Characterized by sleek lines and a lightness of form, modern design seeks to marry technology, art and accessibility. Before modernism, gilded wood and heavy-patterned fabrics were the norm. Back in the day, the longer it took to craft a piece of furniture, the better. Modern artisans, however, sought to showcase 'the beauty of simplicity' through the use of new materials like steel, plastic and moulded plywood. Modernism adherents also emphasized the need for mass marketability.
modern furniture Design Schools and Philosophies
From about 1900 to 1935, Germany was the unofficial capital of the modern design movement. Both the Deutscher Werkbund organization and Bauhaus school were German accomplishments. Deutscher Werkbund was a government sponsored program that aimed to promote German art and design around the world. Several artisans involved with the Werkbund went on to establish Bauhaus-perhaps the most well-known, modern-design school of its time. Both Bauhaus and Werkbund philosophy was based in the idea that design should follow function. Simplicity was touted as the ideal aesthetic and practitioners aimed to incorporate new materials with mass-production in mind.
Two Famous Modern Furniture Pieces
Polished steel and leather straps made Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair to appear as if it was floating in space. Developed between 1925 and 1926 and sometimes called the Model B3, Breuer's creation is widely considered the most iconic piece of modern furniture. The Wassily Chair should not be confused with the Barcelona chair. Designed by Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich, the Barcelona chair premiered at an international design fair in Spain and is said to epitomize the Bauhaus style. Inspired by the folding chairs of ancient Pharaohs and the X-shape of Roman footstool feet, the Barcelona chair is considered more than just a furniture piece, but instead, functional art.
Today, mid-century modern, transitional and contemporary are subgenres that often fall under the modern furniture umbrella. Like the pioneers of the early 19th century, present-day modernists seek to break new ground and develop pieces which challenge our concepts of elegance and aesthetics.