Designers today continue to seek new materials and innovative ways to use them, which means that furniture designs continue to evolve and never become entangled in the rigidity of tradition.
Modern designers can focus on delivering maximum comfort in new ways. Traditional design often sacrificed comfort for appearance, but modern designers are not bound by those traditions.
Comfort also comes from the pride of owning a unique piece of furniture. In living rooms, bedrooms, and offices, modern furniture has become art, prized for its unique quality as well as its comfort and functionality.
Many of today’s best furniture designers are Italian and come from a tradition that began after World War II when large swaths of Italy had been destroyed and the greatest challenge was to rebuild much of the country. The rebuilding spurred design innovation in areas from architecture to industry to furniture.
Design innovation reached a high point in Italy during the 1960s, then slipped into a period of minimalism during the following decade until designer Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis Group in 1981, which rebelled against the minimalist era and produced bright colored furniture and other pieces. The Memphis Group brought its colorful and often shocking designs to products that ranged from typewriters to cars to furniture.
The Italian tradition of producing high-quality modern furniture is carried on today by designers like Rodolfo Bertozzi, who designs spectacular Italian leather sofas for Polaris.
Sleek, clean lines of the modern living room
In modern living room furniture, sofas, coffee tables, and chairs feature sleek, clean lines without the ornamental features of traditional pieces. The designs are focused on functionality and comfort, offering spaces for lounging as well as sitting.
With wide armrests and slender chrome feet, the popular Malaga Italian Designer Leather Sofa appears to be floating above the floor. This handmade Bertozzi-designed sofa features a wood frame, comfortable polyurethane foam filling, and is available in 50 colors.
Other modern living room furniture also has shaken off the standard old designs. The Navile Contemporary Coffee Table, for example, definitely is not your grandmother’s coffee table. The folds and curves of the glass top and base truly make the table the artistic centerpiece of any living room. The tabletop can be clear glass or painted black or white.
Ultimate comfort is the goal of The Perfect Chair 95 by Human Touch. Available in nine leather and two suede colors, the chair is designed with an adjustable headrest and so those who sit down can achieve a neutral position recommended by doctors.
On a different note, the Alaskan Stainless Steel Chair, designed by Cattelan Italia and constructed entirely of stainless steel, is sure to become the artistic centerpiece of any living room. The rugged, polished design and strong lines evoke the starkness of the tundra.
Platform beds lead the way in bedroom furniture
In the bedroom, modern platform beds have brought elegance and new features. As with modern living room furniture, platform beds can become a bedroom centerpiece instead of simply being crammed against a wall.
The Selex Blok Red Walk-on Modern Platform Bed, for example, imported from Spain, has a walk-on platform finished in wenge and red lacquer that can be located on either side. Storage is available beneath the bed.
Bedroom dresser designs haven’t evolved that far away yet from the standard rectangular cube to dramatic new shapes. But the Diamond Dresser, manufactured by Rossetto of Italy, adds leather upholstery in a crocodile print to the traditional shape. The dresser comes in black or ivory and a matching mirror also with a leather crocodile print can be added.
Modern office furniture makes a statement
Office furniture always has been functional. Old roll-top or rectangular wooden desks were well suited to a working environment where moving and filing paper were the chief activities and computers existed only in fantasy.
Contemporary desks add another critical element to functionality. Their designs aim to make a bold statement about the executives who occupy them. An example is the Luna Modern Italian Office Desk, designed by Paolo Pininfarina for Affix. The desk features a sweeping red or black leather arch design, a painted aluminum frame, and a glass top.
Like many pieces of Italian-designed furniture, the Luna desk is a work of art as well as a functional furniture piece and its design received the Wellness at Work Award at the 2006 International Furniture Show of Milan.
These pieces of furniture are only a few examples of the broad palette of innovative designs being created today. As it has done for the past century, modern furniture design is sure to move in new directions and further stretch the limits of traditional design in the coming years.