Modernism is an intellectual and artistic movement that originated early in the twentieth century. It began as a rejection of traditional values, and a rethinking of aesthetics. In the realm of interior design, modernism reached its peak of influence in the 1960s under the influence of internationally famous architects and designers using new materials to create new forms without reference to antecedents.
In the twenty-first century, we are living in a post-modern world. Contemporary design uses many of the same techniques and materials of modernism, but with a reference to established, classical norms. Contemporary interior design is not limited by a single philosophy. Modern furniture and real estate is built with an eye toward the past, while incorporating the processes and craftsmanship that has been mastered in the past few decades. The result is a pleasing blend of styles that bring the best of both worlds in harmony, without sacrificing convenience or durability.
Modern decor extensively uses materials that were not commonly seen prior to the twentieth century. Exposed metal and ductwork is a hallmark of modernism. Modernism is usually thought of as having severe angles and a sterile appearance. The field of engineering is the starting point for modernist design. For instance, the use of plastics and resins presents the problem of how to craft a comfortable chair by using the properties of these materials. The work of Charles and Ray Eames comes to mind, with their organically formed chairs crafted out of plywood and plastics. A living room outfitted with this modern furniture is a comfortable place that reflects the sensibility of material guiding form.
A modern office will have chairs that that allow for adjustable height, and a glass-topped desk with an stainless steel framework. Contemporary design will incorporate elements from the past, such as a traditional Oriental rug to add a touch of softness and familiarity to the decor. A more traditional wooden bookcase may face the desk, or the bookcase may lack distracting ornament. Contemporary interior design relies on a wedding of materials and styles to create a comforting and accessible look, retaining what is best about modern design, while blending it with other elements that are attractive to the main user.
The bedroom is a place where many people prefer more conservative styling, but contemporary design does not preclude the use of leather as a main design feature, especially as it is incorporated into the headboard, or in seating as a major focal point in the decor. Modern furniture uses geometry and simple patterning to provide efficient comfort. Contemporary interior design makes use of the abstraction inherent in modernism without ruling out the use of inessential color to provide an accent, or to dominate neutral, natural tones. Contemporary sensibility, postmodernism, has a sense of playfulness about it. Contrast is not something to be avoided when it can be incorporated to pleasing effect.
The luxury kitchen has evolved over the past hundred years as time-saving appliances have become more numerous, and the variety of stylings has increased. Stainless steel appliances are extensively used in contemporary kitchen design, making the area more business-like and, perhaps, less homey from some people’s perspective. To counteract the severity of such an expanse of polished and burnished metal, marble, a very traditional material, is being used more extensively in countertops. Likewise, butcher block islands can provide natural warmth and texture. All of these materials are durable and attractive, adding to the function of the kitchen while promoting a clean and healthy environment in which to prepare meals.
Another area in which modern design elements are strongly favored is in the dining room. A glass topped dining table is a modern invention, as are chairs that do not rely on ornament for their effect. Contemporary design allows for mixing and matching styles from different eras. There is no reason why a chrome and glass table cannot be paired with antique chairs or table settings.
Modern luxury design starts from a basic philosophy that one's surroundings should reflect the sensibility inherent in the materials used to construct and decorate a dwelling. When applied consistently, the result can be stunning in its ingenuity. A modern home office bespeaks of the technical savvy of the person who works there. It reflects a refined taste that dislikes clutter, and favors efficiency. The same applies to any room decorated in the modern manner. The best materials are used to create an open space designed for specific uses.
Contemporary luxury design relies less on applying a coherent theory, and takes the preferences of a client into consideration at the expense of including some discordant elements. When everything is paired together tastefully, a different feeling enters the room beyond the display modernism imposes. If something does not fit into a design pattern, elements are changed to bring the entire scheme into harmony, sacrificing nothing in the process.
Contemporary design is not better than modern design. It is a matter of personal preference. While the two may overlap in some of their concepts and methods, they remain distinct schools. Used effectively, either will make a home that is welcoming.
This blog posting has been provided by Ben Fisher, an agent at Summit Sotheby's International Realty in Park City, Utah. He services Park City Real Estate as well as Deer Valley. He specializes in online marketing for luxury real estate clients.