Everything You Need to Know About Modern Contemporary Furniture & Décor

by Jane K on December 20, 2018

Modern Contemporary Living Room Arrangement

It can be challenging to define different furniture styles. On top of the broader categories like modern, contemporary, and traditional design, there are also distinct categories within each group that take the main characteristics of the style and hone them in a distinct way. Plus, different furniture styles are constantly evolving as the world continues to change. While modern and contemporary interior decorating styles are not completely synonymous, they’re intricately entwined. Here’s everything you need to know about modern contemporary furniture from the interior design experts at Star Furniture.

What is Contemporary Furniture?

Contemporary furniture is a blanket term that describes any furniture that is currently in style. Unlike some of the other more static furniture styles, the look of contemporary furniture is constantly changing based on the different interior design trends currently in the zeitgeist. In fact, because contemporary design refers to the popular furniture styles of the moment, it often borrows elements from other décor styles, including everything from modern to traditional furniture, and everything in between.

What is Modern Furniture?

Modern furniture originated from a rejection of the more ornate flourishes of traditional design styles and was fostered by the advent of mass production. Whereas before, furniture makers created one-of-a-kind, commissioned pieces, now, these furniture items could be manufactured for the masses. Modern furniture was also able to take advantage of the new materials made available by the industrial revolution, creating opportunities for more varied looks. Because many elements of modern design are so popular right now, modern furniture pieces are often considered contemporary.

History of Modern Design

Modern Design stemmed from modernism, a late 19th century intellectual movement concerned with developing norms more suited to a post-Industrial Revolution world. In art and design, the modernist movement rejected more traditional aesthetics and focused instead on impressionist, abstract, and decorative art. Modern furniture also worked to better reflect the predominant ideas of the time, namely a rejection of the traditional. Pre-19th century furniture tended to be elaborate and ornate as a show of wealth. Since people paid furniture makers by the hour, the more ornate your furniture was, the more it cost. This led to ornate furniture being used as a status symbol for many people living during that time. Modernism changed all that. Still, modernism was not solely the result of a changed way of thinking. Mass production also allowed for new materials, designs, and an increased interest in function over form, which contributed greatly to this new style.

Major Elements of Modern Contemporary Furniture

Because of the broad nature of modern and contemporary design, there are many variations of these styles, which focus on different design elements and create their own unique look within the constructs of the larger design principles. Even with these subtle variations, the following characteristics of modern contemporary design tend to be present across categories.


Minimalism plays a fundamental role in both modern and contemporary design, and many modern contemporary furniture pieces rely on a minimalist approach. With minimalist furniture, you’ll see an absence of superfluous details and a focus on clean, sleek lines. This minimalism is often extended to décor, and most modern contemporary homes tend to avoid visible clutter. That’s one of the reasons that storage furniture is so important to modern contemporary design, as it can help perpetuate a clutter-free, minimalist-inspired look and feel to your home.

Use of Metal

Metals were involved in the more ornate furniture styles of the past, however, modern contemporary furniture utilizes the use of metals in a different way. With an emphasis on chrome, copper, and stainless steel, modern contemporary furniture tends to feature these metals as functional accessories. In other words, these metals tend to be used as table legs, cabinet handles, and accent pieces. While some people tend to choose one metal to use in their interior design, it’s becoming increasingly common to mix metals in decorating.

Straight Lines

Especially in modern design, straight lines tend to dominate. Paired with a lack of ornate detailing, these clean lines create a sharp, sleek aesthetic that perfectly encapsulates the minimalism of modern design. Contemporary furniture takes these straight, sleek lines from modern design and highlights them with elegantly curved lines, often within the same piece of furniture.

Geometric Shapes

Geometric furniture has become a huge part of the modern contemporary style. While to some degree, geometric shapes have always been used in interior design, modern contemporary furniture tends to focus on simple geometric shapes, which can be seen in the actual furniture design and as designs on the fabrics and décor that accentuate the main furniture pieces.

Bold Accent Colors

While homes decorated in the modern contemporary style tend to feature mainly natural colors and shades of black and white, many of these homes also utilize bold accent colors as focal points. This bold furniture tends to feature primary colors, fun patterns, and unique designs, making them stand out against the neutrals in the room.

Examples of Modern & Contemporary Furniture Styles

Even within the modern contemporary category, there are plenty of niche furniture styles that are represented today. While each of these design trends tend to include some or all of the major characteristics of modern contemporary design, they either shift the focus or add additional elements to create their own unique look and feel.

Art Deco Design

Inspired by the technology advances of the 1920s, Art Deco furniture has many of the characteristics of the modern contemporary style, including geometric shapes, smooth lines, and organic materials. While many of the characteristics overlap, art deco furniture tends to be more luxurious and glamorous in style, with an additional focus on materials like silver, crystal, jade, animal skins, and lacquer.

Mid-Century Modern Design

Mid-century modern design mimics the style that originated in the years immediately following the Second World War, specifically the mid-1940s to the 1960s. It is marked by experimentation with form and materials, wherein new and old materials are used in an unexpected way. Mid-century modern design prioritizes minimalism, organic materials, geometric shapes, and functionality.

