Furniture Design Trends

Furniture Design Trends Through the Ages

Furniture Design Trends Through the Ages

Each era is defined by its style. The swinging 60s had their tie-dye, the 70s their paisley. The 1920s indulged in art deco, but at the turn of the 21st century, it was all about minimalism.

Furniture reflects interior design styles just as much as interior décor and architecture. From upholstered bed frames to minimalist armchairs, you can often tell your furniture’s style inspiration from its features.

Click on your favourite decade to find out furniture design trends were a go in that era.



Art Nouveau

1900’s-1900’s

Art nouveau came about at the turn of the century, peaking around 1910, before World War I struck. The design trend borrowed its inspiration from nature. Furniture was distinguished by its curvy, elongated lines and ornamental designs.

With nature as its muse, you’ll find stylised natural forms such as flowers, feathers, webs and root buds featuring in any art nouveau furniture design.

Art nouveau furniture often has whiplash or high, vertical lines. Tables, chairs and cabinets in this style tend to be made of exotic woods with a polished or varnished finish.

While art nouveau furniture was influenced by the craftsmanship of earlier decorative styles, it was commonly produced in factories using standardised techniques – a hint of things to come.

Influential art nouveau designers

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Emile Galle

Louise Comfort Tiffany

Antoni Gaudi

art nouveau colour grid art nouveau design example art nouveau design example 2

Bauhaus

1919-1933

Bauhaus was a German art and design school renowned for its furniture design. Walter Gropius founded the school in 1919 to create a place where art could be taught in its totality.

Modernism, Constructivism and the English Arts and Crafts Movement all influenced the Bauhaus.

Also known as International Style, Bauhaus united form and function. You won’t find excessive decoration or ornamentation. Instead, furniture was made to serve the community simply and perfectly. Many Bauhaus items were designed for mass production.

The Bauhaus School advocated using materials such as tubular steel for tables, chairs, sofas and more. Steel could be easily made and bent. It also created the streamlined look of Bauhaus furniture. Wood, metal and glass were other popular materials.

The school was eventually closed in 1933 due to pressure from the Nazi regime.

Influential Bauhaus designers

Walter Gropius

Hannes Meyer

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Marcel Breuer

Paul Klee

Wassily Kandinsky

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

bauhaus colour grid

bauhaus example 2

bauhaus example 1

Art Deco

1920s-1940s

The distinctive art deco style popped up in France after World War II in a burst of post-war optimism. Most prominent around the 1920s and 1930s, the interior design style was influenced by cubism and industrialisation.

Art deco is bold, brash and impossible to miss. Features include geometric shapes, symmetrical patterns, mirrored elements, sleek lines, and rounded edges.

Art deco was split between two schools of thought. The first favoured craftsmanship, enlisting skilled furniture makers to design unique pieces. The second popularised the movement by embracing new technologies for mass production.

Art deco designers often used industrial materials, such as stainless steel, chrome, plastic or Bakelite, in their furniture. They sculpted exotic lacquered woods (such as ebony) and kept colour to a minimum.

Combining multiple materials was commonplace in art deco furniture. You could often find stainless steel or chrome frames combined with leather upholstery, for example.

Today you’ll mostly spot the remnants of art deco’s influence in bed frames, headboards, and chairs. For example, the Finn collection of sofas is one such furniture series that is inspired largely by the art deco style.

Influential art deco designers

Eileen Gray

Henry van de Velde

Raymond Templier

Clarice Cliff

Rene Lalique

art deco colour grid art deco design example

art deco design example 2

Mid Century Modern

1940s-1950s

Australia took a while to cotton on to the modernist design trend, with local modernist designers reaching international success in the 1970s. When we did catch up, we became truly obsessed.

The mid century modern design movement began in the 1940s, a straightforward style that seemed appropriate in wartime.

Mid century modern – often just called modernist – furniture was about being minimal. Furniture served a purpose, and function became the primary focus of all designs.

For this reason, lines were kept clean. Few design elements were featured (and if they were, they were kept subtle). Furniture – especially designer chairs – came to resemble sculptures.

Borrowing from the Art Deco movement, geometric shapes remained important influences. However, in contrast, asymmetry grew popular.

Modernist furniture embraced modern materials – chrome, formica and vinyl. But modernist designers also adopted industrial machinery to churn out mass-produced items.

