When we learn about the history of furniture, we are often learning about the history of ideas. Furniture design always seems to reflect the dominant ideas and philosophies of a particular time. What we call modern furniture is no different.
Modern chair designed by Mies Van der Rohe
As we all know, the 20th century brought with it mass production and mass consumption. In an increasingly standardized world, designers adapted themselves to be able to serve a growing consumer market that wanted furniture to be affordable and convenient.
Modern furniture refers to furniture designs created after the late 19th century that had a focus on functionality over ornamentation, and embraced a minimalist approach.
The purpose of modern furniture was to speak about the present and future, and break away from the past, while simultaneously, focusing on functionality as an ideal and serving a mass market at affordable prices.
“Modern” in essence is really an opposition to the decorative arts which included Art Nouveau, Neoclassical and Victorian styles.
Simplicity, smoothness of surface, avoidance or ornament. These are the guidelines of modern furniture.
Barcelona chair also by Mies van der Rohe
Several arts and design schools of the first half of the 20th century developed or were heavily influenced by the ideas of modernity: De Stijl (dutch based), Deutscher Werkbund (Germany, 1907) and the famous Bauhaus school, which we already talked about here.
The ideas of modern furniture encompassing newness, originality, and functionality made their permanent mark in furniture making and continue to influence furniture production to this day.
If you’ve ever been in contact with mass produced furniture or shopped at IKEA, you’ve been in contact with the ideals of modern furniture design.
LC2 Armchair by Le Corbusier
Sources for this article: Thespruce.com