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How Do I Mix Modern and Contemporary Furniture?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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For those who struggle with a sense of design and lack any knowledge of design history, it can be difficult to uncover a design style, let alone mix design styles. When considering mixing modern and contemporary furniture, it may be easier if a grasp of the different meanings of each style can be obtained. The problem with this is that in some respects, there may not be mutually exclusive styles and in others, they are very different in concept. The difference between modern and contemporary furniture can indeed be the difference between what was once modern and what is considered to be presently modern. Further, there is also a design style referred to as modern-contemporary.

Contemporary furniture can refer to a collection or group of pieces that are from the same era. For example, 1950s contemporary furniture or pieces that were considered modern and contemporary furniture in the 1950s. When mixing modern and contemporary furniture, the design style may be referred to as eclectic. However, if all the components of a design scheme are from the present era, this style may be referred to as modern-contemporary.

In the event that modern and contemporary furniture is being used to achieve an eclectic style, it is easiest to mix the furniture pieces according to basic design rules. Modern furniture is often marked by very clean, deliberate lines and a combination of muted and vibrant colors. Modern furniture works well in open space architecture and may be used to create minimalistic impact while still being part of the overall design. To mix modern and contemporary furniture, use pieces that have similar lines, wood tones or colors. Always keep in mind the traffic flow of the room as well as the overall visual impact.

In an eclectic design scheme, pieces are meant to complement or harmonize with one another. Avoid mixing warm and cool colors and wood tones as well as contrasting patterns and textures. The goal of mixing modern and contemporary furniture is usually cohesiveness, especially in open concept floor plans where several “rooms” may adjoin one another. Keep in mind that period contemporary furniture is not the same as traditional furniture, in that traditional furniture is considered “classic” and the period of its design may not be easily identifiable.

For those who have a flair for decorating and design, it may be easier to create a mixture of furniture styles. Ignoring the basic “rules” of decorating and design can result in success for those who are able to visualize the end result. As an example, if you are able to place a clean-lined antique table amidst a modern living room arrangement, the impact can be quite appealing. Even if you don’t have a particular gift for decorating and design, experimenting with various combinations and arrangements of contemporary furniture and modern pieces may very well result in a pleasing presentation.

To get additional ideas for combining modern and contemporary furniture, pick up decorator magazines and books from the store or library. Identify modern-contemporary styles that appeal to your senses and attempt to replicate them in your own space. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various colors and color combinations — especially when using the characteristic colors of modern furniture in black, white or natural colors as a base.

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