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Get the retro look with modern living furniture
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Get the retro look with modern living furniture

Posted by Adam Chard in Style guides | 8 years ago 5 min read

When you hear someone refer to "modern" style in interior design, there is an important distinction to be made.

Whilst many don't even realise there is a difference between "modern" and "contemporary", using both terms interchangeably, "modern" is actually a completely separate style of all of its own.

Whereas "contemporary" style is ever-changing, reflecting current tastes and trends, "modern" is actually a style which originates from a period roughly between the 1920s and 1950s, when the old, ornate designs of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, gave way to more futuristic and less fussy styles, with more emphasis on simplicity, functionality and modernity.

Modern look, retro feel

Whilst contemporary trends come and go, the designs of the modern era remain the same. During this period, people started experimenting with new materials and new forms that were previously unheard of. Materials such as plastic and engineered wood started to be used, to create different shapes and textures that were simple, yet highly functional.

Futuristic furniture

When it comes to living room furniture, simple wood shapes with clean lines and soft curves will help you create the perfect modern style in your home. Geometric-shaped sofas and chairs, along with simple fabrics are the ideal accompaniment. At the time, this type of furniture would have felt very futuristic.

Fast forward around 70–80 years and the modern living style is now considered retro, embodying a classic era of interior design. But another thing that makes this style really popular is that every single piece serves a very real purpose. For example, a [nest of tables] can be used to hold a lamp and serve as side tables for a whole manner of different functions.

To confuse matters, many contemporary styles have started to incorporate modern living furniture, blurring the lines between the 2 styles.

Oscar furniture range

Simple, angular lines and accentuated curves are the key to achieving the modern look


Typically, the modern style is pared back when it comes to decor and accessories, again adding to the confusion between contemporary and modern, which both promote a minimalist style. White walls and cream carpets ensure the attention isn't drawn away from the furniture, whilst accessories are kept to a minimum.

For lighting, a classical original, such as an angle-poised lamp is a must, whilst pendant lighting can produce a wonderfully sculpted look and feel. Starburst mirrors are iconic to the mid-century style and will help enhance both light and space.

Finish with cushions in bold colours or graphic prints and a large rug with a pattern or bright colour.

Oscar oak storage table

Retro meets new, with this stunning storage table


When we think of the pre/post war era, our thoughts are perhaps tinged in monochrome. After all, this was a period of austerity where Britain still had rationing. However, your modern room should be bright, light and very vibrant.

Start with white. It is the canvas upon which you can create your masterpiece, plus it will allow your statement pieces to become the focal point.

When looking to introduce your colour scheme, use the 60/30/10 rule. 60% should be in your primary colour, with 30% in your secondary colour and 10% in your accent colour.

We've picked out some colours that work very well in a modern setting:

  • Dark blue
  • Burgundy
  • Forest green
  • Orange

Oak is a very traditional finish, but it works brilliantly when used in modern living room furniture, giving a warming and organic feel. Teak and walnut are other wood finishes that work well, whether you are using solid wood or veneers. Accessorise with gold, brass or copper elements.

Got a new room you want to show off? Tweet us @VictoriaPlumUK using the hashtag #ShareYourStyle to enter our monthly competition where you could win a £200 gift certificate.

Author, Adam Chard

Posted by Adam Chard in Style guides | 8 years ago

A born & raised West Countryman, now living on the Yorkshire Coast, for over 10 years Adam has been bringing home interior ideas to life at Victoria Plum. Adam’s favourite interior styles have been shaped by both urban and natural influences.

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