Simple and sleek lines distinguish contemporary furniture. The absence of intricate detail or carving distinguishes it from more traditional style furniture. Contemporary furniture has either hard-edged or gently curved lines. Finishes can range from very light to very dark. Traditional and non-traditional materials are used and frequently combined, as are new concepts and materials.
The terms “contemporary style” and “traditional style” both encompass a wide range of styles. Contemporary style furniture is usually smaller in scale because it is designed for today’s homes. It, like traditional furniture styles, seeks inspiration from the rest of the world, and Asian influences can be found everywhere. Beginning with the most recent era, here are some examples of contemporary furniture styles.
Art deco furniture is regarded as the first modern style. Rather than the intricate carvings found in traditional furniture, it is distinguished by sensuous lines and curves. Combining luxurious materials with synthetic ones resulted in a distinct style. As a result, while art deco decor is not overly formal, it can be extremely elegant. Art deco furniture and décor exhibit the following characteristics:
- Finishes include silver and gold leaf, mother-of-pearl, ivory, and lacquered.
- Geometric patterns and themes are repeated in upholstery, wallpaper, and light fixtures.
- Furniture and accessories made of plastic and resin
- Surfaces with mirrors and chrome
Midcentury modern design, popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, is distinguished by stark and simple designs with almost sculptural qualities. This style was associated with Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Saarinen, all of whom believed in creating furniture where form followed function. The following are the distinguishing characteristics that define this style:
- There is little or no decoration.
- Straight, uncluttered lines
- The combination of wood, metal, glass, vinyl, plywood, Plexiglass, and Lucite.
- Colors range from neutral to vibrant, with black and white being favourites.
Retro is a whimsical look at recently bygone eras from the 1950s to the 1980s that overlaps with midcentury modern style. What we now call retro was once considered fashionable. This type of furniture has now emerged from the depths of garages and basements to grace many modern homes. Retro items with kitschy, pop culture flavour abound. These are some examples:
Plastic chairs made of one piece
- Tables with Formica tops, chrome bar stools, and 1950s diner furniture
- Tables that repeat themselves
- Lighting in the space-age and sputnik styles
Urban contemporary style is a relatively newer decor concept that caters to city dwellers who prefer well-designed furniture at a scale that fits smaller living spaces. Regardless of size, the pieces have a sophisticated, cosmopolitan feel. Some urban contemporary may be referred to as industrial style (part vintage, part contemporary), but this is not always the case. The following characteristics characterise urban contemporary style:
- Lines and shapes that are softer but still distinct
- There isn’t much ornamentation.
- Metallics are used sparingly for visual interest.
- Tones that are soothing, serene, and calming
- Natural-fiber rugs
- Oversized statement pieces contrasted with smaller pieces
The most recent contemporary style is probably familiar. It encompasses a relaxed, softer, updated style that lacks the stylized organic silhouettes of midcentury modern style. To fit homes with spacious open floor plans and family rooms, the scale can be slightly larger than in other contemporary styles. This furniture style’s characteristics include:
- edges that are rounded and eased
- tones of medium wood
- Pillow-top arms and overstuffed sofas
- Upholstery made of leather