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A Brief History of Modern and Contemporary Furniture


“Modern” and “contemporary”, are very intriguing terms. Although these two terms are generally interchangeable and hold similar definitions in most walks of life, when it comes to furniture they are two completely separate entities.

Many people will assume that “modern” seating will have been designed within the last couple of decades or so. Whilst normally this may be a correct assumption to draw, it cannot be applied everywhere. Furniture, art and fashion define things a little differently.

Modern – Not So Simple

Rather than being defined simply as “something new”, the arts refers to the term “modern” as being related to the Modernism movement. This came about at the end of the 19th century to the beginning of 20th century. This was a time where new and great minds were beginning to come to the forefront. A rapidly evolving world provided new innovations in design.

By this stage, the played out repetition of Victorian furniture was becoming tired. Newfound simplicity was being suggested and designs were completely overhauled. This even applied right down to the technology and designs used to create it.

Accepting a Change

Although it was not a new principle by this time and had been carried out throughout the continent, most of Europe was properly introduced to the concept of Modernism after the First World War. Perceptions were changed and a new breed of design was in. Cultural values became more accepted. Traditional manufacturing methods began to be challenged. The search for simpler designs and materials began.

Different countries each had their own unique take of Modernism. For example, materials used ranged from wood in Scandinavia and steel in France and Germany. Around a decade or so later, Modernism was widely recognised as being a genuine style by most of Europe. There as an ability to forge better economic value by using more practical production techniques and materials than alternative methods. Below is a timeline dating different movements of Modernism.

Modern Furniture

A New Beginning

Each sector gave something special and unique to the world of furniture art and fashion. Legendary designers such as Gropius, Breuer and Noguchi went against traditional decor ideas and created a brand new designs.

Modernism was not dead and buried by 1970 but the last few decades of the 20th century saw in a new Post Modern era. Most of the values held dear by Modernism were retained though. the main one being particular theories that furniture should be both as cheap as possible to both manufacture and buy yet maintain high levels of quality.

When we see new furniture such as tub chairs, it is clear that design and practise has come a long way. New patterns have emerged which previously could not be found. Floral and multi-coloured designs for example are prevalent in many home. Today’s furniture can even twin the two concepts together. A contemporary chair with the plain, slick look of modern furniture and vice versa. From classic wooden rocking chairs to these trendy new seats and all the efforts in between, we can only look forward to what the next breed of must have furniture shall look like.

Anna Sharples

Office and marketing manager for Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs, who sell a range of high-quality tub chairs, accent chairs and more.