Mid-century modern furniture still holds sway in design circles, its retro look popular with the contemporary minimalist trends we embrace today.

Influential modernist designers

Frank Lloyd Wright

Ernest Race

Douglas Snelling

Isamu Noguchi

mid century modern colour grid mid century modern furniture

 

mid century modern furniture 3

mid century modern furniture 4

Scandinavian Design

1930s-1970s

Scandinavian furniture design was a crucial part of the Modernist movement. Though the movement really began in the 1930s, it became a major influence in the 1950s. As with many Modernist designs, it married function with form to create affordable products accessible to all.

The affordability of designer pieces was at the crux of Scandinavian design. These designers believed that quality furniture should be available to all – not just the wealthy. Affordable Scandinavian furniture was made possible through improvements in low-cost materials (such as form-pressed wood, plastics, aluminium and pressed steel) and methods for mass production.

Natural elements played a strong influence in Scandinavian design. You’ll see the use of natural materials as well as natural shapes in Scandinavian furniture, whether it’s a bed frame or a dining table. Nordic designs were typically simple, minimalist, functional and durable.

Influential Scandinavian designers

Alvar Aalto

Arne Jacobsen

Borge Mogensen

Hans J Wegner

Verner Panton

Poul Henningsen

Simo Heikkila

Eero Aarnio

scandinavian colour grid  scandinavian colour grid

Late 20th century rebellion

1960s-1980s

Rebellion became the name of the game throughout the late 20th century, not just in society and politics, but in the design world.

The interior design world welcomed the progressive movement by throwing out the neat, minimalist days of yore. Instead, furniture designs experienced a surge in vibrant, dramatic styles.

The 1960s to 80s celebrated wildly colourful furniture and psychedelic prints. Colour clashes were big, with green/brown/yellow combinations popular choices.

Upholstery on designer sofas and couches often included polka dot or striped patterns. It was even common to see strange pairings, such as paisley and tie-dye. Woods were often stained or painted or replaced altogether with painted metals.

The 1980s saw this style of excess hit its climax. Contrasting prints and patterns blended with monochromatic features and bold blocks of colour to create a party of colour in every room.

Influential late 20th century designers

Giancarlo Piretti

Grant and Mary Featherston

Schulim Krimper

George Korody

Fred Lowen

Gordon Andrews

Memphis Group

late 20th century design colour grid

 late 20th century design example 2

Minimalism

1990s

After the excesses of the 1980s, the 90s pared it back drastically. Furniture was stripped down and laid bare. Colours were more subdued, adopting subtle neutrals and pastels. Woods became lighter.

The geometric forms stayed. But furniture lost excessive decoration and took on simple stripe or floral patterns. Furniture was made to be durable, rather than ornamental.

This minimalist trend was ideal for spacious, airy rooms. Its light hues seemed designed to introduce calm into each room. Interior design trends were light and white, reflecting a resurgence in Scandinavian designs.

Influential minimalist designers

Tom Dixon

Michael Marriott

Marc Newson

Sebastian Bergne

minimalism colour grid

Flat-Packing and Replica Furniture

2000s

As we entered the 21st century, our priorities shifted to a more environmentally-conscious approach. Sustainable products became the norm, with people looking to recycled products or upcycling. Furniture has taken on more earthy tones, channelling the eco-conscious attitudes in their raw, fresh look.

Flat-packing, mass production and replica furniture are all trends that have come into full swing. People are also looking for innovative ways to make the most of smaller spaces.

We’re still seeing traces of those former interior design trends – the focus on smooth lines and curved edges, function above decoration, and material blends. The Scandinavian and Danish influences have also returned, as you can see in our Scandinavian and Danish bedroom furniture range.

Influential designers

Jasper Morrison

Assa Ashauch

Mathias Bengtsson

late 20th century - colour grid

The Cushion Code: Selecting & Arranging Sofa Cushions

You have chosen your dream sofa but upon moving it into your living room, you’ve found that for some reason your sofa doesn’t seem to go with the rest of your décor.

Maybe the sofa stands out too much. Maybe it doesn’t stand out enough. The number one way to fix this, and tie your whole living room decor together, is with cushions!

 

 

 Beige sofa bed with patterned cushions and a throw

(Milo Collection) 

How do you decide on which cushions to get? You should have a think about colours, textures and patterns. Read on for our top tips for every type of sofa and how to best arrange cushions on your cosy couch.

