Home Decorating For Dummies
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The Modern or Contemporary design age in furniture begins roughly with the start of the 20th century. Following are the most popular Contemporary furniture styles created after 1800 — sleek designs that prompted the move from the more ornate Historic style.

  • Shaker (1830-1850): Shaker furniture designs are plain in appearance, stripped to bare essentials (few turnings, no decorations), featuring natural materials; no ornamentation; strong emphasis on function.

  • Gothic Revival (1851-1914): Gothic Revival furniture emphasized natural materials. Designs based on nature. Handcrafting versus machine-made. Arched-top chair crests, rails and knobs, and lots of turnings show up today in side chairs for the dining room and kitchen.

  • Adirondack (1890s-present): Rustic, natural, often made of bark-covered logs or simple planks. Look for junk shop finds when in the country (for authenticity), or purchase hand-made new versions of these comfy furnishings, which translate into today’s Lodge Look that also contains Western motifs and icons.

  • Art Nouveau (circa 1900): The first new style not using any historical reference was based on flowing lines of leaves and vines and influenced by Japanese art.

  • Arts and Crafts/Mission in America (circa 1900): Simple designs executed in natural wood. Emphasized hand craftsmanship, quality materials, and strong, clean lines. Also called Golden Oak. Widely seen in today’s Stickley chairs and other furniture that uses the same designs as earlier origins.

  • Art Deco (1918-1939): Fashion-oriented. Influenced by primitive art and cubism. More color, pattern, and grand ornamentation, including motifs such as zigzags, electricity bolts, and skyscrapers. Often seen today in headboards and accent chairs.

  • Bauhaus (1919-1933): Design based on unifying art and technology. Little ornamentation. Function, form, and materials (metal tubing, glass, and other technological, machine-made materials) most important. Emphasis placed on machine-made, efficient production.

  • International Modern (1925-1947): No regional influences, historic references, ornamentation, or unnecessary elements is what made Modern furniture so radical in its time. Details come from the interesting use of modern materials. Emphasis is on machine-age technology — the house as a machine for living.

  • High Tech (1980-1990s): Emphasis on exploitation and exposure of elements of science and technology for home use. Shows the construction of the interior. Uses industrial materials for the home. Electronic and space age details important. Celebrates and makes room for the machine.

  • Contemporary: Contemporary combines influences, trends, and new technologies without strict adherence to any one design philosophy. Current trends include designs that blend styles and periods but are streamlined for today’s taste.

    Contemporary furnishings blend traditional styles with modern lines. [Credit: www.officeinstallatio
    Credit: www.officeinstallationservices.com
    Contemporary furnishings blend traditional styles with modern lines.

About This Article

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Katharine Kaye McMillan, former senior editor of a New York City-based national magazine, is a writer whose work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers. She is a contributing writer to internationally circulated Florida Design Magazine. She is the co-author of several books on decorating and design, including Sun Country Style, which is the basis for licensed signature collections of furniture and accessories by three leading American manufacturers and importers. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, she holds a masters degree in psychology and is a doctoral student in psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

Patricia Hart McMillan is a nationally known interior designer, whose interior design work for private clients, designer showcases, and corporations has appeared in publications worldwide, including the New York Times and USA Today. Known as a trend spotter and for clearly articulated views on design, she is quoted frequently and extensively in both trade and consumer publications. She a ppears on TV and talk radio. A prolific writer, she is coauthor and author of seven books on interior design and decoration, with Sun Country Style signature collections of furniture based on two books. She has taught decorating courses at several colleges and conducted numerous seminars across the U.S. She is decorating editor for Christian Woman Magazine and reports on design trends for The Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She has been editor-in-chief of two publications and was head of a New York City-based public relations firm representing some of the most prestigious names in home furnishing and building products. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in art history (with an emphasis in architecture), from the State University of New York (New Paltz). She was awarded a certificate from The New York School of Interior Design.

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