An important movement in the development of modern style furniture was functionalism. Functionalism arose from the desire that form should follow function; a piece of furniture should primarily do its job rather than being an ornament, as it had been previously considered. This influenced the stripped-down, comparatively sparse appearance of the modern style.
Influential Modern Groups
Four groups were the most influential in the development of the modern style of furniture design. These were:
1. Deutsche Werkbund - Perhaps the earliest of the modern groups, the Deutsche Werkbund, or DWB, wanted designs that not only closely followed function but were also ethically pure. This is underpinned by the values of quality, sustainability and honesty.
2. De Stijl - Dutch for ‘The Style’, this movement was known for reducing complexity down to basic shape and colour. De Stijl designs use primary colours and simple lines. The artist Piet Mondrian encapsulates the style with his vivid images of squares and rectangles of primary colours separated by thick, black lines.
3.The Bauhaus School - Another German group, the Bauhaus school operated in Berlin from 1919 until 1925, when it was forced to move due to the increase of tension caused by the rise of the Nazi party. The Bauhaus School aimed to promote unity in all areas of art.
4. Foreign Cultures - As travel became more accessible, so European design took on foreign influences. In modernism, these were most notably of African and Japanese origin. The trend for Japonisme brought about a new appreciation of simple, unfussy objects that were adopted by modernist designers.
Perhaps more than anything, modern style furniture was influenced by the new materials that mass manufacture made available. Steel, glass, moulded plywood and plastics all gave designers a wealth of new techniques they could exploit in their designs.
The modern style is still popular today and can be felt very much in Swedish design and the clean lines of much of the furniture you can find on the high street. Although classic pieces fetch high prices, the style is eminently reproducible through buying pieces that have been recently manufactured.