What Colour Cushions Go with Your Sofa?

The key to choosing the right cushions for your sofa is picking colours that not only suit your sofa but tie together the whole living space.

From artwork to armchairs, your sofa and your cushions, every element of your living room should complement each other and make for an inviting and stylish space.

It might be easier to match the colour of your cushions to your sofa colour exactly, but this can be a bit boring. If you want a truly stylish living room, it’s the little details that will transform your space from dull to chic.

If you do plan on using matching cushions, why not try using cushions made from material that is an interesting texture or shade.

Alternatively, you can experiment with colour combinations using the colour wheel or get inspired by on-trend colour palettes available at Pantone

 

Cushions for a Red Sofa

A red sofa adds a lovely bright pop of colour to any living room. If your sofa is dark red, try dark blue cushions for a regal look. A modish scarlet couch will look better with patterned grey cushions.

Cushions for a Beige Sofa

Beige sofa with cushions that reflect colours in the living room

(John Collection)

A beige sofa is the easiest sofa to transition to a new palette. Choosing cushions for a beige sofa really depends on the colours you have chosen for the rest of your living room.

If you have a mixture of colours, look for an underrepresented colour to feature in your cushions. Keep the colour scheme light and airy, and avoid black cushions unless you’re going monochromatic throughout.

Cushions for a Green Sofa

A green sofa will freshen up your living space. Because of this, natural colours like taupe look nice next to a green sofa. You can also use floral-inspired colours. Use pink floral cushions for a fresh look, and analogous colours like yellow and blue.

Cushions for a Blue Sofa

Blue sofa with blue patterned cushions

(Gordon Collection)

A blue sofa can have a cool and calming effect on your living room. When choosing cushions for your blue sofa look for colours that are next to blue on the colour wheel, including different shades of blue and green.

Cushions for a Black Sofa

Your black sofa will go with almost any colour, but there are a few colours you may want to avoid. Browns rarely pair well with black, while navy blue is too similar in shade. Patterned and textured cushions can create a nice contrast with a black couch, especially if it is a black leather sofa.

Cushions for a Grey Sofa

Grey sofa and armchair with blue cushions

(Andreas Collection)

Liven up your grey sofa by using colours that are light and coordinate with the other colours in your living room. Grey pairs well with colours that have a similar tone, include similar shades of pinks or blues.

Cushions for a Brown Sofa

When choosing cushions to go with your brown leather sofa, look for rich, jewel-toned colours. Teals, blues, deep reds and golds look chic on a brown sofa. Depending on the style of your leather couch, neutrals and pinks can also look stylish. Once again, avoid black!

Patterns & Textures

Patterns and textures are important for a living room, with cushions a great way to add this depth. Break up solid colours with patterned cushions, but don’t choose too many different patterns as they might overwhelm the eye.

Try to contrast different textures against your sofa. A leather sofa looks nice with faux fur and velvet cushions. Silks evoke luxury, while corduroy and weaves give a contemporary look.

You can change your patterns and textures according to the season. Choose floral patterns for summer and cosy, woollen textures for winter. A throw blanket also adds warmth and comfort to your living room.

How to Arrange Cushions on Your Sofa

 When arranging cushions many people assume it’s best to arrange them symmetrically. But it’s not necessary; you can be a little more creative!

Mix and match cushions of different sizes and shapes for a visually interesting arrangement. Square, rectangle and the odd circle cushion in coordinated colours and patterns will give your sofa plenty of personality.

Beige sofa with cushions of different sizes

(Spacecraft Collection)

It’s important not to pack so many cushions on the sofa that you can’t sit down and get comfortable without removing them. You want your cushions to be practical as well as beautiful.

A popular cushion arrangement is the 2-1-2 arrangement. That is: two larger cushions in both corners, slightly smaller ones next to them, and one cushion in the middle.

Two or three cushions are probably enough for a two seater sofa, while a larger three-seater sofa can hold five or six.

However, there are no hard and fast rules for arranging cushions. Experiment with your cushions arrangement, and see what works best for your space and your style.

Get decorating your sofa today for the complete living room look with our range of cushions available online at Brosa.

