Walk into any furniture store, and there’s a high chance that most of the designs you see would have either American, Danish, Japanese, or Italian influences. They each have very distinct looks which are steeped in history yet remain relevant in contemporary interior design. Here's a quick guide on how to spot these popular styles.
Mention Mid-century Modern furniture, and American designers immediately come to mind. The most prolific of them all is Charles and Ray Eames, the husband-and-wife team behind the most celebrated (and unfortunately copied) designs of that era, the Eames Plastic Chair and Lounge Chair.
Curvy forms, simplified aesthetics, and functional designs are what makes Mid-century Modern furniture so recognisable and desirable. They are made to fit any body snugly, and complement homes in every occasion. No one does this better than Knoll and Herman Miller, American manufacturing powerhouses that still carry time-honoured pieces like the Noguchi Coffee Table by Isamu Noguchi.
Mid-century Modern aesthetics have also been widely adopted in contemporary furniture design. Cabinets, tables, and chairs supported by tapered legs are ubiquitous, as well as dark wooden furniture accented by pops of bright orange or green - both of which are features that lend the pieces a slight retro edge.
Based on enduring timeless principles such as simplicity, functionality, and durability, it’s no wonder that the modern Danish design movement, which began in the 1940s, continues to be widely loved and revered.
Furniture designs by pioneers like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner all feature clean lines and pure silhouettes, and many of their creations have gone on to become icons. Popular Danish designs from that era include the Series 7™ chair, PH lamp, Y-Chair, Egg chair, and Panton chair. Look them up! It’s very likely that you’ll recognise the designs as they’re a common feature in hotels, offices, restaurants, and homes.
Simple yet effective, understated yet elegant, Danish furniture will never go out of style. That’s why designs by storied brands such as Fritz Hansen and Louis Poulsen will always be relevant in today’s homes. On the other hand, the new wave of Danish brands like Muuto, HAY, and Ferm Living are taking the same “form over function” approach into the future with more playful and colourful furniture and decorative items.
Zen, which is synonymous with Japanese interior design, has its roots in Buddhist philosophies that revolve around emptiness, stillness, and nature. These ideas have permeated the Japanese way of life for centuries, and are manifested in its design culture through minimalist architecture, furniture, and homeware.
Always well-thought-out, elegant, and made with exquisite craftsmanship (some believe in having seamless joinery), Japanese designs never fail to inject a sense of tranquillity into homes. It remains an aesthetic that’s much loved and emulated by designers all around the world.
Furniture that exudes a distinctive Japanese feel is often made with natural wood elements, have low profiles that are space-efficient, and feature calming earth-toned colours. Just take a walk around MUJI and you’ll know exactly what we mean!
One common thread that runs through Italian furniture designs is that it’s always elegantly flamboyant and made to impress.
Italy’s influence on contemporary furniture styles is undeniable, and there’s a reason why the world’s largest furniture trade fair, the Salone del Mobile, is held in Milan. Since the early 1900s, Italian architects and industrial designers have been the forerunners of notable design styles such as Rationalism, Avant-garde, Modern, Postmodern, and Memphis.
Today, heritage Italian brands still dominate the home decor scene. From B&B Italia’s sleek, posh designs to Moroso’s weird and wonderful statement pieces, the range of styles is so varied that it’s almost impossible to pigeonhole the Italian aesthetic.
Lighting manufacturers like Slamp, Flos, and Foscarini are also adored for their innovative and quirky lighting designs. Just like Achille Castiglioni’s iconic Arco lamp for Flos, you can always count on an Italian design to take centre stage in a room.