What Are the Characteristics of Modern Furniture Design? (Helpful Examples)

Modern furniture design follows a specific concept quite different from traditional furniture. These designs became prominent in the post-world war era when people's sense of taste and style in architecture and interior decoration started focusing on function over ornamentation. 

The characteristics of modern furniture designs include an emphasis on basic forms, neutral colors, and multifunctional and minimalist designs. Also, form follows function, is visually lighter, uses shiny surfaces, incorporates modern materials, and exposes portions of the materials.

If you just moved into your new home or wish to redesign your space, remember that your furniture designs have the power to change the overall look of your home.

While it is a matter of personal choice, it can also provide insight into your personality, taste, and style. Modern furniture design has a trendy, upwardly mobile ring to it.

Are you looking to give your home this image? When someone walks into your space, what's the first thought that comes to mind? These questions should guide your choice of furniture.

To help you make an informed decision, in this article, we will discuss modern furniture designs and their characteristics in detail.

Keep reading!

What is modern furniture?

Modern furniture is a furniture design that became popular after the 19th century. The furniture has more functional, practical, and visually lighter styles compared to what was obtainable in the previous eras.

Modern furniture designs follow a simple hierarchy in their overall makeup. Here, there is an emphasis on form and function before artistic appeal. This idea is embedded in their philosophy that states “form follows function.”

The emergence of modern technology and change in the general perception of people on culture and traditions heavily influenced these designs. In addition, this was due to the effects of the world war, which made people start embracing certain ideals like simplicity and practicality.

In the past, people used to portray opulence, especially the rich. However, the shift away from heavy ornamentation changed the overall aesthetics of the furniture.

The manufacturing methods of the earlier era were overtaken by industrial production methods, which integrated modern materials into the designs.

It was a tremendous change from traditional furniture styles, which were loud and showy. Modern furniture designs, however, focus on the purpose of the furniture other than ornate designs that will make the house busy and visually heavy.

Thus, furniture designs became a function of comfort and practicality instead of a focus on decorative arts. This can also be attributed to the social and economic situation of the time.

Houses and living spaces became smaller, so furniture was made to align with these realities. As a result, they became lighter, smaller, and low maintenance.

Modern furniture design after the first world war was divided into three categories:

Functionalist modern

In about 1925, the functionalist modern furniture, also called progressives, which moved away from the traditional style of decoration and focused on using modern technology to make simple furniture based on form and function, came to be.

 The designs were based on the works of Bauhaus, a school of arts and crafts in Germany. They focused on affordable, simple products that would be easier to mass-produce.

Transitional modern

The Transitional modern, also referred to as contemporary, combined modern and past elements and designs, making them more conservative in style.

Commercial modern

After 1945, commercial modern, also called “borax,” which moved away slightly from the more progressive designs to commercial trends, became prominent.

 It also introduced certain Victorian-styled pieces like open shelves and room dividers. Then, in about 1970, another brand of Borax emerged, which brought in bloated shapes in furniture.

Characteristics of modern furniture design

Some key ideas and elements are infused in modern furniture design, which you should familiarize yourself with before selecting the furniture in your home, business place, or office. They are as follows:

Basic forms and shapes


Modern furniture has simple forms and shapes designed with straight, clear lines and no chaotic or additional details. The designs have simple geometric shapes and angles and are less decorative.

Squared edges in couches and seats are incorporated into the furniture designs. These formats help give the space a simple and less busy look.

Shiny surfaces

Shiny, smooth and glossy surfaces are the hallmark of modern furniture designs. These reflective surfaces help to increase the sense of space in modern homes.

If your office is small, using a modern furniture desk will help give it an illusion of space because the idea of modern interior decor is to create an uncluttered space.

Multifunctional and modular designs

The idea behind modern furniture is to create multifunctional and modular designs that can provide maximum utility in the home.

These space-saving designs serve multiple purposes in the home. They employ these styles in living spaces that are quite small to make them spacious and less stuffy. It helps to ensure accessibility, functionality, and comfort in your home.

For example, your kitchen cabinet can provide a counter for placing your cooking ingredients and a unit for storing your kitchen equipment. In some cases, it can also serve as a dining table. Thus, you do not need a separate table for placing your cooking ingredients while cooking, a separate one for storing the equipment, and another one for dining.

Additionally, multifunctional kitchen furniture will make your kitchen spacious and comfortable.

Your bed can also serve as a small storage space for maximum utility. For instance, some modern headboards have small units where you can place certain items for personal use.

Some also have storage platforms where you can place clothing items, accessories, and important documents. You should choose a bed that plays such dual roles to save space.

Minimalist design

Small table and chair

Modern designs are a shift away from the ornate detailing of the past to a simple, practical design. It eliminates too much decoration that comes with more elaborate designs that serve no purpose.

This is why it embraces simplicity and only includes crucial components in the furniture.

This design is simple and suitable for minimalists who desire uncluttered space and prefer seeing only essential items in their homes.

Function and form over ornamentation

Small table with chairs

Modern furniture designs emphasize the function and form of the designs over the artistic appeal. That is why it is more practical in outlook because it looks at the purpose of the furniture before focusing on artistic elements.

Neutral and natural colors

Living Room

The colors used in modern furniture designs are neutral, warm, and minimalist. The color schemes are monochromatic, simple, lighter, and free from the dark tones seen in traditional styles.

The color palette used in designing this furniture will give your living space a warm, calming, and natural feeling as opposed to loud and bold colors.

These colors also give the house's interior an illusion of space and height compared to darker tones that make it cluttered and less spacious.

Visually lighter

Sofa and ottoman

In contrast to designs in early eras, which were garish, modern designs are not only lighter in weight but are visually lighter because of the absence of heavy decorative designs.

They are less busy, and they look easy on the eyes. This is made possible by the form, shape, and less ornate detailing.

Use of modern materials

Modern Dining Table

With the emergence of new technology, industrial production techniques are used in making modern materials infused in this furniture.

These materials include steel, nickel, glass, chrome, and aluminum. This makes the furniture simple, less heavy, and smaller in size. 

Exposure of portions of the materials

Sofa and lounge chair

Modern furniture designs usually expose some portions of the material used in making them. Usually, you can notice the wood, metal, or glass used in designing them, which contributes to the form, simplicity, and aesthetics.

Sometimes, the materials used in making them form the overall makeup of the furniture.


Modern furniture designs emphasize simpler and essential aesthetics over the heavy ornamentation of the previous eras.

These designs became prominent in the post-world war era when form and function became important elements in furniture designs. Modern furniture has various characteristics, including basic forms and shape, use of shiny surfaces, emphasis on multifunctional and modular designs, visually lighter, and incorporation of minimalist designs.

There is also a focus on form and function over heavy ornamentation, the use of neutral and natural colors, an infusion of modern materials, and an exposure of portions of the materials.

The furniture in your space can affect the overall aesthetics of your home. If you want it to have a modern style, modern furniture design will help you achieve that.

Now that you know the characteristics of modern furniture, check out Viesso’s catalog to select beautiful pieces to give your space trendy, modern aesthetics today!

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