A Tribute to Iconic Furniture Designers

iconic furniture designers

Particular design styles wouldn’t exist without the designers behind each movement. The past century has seen dozens, if not hundreds, of notable furniture designers, people who have been at the forefront of design trends, or who have fashioned their own unique styles. This is our tribute to these international and Australian designers.

Here at Brosa, we love to celebrate furniture designers. Not only do they push the boundaries on furniture design and production, they use their considerable expertise to create top quality pieces known for their craftsmanship, strength and durability. As a result, designer furniture pieces can be – and often are – considered works of art.

Why have we created this resource? Because we want to give furniture designers (including ours) their due respect. Furniture designers toil hard to create new designs and innovations. Their efforts are rewarded when their designs – their intellectual property – are embraced and respected by the community.

Australian furniture designers make us proud by enriching our local art culture. Their original pieces are designed with top-quality craftsmanship and are made to last. But it’s not just the quality of a designer piece we’re interested in. Australian furniture designers rely on their authentic pieces for their income, while purchasers can expect an appreciation in the value of their furniture.

Buy from local designers, and you’re investing in the future of the local design community. You’re protecting their intellectual property. And more often than not, you’re also investing in a particular set of values, whether they are using organic or eco-friendly materials or engaging in local production.

Support and interest in the industry translate into more innovation and increased production. And we’re all better off for that. So to honour furniture designers, we’ve include a list of some of the most renowned designers in the industry, from overseas as well as at home. These designers’ unique styles inspire many contemporary furniture designers, which you’ll see in the designer furniture you’ll find at Brosa.

Click on the iconic designer below to find out more about their work and how they have contributed to the designer furniture industry.



International Furniture Designers

Mies van der Rohe

1886-1969

Mies van der Rohe (born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies) made his mark as one of the 20th century’s most celebrated architects, thanks to his dedication to quality craftsmanship.

Mies’s furniture often blended luxury fabrics, such as leather, with chrome frames. We have him to thank for his cantilevered steel Barcelona chair and table. His other famous furniture pieces include the Brno chair and the Tugendhat chair.

Mies was the third and last Bauhaus art school director.

mies van der rohe barcelona chair

Barcelona Chair

Brno Chair

Brno Chair

Brno Chair

Tugendhat Chair

Le Corbusier

1887-1965

Le Corbusier – née Charles-Édouard Jeanneret – is considered a pioneer of modern architecture. His trademark furniture designs include sculpted, chrome-plated chairs that are both functional and modern.

The Swiss-born designer’s bold furniture was created for mass, industrial production. Among his most popular pieces of furniture were the “Grand Confort” and the LC4 chaise lounge.

In 1964, Cassina S.p.A of Milan gained the sole rights to manufacture his furniture designs, and it exercises this exclusive authority to this day (although many replicas exist elsewhere).

Find pieces inspired by Le Corbusier in our designer sofas collection.

Le Corbusier Grand Confort

Grand Confort

LC4 Chaise Lounge

LC4 Chaise Lounge

Arne Jacobsen

1902-1971

Danish-born designer Arne Jacobsen is renowned for his Scandinavian-styled furniture. His inspiration came from Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, among others.

His chairs combined functional and minimalist designs with quality craftsmanship. His springy-backed three-legged Ant chair (1951) sold in the millions, making it one of the most commercially successful chairs to date. Meanwhile, his Egg and Swan chairs still remain some of the most recognisable pieces from the mid-century modern design style.

Jacobsen was also a distinguished architect. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Arne Jacobsen Ant Chair

Ant Chair

Swan Chair

Swan Chair

Egg Chair

Egg Chair

Hans Wegner

1914-2007

Hans Wegner is another Danish mid-century modern designer who embraced modernist, functional furniture styles. First employed by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller, he later when on to establish his own studio.

By the end of his career, Wegner had created more than 500 chairs. His style is renowned for combining a variety of natural materials. His “Round” chair (1949) is one of his most famous works – so popular, in fact, that is commonly simply called “The Chair”.

Find pieces inspired by Hans Wegner in our designer dining chair collection.

Hans Wegner Round Chair

Round Chair

Papa Bear Chair

Papa Bear Chair

Egg Chair

Easy Chair

Philippe Starck

1914-2007

Philippe Starck is a French designer who has produced remarkable designs across all manner of fields, from interiors to product design.

Starck’s product designs are known for their fluid form and subtle details. Starck strives to create democratic designs that are available to the masses. For this reason, his products are often mass-produced at affordable prices.

