What Is Modern Furniture?

Updated 2/9/23

Liam Dining

It’s an easy mistake to make: Modern and contemporary furniture mean the same thing, right? Not exactly. Each style comes from different influences and time periods, although the recent confusion between the two is understandable.

What are the Characteristics of Modern Furniture Design?

Modern furniture refers to a specific style: the Modernist movement that began in the early 1900s with the Bauhaus school of design. 

These designs were a rebellion against the ornate designs that preceded them. Think of art deco designs and all of their flourishes and ornamentations. Now think of the opposite, and you’ll think of Modernism.

Modernist principles embrace a simple, clean look. Its main principles include the following:

• Minimalist design

• Smooth surfaces

• Clean, straight lines

• Warm neutral colors accented by vivid hues

• Materials that include both wood and metals


This movement would remain popular during the 1950s and 1960s through the mid-century modern design movement.

Modern Bed

Contemporary furniture, however, doesn’t refer to a specific movement. Contemporary furniture embraces the designs of our day, so its definition is fluid. It’s understandable, then, how much we confuse modern design with contemporary design. After all, Modern design is having yet another big moment in furniture. Mid-century modern furniture—think of the sets of Mad Men—is still a favorite in contemporary homes. Both embrace minimalism and simplicity; these aren’t ornate or cluttered looks.

One of the most significant differences between modern and contemporary furniture is the use of lines. Modern furniture prefers straight lines, while contemporary furniture will add some large sweeping curves. Color differs between the two as well. If you’re looking at furniture with bold colors, chances are that it’s contemporary.

The Best Modern Furniture at Bassett

The Serafina Chaise Sectional would be right at home on the set of Mad Men, with a mid-century clean, modern look. You can continue this look in your dining room with a BenchMade dining table or sideboard. We also have modern looks for bedrooms, including the Astor bed and BenchMade Bed.

Is modern the right look for your home? Schedule a design consultation to talk with a design specialist for inspiration to incorporate modern pieces into any room in your home.