Industrial Chic Design

Unlike mid-century modern and art deco furniture styles, which originated in the first half of the 20th century, industrial chic design didn’t originate until the late 2000s. While the style is characterized by exposed pipes and ducts, industrial chic furniture tends to mimic this look with furniture showcasing wood and metal surfaces, antique-style fixtures, mixed metals, and weathered flair.

Scandinavian Design

Scandinavian home design originated in the early 19th century and flourished in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden during the 1950s. Like many of the other modern design trends, Scandinavian design is built around minimalism, neutral colors, wood and metal finishes, clean lines, and functionality. Made popular in part by IKEA, Scandinavian home design continues to flourish in the United States, as well as the Nordic countries where it originated.

Vintage Contemporary Design

By definition, actual vintage furniture must be at least twenty years old, but in contemporary design, there are plenty of items that are vintage-inspired, i.e. made to mimic the vintage styles of the past. In fact, much of the art deco and mid-century modern furniture you’d buy from Star Furniture has been recently manufactured to imitate vintage furniture from the 1900s.  In addition to clean lines, organic materials, and bold accents, many vintage-inspired furniture pieces involve low-profile furnishings including low-backed chairs and sofas, platform beds with short headboards, and more.

Classic Contemporary Design

While much of modern contemporary furniture is fairly bold and distinct, classic contemporary style tends to be more innocuous in nature. Classic contemporary characteristics include complementary colors, simplified shapes, round curves, and a mix of soft and smooth textures.

Celebrity Furniture Lines

Since contemporary furniture includes all the current interior design trends, celebrity furniture lines should be included in the mix. From TV personality and chef Rachael Ray’s Home Collection to country music star Trisha Yearwood’s furniture line, celebrity interior designers continue to fill the furniture market with trendy contemporary furniture with their own unique spin.

Modern & Contemporary Furniture Available at Star Furniture

Looking to furnish your home or apartment with modern contemporary furniture? Not only does Star Furniture have a huge inventory of contemporary furniture for sale, but we offer free interior design services and decorating tips at our furniture stores. We can help you hone your decorating style, choose the perfect furniture to match your home décor, and provide the decorating tips you need to design the home of your dreams.

Modern & Contemporary Living Room Furniture

Chloe Modern Loveseat

Planning to decorate your living room in the modern contemporary style? Be on the lookout for neutral colors, square-edged couches, clean lines, and natural woods, fabrics, and textures. Remember, contemporary style is often defined as much by the negative space around your furniture as it is by the furniture itself, so aim for a clutter-free, bright, and open living room layout. You might even consider purchasing a modern contemporary rug to tie the room together.

Modern & Contemporary Bedroom Furniture

Whether you’re looking to pull off a mid-century modern bedroom or something a bit more classic contemporary, Star Furniture has a wide variety of modern contemporary bedroom furniture to choose from. We recommend platform beds with low backboards, upholstered headboards, minimalist wood dressers and nightstands, bold accent chairs, and abstract paintings if you’re wanting to showcase that modern contemporary style.

Modern & Contemporary Kitchen Furniture

Thinking about designing a modern contemporary kitchen? Many modern kitchen designs play off the industrial chic interior design trend we discussed earlier, which features a combination of wood and metal surfaces, antique-style fixtures, weathered flair, and mixed metals. Kitchen islands have been increasingly popular in contemporary kitchen design because they offer extra prep space and alternatives to stuffy dining room tables. Choosing modern bar stools, fun tiles, and bright overhead lighting can tie your contemporary kitchen together.

Modern & Contemporary Dining Room Furniture

Modern-Quartz 5-Piece Round Dining Room Set

Choosing the right furniture for your modern contemporary dining room will make all the difference. For your dining table, you can choose round or rectangular tables made from wood, metal, or plastic. In fact, many modern table use a combination of two materials, which complement each other and create a distinct look. Modern dining chairs make use of natural fabrics, straight lines, and simple geometric shapes, with comfort at the forefront of their design. As with all contemporary interior design, lighting is important, and metal ceiling fixtures serve as bright, stylish overhead options.

Modern & Contemporary Accent Furniture

In modern and contemporary design, accent furniture plays a pivotal role in creating a fun and unique look. While modern contemporary furniture tends to embrace neutral colors and understated design, accent furniture tends to be more colorful, detailed, and distinct. Because they often serve as the focal point of the room, accent furniture is often more striking than other furniture pieces. Whether they make use of geometric shapes, mixed metals, or bright, primary colors, your modern contemporary accent furniture should stand out.

Modern & Contemporary Home Décor

Weston Modern Mirror

Looking for modern and contemporary home décor to complete your home? Not only are decorative mirrors a great way to make your room look bigger, but they also redistribute light, and strong lighting is an important part of modern contemporary design. Plus, you can choose mirrors that mix metals, incorporate geometric shapes, and accentuate the modern design of your home. Choosing the perfect modern rug can also take your design to the next level. Whether you decide to use a minimalist rug to reinforce your neutrals or a bolder rug to stand out as an accent piece, you’ll love the way it changes the look and feel of the room.

Worried about furnishing and decorating your home? Check out our interior design blog for helpful information and design tips, including the top 10 interior design mistakes and how to furnish and decorate your first apartment. Then be sure to visit one of our furniture stores in Houston, Austin, San Antonio or Bryan, Texas to find everything you need for every room in the house.

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