Here is what modernist design actually means in the modernism movement, so that you can beautifully integrate it into your home.
What is Modern Design?
Modern interior design refers to a specific time period that began in the late 19th century and expanded in early to mid-20th century.
The modernist design concept has its roots in the modern art movement, Scandinavian design and the German Bauhaus school of design of the 1920’s, whose design philosophy was centred on the belief that form should combine with function.
Architecture, furniture, art and decoration moved away from ornate styles exclusively available to the affluent elite, to more practical, sleek, minimalist styles for the masses.
Modern design encompasses mid-century, and it is a precursor to mid-century modern from the mid 1940’s to 1960’s, and post-modern design, which all form part of the modernism movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Some people also consider Art Deco design of the 1920’s or any design style from that point to the vintage period of the 1970’s as modern design.
The most popular modernism design style is the mid-century modern era of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
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What Makes a Modern Design Modern?
There are key features that help distinguish modern design from other design styles. A modern interior design style is characterised by:
- Minimalist aesthetics where fussiness or fluff is non-existent
- Clean architecture with structural elements such as concrete often left exposed
- An open-space feel with unadorned windows, bringing the outdoor inside
- Geometric forms in architecture, furnishings, and art and decoration
- A celebration of natural woods and wood veneers
- An introduction of new materials in design such as metals, leather, and natural fibres
- A warm neutral or natural colour palette with earthy tones
- The focus on industrial materials including glass, steel and concrete
- Low, horizontal furnishings with clean lines
Below, let’s explore some of the main concepts behind the modernist interior design style and modernism, how to distinguish each of them, and how to create the look in your own home.
A modern minimalist house is all about creating a clutter-free space in calming tones that brings you peace and clarity of mind. It is favoured by homeowners who like to design rooms with an open-space feel, where every piece of furnishings, decor, and home accessory serves a distinct and clearly defined function within the space.
Think Scandinavian, Danish, or Japanese garden designs to get a feel of what well-thought out a modern minimalist house design looks like!
Elements are carefully selected to connect with each other and with both the interior and exterior spaces within which they are placed. Natural textures of warm wood, jute, raffia and organic pieces on the backdrop of neutral, earthy colour shades altogether provide the perfect aesthetic of a calming home.
To create a modern minimalist house, consider:
- Designing uncluttered rooms with well organised home storage solutions
- Clean lines with natural or monochromatic colour schemes
- Keeping unnecessary decoration, frills, artworks or extras from your spaces
A modern minimalist house design is ideal for smaller spaces, where it is important to maximise space use in a way that allows for an airy feel and for light to easily flow in your rooms.
Industrial Interior Design
Modern industrial interior design draws its inspiration from the upcycled abandoned factories, warehouses, and manufacturing sites of post-industrial Britain, Germany and USA.
Upcycling and the use of salvaged materials, revealing structural details within a building are key features of this school of design. Concrete flooring, brick walls, exposed pipes, ducts and wooden frameworks, steel framed crittall windows and doors in an open plan living to create an open-space feel with a loft atmosphere are the distinguishing elements that characterise industrial modern design.
To replicate the modern industrial interior design look in your home, consider:
- Adopting Open-concept living which is a must for this design look
- Opting for floor-to-ceiling steel framed/crittall windows and doors where you can
- Using exposed pipes, stone or brick walls, and concrete floors to create a lofty feel
Modern industrial interior design lends itself well to large spaces with high ceilings. These allow you to beautifully showcase generously sized and striking pieces of furniture, artworks, rugs and home accessories.
Scandinavian design traditionally hails from Northern European countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In line with the modernism movement, Scandi design emphasises functionality and simplicity as its basic principles. It was influenced by post-world wars rejection of the old establishment marked by a decline in the West colonial and aristocratic power.
From 1940’s onwards, Scandinavian design started to gain ground in Europe and North America. Designers such as Arne Jacobsen and Feodor Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA founder, helped establish Scandi design as a well recognised decor style celebrated by millions.
To enjoy Scandinavian design at home, consider:
- Integrating white flooring, walls and neutral colour palettes into your interior style
- Prioritising light, comfort and cosiness known as “hygge” throughout your home
- Making use of natural materials and textures such as wood, stone, wool or linens
- Keeping spaces as uncluttered and simple as possible
Modern Rustic Design
Modern rustic interior design is all about clean lines and practical living in terms of function and space storage. Natural textures and antique details are part of the design style, adding more depth, a story, and character to a space.
The use of light to warm wood is a predominant feature of modern rustic interior design. The natural material is favoured for its organic and raw feel that adds personality to the space alongside celebrating the homeowners’ connection to nature.
Exposed beams, panelled walls, reclaimed and original stripped back floorboards, and raw untreated wood are different ways in which you can consider adding a touch of modern rustic design into your home.
Maximalism is considered to be a move away from minimalism. A maximalist decor style is an ode to vibrant colours, eclectic furnishings, and clever textures layering, which are distinguishing aspects of this design school of thought.
Althroug to the untrained eye it might seem that maximalism is a disjointed way of styling a home, this could not be further from the truth. Maximalism is a carefully thought out way of blending different colour schemes, textures and patterns and furniture styles to create an airy and joyful atmosphere in a home.
To emulate this design style, consider:
- Selecting different colours and patterns that create a sense of balance in the room
- Mixing furnishings from different design periods is the way to go
- Gradually building up collections of unique home accessories and artworks where elements connect together to create an organically layered effect
Mid-century architecture and furniture design were created for the masses. Mid-century interior design is a style that developed earlier in the 1930’s as the precursor to mid-century modern.
While the two schools of design are similar in terms of shapes and styles, the main differentiating factor can be found in the use of colour. Before the war and thereafter, furniture was purely functional, and they were designed in such a way as to use as little wood as possible. Conservative dark colours such as deep green and brown were almost de rigueur, as they showed very little dirt.
To draw inspiration from the mid-century interior design period, dark furnishings in earthy colours need to be added into your home. Only necessary design elements and accessories with a defined function should be included in your rooms. In this case “less is more”.
Think old Hollywood glam when you want to create a space that reflects modern glamour decor style that has its roots in the Art Deco era of the 1920’s.
It’s all about being expressive, bold yet sophisticated as statement curved sofas, and decor pieces in vibrant colours, patterns, and textures work beautifully alongside pastel colours and softer hues. Go bold with your metallic accent pieces in brass, bronze or gold.
Draw inspiration from the new wave of interior designers such as Maddux Creative or Jonathan Adler, whose design pieces are heavily influenced by the decadent styles of the 1920’s and 1930’s with warm golds, colourful fabrics, delicate soft materials and fluid lines.
What is the Difference between Modern Design and Contemporary Design?
Modern design refers to a specific period of time from the previous 20th century. Contemporary design on the other hand is a reflection of what is happening currently in interiors, architecture and the arts.
Unlike modern design, contemporary design does not relate to a period in history. The interior design style is constantly evolving to reflect popular trends of present day design.
Contemporary design draws inspiration from modernism, Art Deco, and other trendy global styles. In addition to neutral palettes, minimalism, clean lines, open-concept living, and natural textures which form integral parts of its interior style, contemporary design features state-of-the-art home technology, materials, glass and metals.
Contemporary and Modern Design Inspirations for your Home
Below are some ideas of furnishings for all budgets you can check out to blend both contemporary and modern interior design styles into your home!