What about those blurry lines that define design styles? Vintage, Eclectic, Modern, Mid Century Modern. Modern Contemporary, Antique. Industrial, Shabby Chic, Loft just to name a few.


So let’s see if we can help with some of the confusion or un-blur those fuzzy lines between what is the difference between Retro and Scandinavian because to most they look the same. Or vintage and eclectic. Can they look exactly the same as each other?  When does modern become contemporary. Why are some pieces designed in the early 20th century still to this day get called Modern Design? For example, the ladder-back chair designed by Charlies Mackintosh in 1903; still considered a modern classic, but its 106 years old? Should it not be an antique by now?


In fact, it comes from the term “modernist movement” in the early 20th century. Lead by great architects such as Charlies Rennie Macintosh and later Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer, designer of the famous Wassily and Cesca chairs in the early 20’s, that are still used in modern schemes today. This movement originally garnered the name “avant-garde” which was used to describe movements which identify themselves as rejecting “old styles” that tradition offered, such as, Ancient Greece and the Middles Ages or what we now call Antique.


When we look at Modern design today we still see what the modernist movement was about. I like to call it anti-tradition myself, that works as the simplest explanation. If you simply look at piece of furniture from the Rococo or Classical era and the detail and intricacies in the design, with carvings and artwork in the inlays, and then look at what we call Modern, clean simple lines, no intricate details or special finishes, generally solid colours (mainly primary) minimal detail. Some may say futuristic looks, but in a nutshell that is modern design.


To suggest that modern design furnishings can or will date is bonkers…when we are still using furniture designed in 1908 today and calling it modern contemporary and as popular as it now is, I am sure we will be still using and calling it Modern design well into the next century.


Example:                                                                    Modern ladder-back:

Traditional ladder-back.                                        Charlies Mackintosh 1903 


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When does Modern become Modern Contemporary? When it is relevant today. When you use a modern piece of furniture or design a modern kitchen for your house today… it becomes contemporary. What’s relevant today becomes contemporary.


Same as Mid Century Modern. What was relevant in design in the late 40-50s-60s was contemporary then and what we call Retro now. However modern will always be called modern, because it still reflects the future and the past in a movement that changed the way we see Art and design.



Marcel Breuer Wassily Chair. 1925

Le Corbusier Chaise. 1928


What piece of modern design would you like to be a contemporary addition to your home?


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