Starck designed the world’s first polycarbonate chair, the La Marie Chair. Other famous works include the Dr No Chair and the translucent Louis Ghost Chair, of which more than 1 million have been sold.

Philippe-Starck Round Chair

Le Marie Chair, Kartell

Dr No Chair

Dr No Chair

Louis Ghost Chair

Louis Ghost Chair

Australian Furniture Designers

Douglas Snelling

1916-1985

Douglas Burrage Snelling was an esteemed Australian architect and furniture designer (although technically, he was a British-born, Kiwi expat).

Snelling always had a way with design, opening his own graphic arts and show window design business as a teenager. In the 1940s, he moved to Sydney and opened a furniture and show windows business.

His chairs became icons of Australian furniture design with their parachute webbing and modernist features. In fact, they were Australia’s first real mass-produced furniture range in the mid-20th century. Among his most famous pieces are the Snelling chair and footstool.

Douglas Snelling Douglas Snelling Chair

Douglas Snelling Chair

Douglas Snelling Footstool

Douglas Snelling Footstool

Grant Featherston

1922-1995

Grant Featherston is arguably Australia’s most well-known furniture designer, having spent his life creating furniture pieces. Many of his designs are now considered collectables and collect high prices at auction. They’re also the basis for many furniture replicas on the market today.

A self-taught designer from Geelong, Featherston’s most famous pieces include the modernist Contour chairs of the 1950s. The chairs were made of single pieces of flexible plywood bent into shape without losing their strength. They were beloved for the way they were shaped to the contours of a human body.

Other works included the Scape chair, the Delma chair, the Stem chair and the Obo chair, some of which were created in partnership with his wife, Mary Featherston.

Find pieces inspired by Grant Featherston in our designer armchair collection.

Grant Featherston Eleanor chair

Eleanor chair

Scape Chair

Scape Chair

Roger McLay

1922-2000

Roger McLay was an early Australian designer. He experimented with all manner of materials, from steel and aluminium to glass, wood and concrete.

Born in Sydney, McLay began his career as a 15-year-old artist apprentice at greeting card manufacturers John Sands. At the same time, he learnt his trade at an Australian technical college – one of the first to do so. After WWII, he began work as a freelance designer and talented in both designing and constructing his pieces.

His most notable piece of work, the Kone chair (1948), became a classic furniture design from post-war Australia. It was made of shaped plywood and metal. The chair was put into limited production by McLay’s own Gloucester Street studio but was so successful it later entered commercial production.

Kone Chair

Marc Newson

Born: 1963

Marc Newson is an internationally-celebrated Australian designer who has worked on everything from furniture design to commercial aircraft design.

He graduated from the Sydney College of the Arts in 1984, and was awarded a grant from the Australian Crafts Council to stage his first exhibition. It was this exhibition that propelled him into international attention and continued to set records even years later.

Now based in London, Newson has received numerous awards and distinctions, including a CBE. His works have set numerous auction records. In 2005, he was listed in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

This prolific designer has items featuring in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Design Museum and V&A, the Vitra Design Musem and the Centre Georges Pompidou. His work collectively accounts for almost 25% of all items in the contemporary design art market.

Newson’s designed are notable for their smooth geometric lines and curved edges, reflecting organic shapes of nature. Among his pieces are the Embryo chair, the Lockheed Lounge and the Chop Top table.

Today, Newson is an adjunct professor at the Sydney College of the Arts and the creative director for Qantas.

Marc Newson Embryo Chair

Embryo Chair

Lockheed Lounge

Lockheed Lounge

Wood Chair

Wood Chair

Johnny Chamaki

Johnny Chamaki is an award-winning designer with a studio in Sydney. Chamaki showed promise for art and design when he began selling artworks to his friends’ parents at just 10 years old.

Fascinated by plants, Chamaki’s contemporary works are inspired by nature and unique geographical locations. One of his most famous furniture design ranges, the Outlaw Series, borrows heavily from Ned Kelly symbolism and folklore.

In 2002, Chamaki established the Chamaki Design Studio, focusing on furniture, objects, interiors and architecture. In 2008, he was recognised as the International Designer of the Year by Vogue, Germany and Shogun, Japan.

Outlaw Chair

Outlaw Chair

Firefly Chair

Firefly Chair