The advancement of technology has paved way to the modernization of everything including furniture. Things gradually have been designed to fit the modern living. As more things evolved, more things needed to be improved. That is what mainly separates modern or contemporary furniture from the preceding styles. It has emphasis on function at the same time highlighting the form.
Perhaps the most dominant characteristics of contemporary furniture are the revolutionary fine straight lines as opposed to the curves of the traditional furniture. Contemporary sofas and chairs have geometric and strong linear features. Contemporary tables, consoles and cabinets have short, simple and straight legs. Decorative accessories like ruffles, tassels, intricate carvings disappeared baring simpler and cleaner designs. Modern furniture has also been designed with free shapes that follows the human body. Ergonomics has been a requisite consideration for modern furniture manufacturing. The design focuses on improved body support for health and productivity.
As the Industrial Revolution begun to spread, it has proved to be a benefit especially to furniture design and manufacturing. The invention of machines enabled light materials to be made into furniture. Metal has also begun to be crafted as furniture and so did synthetic materials like molded plywood, plastic resin, fiber glass, mirrors, steel and wire mesh.
The mood that the modern furniture tone creates are relaxing and laid back, with the light minimalist approach that interior designers usually pair with neutral colored themes. Gray, white and black are the dominant colors for modern furniture. The interior design intends for the room to look bare to highlight the accent pieces within the room.
A perfect example of contemporary furniture and interior design.
The early 50′s saw the birth of modern furniture. It was when the furniture started to be less ornamented. The major focus of furniture shifted from aesthetics to comfort. Almost all sofa’s during this decade was upholstered. Most storage furniture has also started to evolve into simpler design with which gave more attention into their true usage.
All through out the decade, solid wood was the popular material when crafting furniture. Black walnut, hickory, and mahogany were some of the more beautiful dark woods that were also used. Those materials remain the primary materials that are still being used today.
As the art revolution climbed its peak during the 1970′s, furniture making rode along with it. The art during this decade is mainly centered on free expression, hence bold colors and chunky shapes have started to be excessively used, creating a funky look that is increasingly eclectic. Numerous art genres stemmed into specific sub-genres like Space Art, kitsch and pop arts which also found their way into furniture design.
The use of woods are still prevalent, only it has progressed to woods with darker palettes like teak wood and pine wood.
While the 70′s highlighted art, the 80′s saw a broader manufacturing improvement. Materials became not only limited to wood, but metal has also been crafted into furniture. New materials proved to be very convenient as they are easy to maintain and easy to produce. It was the decade when technology became the center of furniture making.
As furniture evolved there are people and companies which are responsible for its growth. Among the most noted contemporary furniture designers are Ray and Charles Eames. Charles Eames believed in “affordable, yet high-quality furniture for the average consumer — furniture that could serve a variety of uses.” Perhaps the most celebrated design of the Eames are the single-shelled chairs that are made of molded plywood. Their designs are mainly aimed for mass production.
- The Eameses’ 1946 molded-plywood chair of developed from the chairs Charles and Saarinen entered in The Museum of Modern Art’s 1940 “Organic Design” competition in which they took first place.
There are also institutions that promoted modern furniture design. The most well- known is the Bauhaus. It is a school in Germany that applies fine arts into crafts. They are famous for the publicizing and teaching of this design. The trademark of Bauhaus is the absence of ornamentation and harmony between the function of an object and its design, which eventually became one of the major definitive factors of modern furniture.
Currently, the modern furniture design has been subdivided into specific styles and each of them is reminiscent of a certain decade. Collectively they embody the common characteristics of modern furniture but there are distinct characteristics that separates them with each other.
Urban furniture is probably the most modern looking among the styles. The pieces are usually small but very functional because they are designed with small, city spaces in mind. They are characterized by striking lines and shapes, very little or no ornamentation, black along with a range of bright or primary colors. They are mostly made of materials such as metal, light wood, glass, leather and microfibers.
On the other hand, Retro is perhaps the oldest looking of the styles. It is an eclectic interpretation and reminiscent of the eras from the 1940s to the 1970s. The actual pieces do not necessarily need to be old, but they can be new items that reference styles of the past. Some examples of this are the one piece modular plastic chairs, Formica-topped tables , chrome bar stools, replica of furniture from1950s diners, boomerang tables, space-age style furniture and items with pop culture flavor.
Art Deco furniture is depicted by fine lines and elegant curves minus the elaborate carvings of traditional furniture. The pieces are elegant and streamlined with light finishes and lacquer and are crafted from medium toned woods and mirrored and chromed surfaces. They are mostly made of new materials such as exotic leathers, silver and gold leaf, mother-of-pearl, ivory, metals, glass, mirrors, synthetic plastics and resins.
Moreover, Mid-Century Modern’s distinguishing characters are the basic but fierce designs that are almost sculptural in quality. The pieces also focus on function with less ornamentation and fine, sleek lines. The materials that are mostly used a mix of traditional material, such as wood, and non-traditional materials such as metal, glass, vinyl, plywood. The purpose of juxtaposing materials is to explore texture and a vast range of color.
Another prominent style is Casual Contemporary. It has laid- back, easy and calm style a far cry from the strictness and formality mid-century modern style. The major definitive characteristics of the style are medium wood tones, made of glass pieces, leather with a range of textures in fabrics and soft or overstuffed surfaces and pillows for sofa.
Contemporary furniture are embraced by many because they are not only convenient but also stylish. And with art marrying technology it is quite interesting what this two would give birth too in the future. Will contemporary furniture can still be called modern, fifty years from now? We cant really tell.