By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
With its clean lines, natural materials, neutral colours and open spaces, you could say modernist design is the ultimate in eco-interiors. Modernism in interiors and architecture had such widespread appeal, it became known as the International Style, and even though it became popular in the very early 20th century, modernist design still looks fresh today.
Promoted by designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames and Walter Gropius, the father of the movement was arguably that most iconic of architects, Le Corbusier. Reacting against the frou-frou excesses of Art Nouveau, this artist, writer, sculptor, urban planner, designer and architect believed simple lines, open spaces and natural materials including wood, stone and metal were the perfect components to make a clean, easy ‘machine for living.’
He thought nothing should be hidden or altered to look like something else, and consequently, structural elements in a home would be revealed to show any architectural supports. Furniture should also be purely functional, resulting in a space that is sleek, spacious and simple, absent of any clutter or unnecessary objects.
Today, modernist vintage furniture is amongst the most sought-after at antique markets around the world, and several iconic designs have been given a modern makeover with new materials.
Here, we’ve outlined 6 steps to achieve perfect Modernist Interiors that are easy on the eye-and the planet.
1. Chairs, Chairs, Chairs
The Wishbone, the Tulip, the Egg and the Eiffel Tower…these vintage chair styles still look ultra-modern today, and indeed, one of the most iconic elements of truly Modernist interiors is the presence of sleek, simple chairs. Look for tubular steel or walnut and teak frames with unfilled wicker, leather or fibreglass seats. You can still find vintage original versions of the Eames lounger, Egg or Barcelona chair, but they sure won’t be cheap. Luckily, you can find replicas here.
2. Sustainable Sideboards
Where else would Don Draper stash the booze? Lower than a chest of drawers but more practical than a table, the sideboard was a defining feature of Modernist dining and living rooms. They would usually hold dishes, alcohol service or as a place to put knick knacks out of site. There are plenty of vintage sideboards, but some modern furniture houses like Iannone Design make nice ones from sustainable materials such as FSC certified maple or reclaimed chestnut. i
3. Sculptural Wood Lamps
Inspired by Tiki style (Hawaii was a trendy tourist destination at the time), teak and walnut based wood lamps with cloth shades in muted tones like mustard and avocado recall Danish Modernist looks, which are still in demand. Look for irregular and abstract sculptural shapes for true authenticity.
4. Geometric Art
Cubism, Fauvism, Abstract Expressionism, and Futurism were all big movements in the first half of the 20th century. Modernist interiors demand a lack of knick knacks and decorative objects, but a good piece of art can accent a room wonderfully. Geometric Calder mobiles or wall art influenced by Kandinsky are especially fitting compliments.
All images below: chairish.com
5. Rounded Dining Tables
There was a huge Modernist revival in the 1950s and again in the 70s. During these periods, rounded shapes inspired by surfboards and boomerangs were all the rage. Still today, such coffee and dining tables compliment any room beautifully, and the iconic Tulip Table, shown below, has even been copied by Ikea! We love how Eames’ Eiffel Tower chairs compliment the table to perfection.
6. Sleek Sofas
In keeping with the modernist philosophy, sofas should be comprised of sleek lines and fabrics: no overstuffed Chesterfields, no chintzy fabrics, just simple colours and textiles, preferably leather. Modular sofas were the perfect component of the ‘machine for living’ as these could be moved to suit the homeowner’s changing needs.
Main image: bedroomkitchen.com/