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Do You Know Your Modern From Your Contemporary?

In furniture design terms, “modern” refers to furniture designed and manufactured in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the understanding may even include the period from the 1920s to the 1970s. During this period – during and post-world wars – there was an air of austerity which guided the designers and use of materials. Stylishly designed mass produced furniture became the order of the day. It is only in the late 1990s that the “designer” tag became sought after with the unspoken understanding that it meant “exclusive” or “once-off”.
Enter: “contemporary”. By its very definition, it means “at the present time; occurring in the same period” but every Thesaurus will give you “modern” as an alternate word… therefore the confusion.


New-age materials
In furniture design terms, there is a distinct difference when referring to the two design styles. Modern furniture is glass, brass, tubes, polished stainless-steel, vinyl, and plastic. With the influence of German designers, wood was also incorporated in the form of rosewood and oak plywood which could be moulded in different shapes.
The designs had to give the feeling of space and airiness to get away from the earlier dark and heavy brocade materials and flocked wallpapers.
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Modern furniture was designed with multiple uses in mind. Furniture could be assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle or each piece could be used on its own. Tables also got new jobs with drawers being added for additional storage space.


Contemporary styles
Contemporary styles evolve all the time and therefore it cannot be called one particular style, but rather a combination of all the styles that have gone before, plus a healthy dose of futuristic designs and innovative use of materials. A great example of current design style is the Clinch Wood Top Coffee Table from Emfurn Mid Century. The table combines a stained pinewood top encircled with a studded metal band and a ratchet screw to adjust the height. The legs are reminiscent of the modern style – minimalist and functional.


Back to some pre-modern elements

Although for the past hundred years or so, the heavy wallpapers of the pre-war era has been shunned, it has made a comeback in the form of lighter designs and accent pieces.
Comparing Modern With Vintage
When one looks at contemporary designs, some of them mimic mid-century modern.
Reviving modern designs and incorporating them into our contemporary designs brings back a feeling of a gentler time, without becoming totally emotional about a lost era. Although few of us would give up our technology-rich lives of today, we somehow would like to get those simpler times back, even just in thought and the ambience a well-designed piece of furniture can give us.…

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