If you’re looking to buy some modern furniture, you may want to know exactly what to look for. What do the lines look like? Are there any modern furniture design features you should look out for? How can you know if you’re getting good quality at an affordable price? With these seven ways to spot modern furniture in interior design, you’ll have all the answers you need to make smart choices about your next furniture purchase.
1) Is the item sleek?
Sleek furniture is minimalist and contemporary, with minimal lines and smooth surfaces. The furniture will be mostly solid so that you won’t see a lot of natural materials—most likely just plastic or metal. Payless furniture is usually very affordable, while luxury furniture isn’t cheap. Look for simple elements like exposed piping and modern design features like angular edges or pull-out drawers. Sleek, simple designs are best paired with other contemporary accessories—bolder shapes may distract from a piece’s excellent lines. You may also see design elements that overlap with pop art styles—smooth finishes on round and tubular objects can look very similar to Warhol’s Campbell soup cans.
2) Does it have clean lines?
Simple and clean design often goes hand-in-hand with modern furniture. If you see curved or intricate lines, it’s probably not modern. A little geometry is fine—the chairs of designers Charles and Ray Eames are iconic examples of a little bit of curvature in modern design—but anything too ornate is likely old furniture instead of new furniture. If you can easily draw lines around your object, it’s likely more contemporary than period/traditional (unless it has an antique style/look).
3) Are there unexpected materials?
Amongst luxury furniture, unexpected materials can be a good indicator of modernity. For example, designer and contemporary Christian Linke use orange-colored upholstery with black accents in his designs. If you’re shopping for your own home or looking to furnish a corporate office, look for something different than you would typically see elsewhere.
This could be anything from an out-of-the-ordinary color scheme or design elements like asymmetrical lines; both have become mainstays of modern design that ensure you’re looking at modern furniture. Another easy way to identify modern furniture is by its price tag—is it much cheaper than you expected? You might just be looking at modern furniture disguised as regular pieces.
4) Is it designed to look like its made out of one solid material?
One of the essential features of modern furniture is its clean, sophisticated lines. If a piece looks like it was made out of one solid material, it could be modern. Payless furniture often uses that old trick to fool people into thinking they’re getting something special. It may look like it’s all one piece, but upon closer inspection, you can see where multiple materials were stitched together, clearly showing what a cheap price tag item is. When looking for luxury furniture, always look for completely or almost completely solid pieces—the more intricate and beautiful design elements, the better!
5) Are there no visible connectors (i.e., nails, screws)?
First, look for exposed connectors. The absence of visible hardware (nails, screws) or visible welding points is a good indicator that you’re looking at modern furniture. It also means that if you want to get it home, you’ll have to disassemble it and reassemble it—payless furniture often requires extra hands when moving.
However, hidden connectors don’t mean you’re not looking at modern furniture; sometimes parts are joined together without unsightly fasteners, and unnoticeable welds are used—so be sure to check other design elements before determining your piece’s origin.
6) Does it remind you of a newer car or tech gadget?
Many modern pieces feature sleek curves, sharp angles, and gleaming metal. If your piece reminds you of a car or tech gadget, it’s probably modern. Don’t be surprised if it seems like furniture makers are modeling their pieces after cars and phones! With technology playing an increasingly important role in our lives and culture, you can bet designers will continue to incorporate its distinctive look into home decor.
7) Does it look like it came from a sci-fi movie?
If a piece of furniture looks like it’s from a distant galaxy, it might just be considered modern. The shape could be radical or minimal; hard angles or round edges; space-age materials or organic materials. But you can always identify a piece as modern if you feel like you’re looking at something that came out of Blade Runner or Star Wars.
Many excellent examples of modern furniture have been created by designers inspired by science fiction books and movies, so don’t discount futuristic details just because they’re unusual.
What does contemporary furniture look like?
Before discussing how to identify modern furniture, you must understand what modernism is. In short, modernism is a design movement that lasted from approximately 1910 until 1965, when it started influencing designs that would later be called postmodernism.
To many people (and most laypeople), modern furniture and contemporary furniture are synonymous terms, and they’re used casually today. A more precise definition of modern furniture (which we’ll explore below) would probably mean that not all mid-century or even late-19th century pieces could qualify as contemporary. This isn’t some hair-splitting quibble about semantics; it’s about understanding your target and accurately describing it!
What is a modern style of furniture?
If you want to purchase modern furniture for your home, you must understand what that style entails. That’s because modern furniture is anything but traditional. While many facets of design can be considered current, they all have one thing in common: they’re meant to look very different from old-fashioned styles. With a little knowledge and careful observation, you’ll have no trouble identifying truly modern furniture when you see it. One important note before we begin: when we talk about furniture styles, it’s almost always used as a blanket term that applies to both commercial and residential pieces (though it may sometimes be used as a synonym for commercial). So think of these tips as guidelines for any piece of furniture or decorating element around your home.