What is the difference?

Modern and Contemporary Furniture

31st October 2018

T

o many, the terms modern and contemporary are synonymous with each other. Is there even a difference between them?

They're just words - aren't they?

Modern art is said to have started in the 1860s and lasted until the 1970s. After that there have been a huge variety of art movements including post-minimalism, graffiti, neo-expressionist, deconstructivism, neo-pop, computer art and many more - many of which fall under the umbrella of post-modern art.

The #156 sideboard is an example of Danish modern furniture design from the 1960s. It is still available today and made by the original manufacturer.

What about furniture?

Furniture also underwent various design aesthetics including Art nouveau in the 1920s, Bauhaus in the 1930s, Modernism in the 1940s through to 1960s, Scandinavian in the 1970s and Minimalism in the 2000s. So from a strict perspective, modern furniture is a specific design aesthetic from the early to mid-20th century.

Contemporary furniture doesn't hark to a particular space or time - as in essence it is constantly changing in accordance with the current age. 

But words change - don't they?

The thing about language is that words change meaning over time - and this is where we're at with modern and contemporary furniture. Whilst Modern Furniture was a specific movement in the twentieth century, it is now a term that is used widely to refer to anything that is currently contemporary with the age we are living in.

The wonderfully quirky #55 & #71 dining chairs were originally design in the early 1950s and are still available today from the same manufacturer.

So which is the best term to Google?

If the creators of a furniture website know about the history of furniture design you may find a difference when you search for modern furniture when compared with a search for contemporary furniture. If you want to be sure you get to see all that is on offer, it is probably better to make several searches - or even combine them with other things you are interested in like colours, shapes, and words like 'luxury'.

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