From the September Home Accents Today Anniversary Issue, Kara Cox Describes Modern design in The Big Trend.
Contemporary style's birth can be dated back to the late 19th century with its popularity growing through the two world wars. Dutch De Stijl, Bauhaus, Wierner Werkstatte's ground-breaking designs still are evident in today's modern pieces. Contemporary design strives to combine current fashion and cultural highlights with art, architecture and furniture.
While modern design stresses simple shapes, minimal decoration and high function, bright colors and abstract forms help create new art for a new time. Modern design often builds on retro sensibilities and recalls the past while offering breakthrough materials and functions for a fresh, high design look.
Twenty years ago, contemporary design was pulling from the Art Deco period inspired by the architecture and culture of the '30s and '40s. Sleek lines, arching curves and jazzy colors blended with industrial materials like acrylic, glass and metal. Brass combined with stone and acrylic in lighting designs while black and white marble and jazz-era motifs spruced up wall decor and tabletop. Lacquer surfaces and high-gloss ceramics lent a fashionable touch to abstract and geometric shapes. Black and gold were popular color combinations with touches of red for drama.
In the late 1980s, Post Modern gained popularity with cold, gray metals in matte and satin finishes mixing with stone and marble. Tapered column floor lamps and cylinder shapes appeared. In July 1998, glamour seeped into contemporary with shimmery silver, glittery gold and frosted glass setting off dramatic black and white and colorful glass sculptures. Watercolor abstracts provided a little pattern available in deep hues like black, graphite and plum or emerald.
Contemporary took a wild turn in 1989 with dramatic angles, neon brights and abstract patterns in black splashed with cobalt, magenta, emerald and teal. Elemental geometry tied together the look with jagged triangles, spheres and arches. Halogen ceiling pendants and torchiere floor lamps spoke to technological advances as well.
The early '90s popularized metals and metallic finishes from cool gray shades in pewter and chrome as well as black and gold pairings. Rough texture, weathered tones and updated steel were popular in sculptural looks and primitive craft pieces with comtemporary metal wall art simulating twisted metal. Color began to move into contemporary in 1992 with splashes and swirls of bold, vibrant color in graphic and abstract patterns for tabletop, wall decor and soft goods. Inspired by astrology, star and moon designs appeared with heavy black toning down for navy and gold. Black was no longer a background color but moved toward widespread acceptance as a neutral in wood tones and metal finishes.
The mid '90s softened contemporary a bit with the arrival of natural materials in modern design. Eco-friendly wood, paper, wool, stone, pottery and metal provided texture and interest to otherwise unadorned, unfinished media. Bold pop art styles made a statement drawing inspiration from Andy Warhol imagery of the 1960s in vibrant shades of blue, yellow, orange, green and black. Art Deco reappeared in 1995 and 1996 spicing up contemporary with swirls, curves and architechtural detailing.
Retro designs appeared with a throwback to 1950s kitsch and nostalgia in the late'90s. This time around, retro took a natural approach in apparel-inspired colors like gray, camel, tan and black offering a solid color scheme rather than mixing patterns. Primitive basics were updated for modern function as stone, iron and pottery showed off little ornamentation. An urban eclectic look emerged as modern, Asian and casual styles merged with artistic impact from simple solids, minimalist pencil sketches for wall decor and modern sculpture.
In contrast, with the dawning of a new century comes a return to '79s beatnik style with retro prints, colorful abstract patterns decorating everything from lava lamps to beanbag chairs. The last few years have shown a blend of contemporary designs with exotic motifs, clean Asian Zen styling, and artistic, stylized shapes. Today style and comfort updates soften lines, add curves and meld international influence with once stark contemporary elements.
We continue the discussion tomorrow with Kara Cox on Exotic.
Bev & Mike