August 19, 2019 5 min read

Contemporary design today is characterized by simple forms, clean shapes, bright colors, and functionality. But where did these concepts originate from and how did it become the style that we know it to be today? