Discover the furnishings, colors and features that pros use to get the strong, sculptural look born in the 20th century.
Modern style has its roots in the modernist movement of the early and mid-20th century. Modern architecture and furnishings emphasize form and structure rather than surface ornamentation — think of large expanses of glass; smooth surfaces like concrete, steel, stone and wood; and accents of chrome and black leather.
- Clean. Excess embellishment is considered a distraction and to be avoided. Think crisp, clean and sculptural. Shapes are strong, with clearly defined lines and planes.
- Architectural. Furnishings echo rather than distract attention from the architecture for a seamless look.
- Minimal. Modern style embraces negative space with spare furnishings and little color or pattern.
- Ornamented. A reaction against heavily ornamented traditional styles, this look embraces simplicity of form.
- Trendy. Unlike contemporary style, which taps into up-to-the-minute changes in the design world, modern design feels more securely rooted.
- Cluttered. Furnishings are chosen with care, and accessories are kept to a minimum for a clean, spacious look.
Modern, midcentury and contemporary styles share a few important features: All emphasize clean lines and minimal adornment. The modern design movement stems from modernist art and the Bauhaus, an influential art and design school in Germany that was active during the early part of the 20th century. Midcentury modern style grew out of this modernist movement in the middle of the 20th century, from the mid-1940s to 1970. You can think of modern style as the umbrella that midcentury style lives under. Contemporary style, in contrast, is not tied to any particular time period — it’s simply whatever is happening in the current design moment.
Like contemporary style, modern style is just as much about the space between objects as it is about the objects themselves. Think of clean-lined furnishings atop bare floors or a neutral rug; crisp white walls and bare windows; or a single sculptural vase on an otherwise empty surface. The open space between objects (also called negative space) increases the visual impact.