Modernist Interior Design Ethos

Modernism was born out of a backlash against the romanticism and classic styles popular in the early 1900s. Styles such as cubism and futurism began to gather pace, but were shattered after war broke out. After World War I and II, artists felt that older styles did not suit the current climate.

As new technology, cultures and attitudes began to shift, disillusionment took hold and modernism was born. The style was stripped back, art laid bare. Ezra Pound, one of the most influential modernist poets, famously decreed “make it new”, which exemplifies what modernism is all about.

Modernism in architecture and design

However, when it came to interior design and architecture, modernism was a very distinct style that focused on ridding itself of adornment and creating objects for functional purposes, where form became secondary. New materials such as steel frames, curtain walls and ribbon windows also influenced the style.

After a housing crisis following WWII, many new housebuilders eschewed the neo-classical and Georgian style of British housing and began creating modernist-styled apartments and homes in Britain. These often featured flat roofs and rendered walls.

Famous proponents of the modernist style included Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Eileen Gray, Marcel Breuer and Le Corbusier. These architects were also designers, and invented many now iconic designs such as:

  • The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, which combined steel and leather in a stylish lounge chair. ‘Less is more’ was Rohe’s famous phrase, and this item typified it.
  • The No.4/Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer. This resembled a club chair but was stripped back and simplified, using basic elements and tubular steel to create a comfortable yet straightforward piece.
  • The Eileen Gray Side Table by Eileen Gray. This is a table made of tubular steel and class, shedding any of the adornment beloved by more classical tables. Instead, it is built solely around the idea of function – specifically for a table that can fit above knees when a user is in bed.

Each of these items illustrates the sort of thinking you can bring to your own modernist home, transforming your approach to how you design both its exterior and interior…

Modernist design ethos in your home

To bring modernist ideas into your home, you must frame your thinking the same was as these radical designers did. First and foremost, you need to understand that modernist design is focused around the idea of form following function. If an item doesn’t function as ideally as it should, why are you using it?

Function doesn’t just mean assessing if an object works. It means designing your home around working effectively for you. A great example of this is a window – what’s the point in an elegantly designed, stained-glass window if it offers poor insulation and doesn’t let light in? A modernist would not care about the beauty of said window unless it first offered function first. For example, an aluminium window is a great choice for modernist design enthusiasts, as it is a new material that offers high tensile strength and great insulation.

Material selection for your home should prioritise new, innovative materials that can influence design. Tubular steel was popular back when modernism first gained traction, but nowadays aluminium is a fantastic medium that has allowed homeowners to incorporate furniture and fittings that are lightweight but strong enough to serve their purpose. Natural materials are also prized in modern-day iterations of the style, bringing the outdoors in with the likes of wood and stone that has been processed into ultra-modern flooring or furniture material.

Geometry is key to bear in mind – as many modernist styles use solid geometric shapes such as rectangles, straight lines and simple patterns, generally overlaid with monochrome colours or a more conservative splash of muted tones. In your home, consider shapes and how they affect usage. Do you really need a ‘wave’ shaped kitchen island, for example, or would a rectangular island better serve the space?

Furniture doesn’t have to be entirely pared back. Modernism is, after all, form following function – it’s about comfort over decoration. In many ways, modernist furniture is actually more suitable for a home than any other style, as it is designed solely to focus on application. Your chairs should be designed around sitting in, your tables for dining, your cupboards and accessories for storage. Additional ornamentation, in a modernist sense, isn’t needed.

By combining the above factors, you can start to incorporate elements of modernism into your home. If you’re updating an older property, we can help fit aluminium windows and doors to replace steel or wood frames, which don’t offer the same functional benefits as our modern alternative. To get started with this, get in touch with us today.