the materials of the industrial age.
What does that mean? Well, it means that a given furniture piece may combine such natural, warm materials as wood, leather, stone and teak with metals and plastics designed to offset the former materials' qualities and give a balanced sense of 'yin and yang'.
From steel tables to metal-bottomed sofas, there are so many examples of contemporary furniture pieces that combine the purposeful, industrial look of 'man-made' materials with those more comforting, homely materials that many have much longer associated with domestic furniture.
Have fun with your furniture spotting - whatever style you may have in mind!
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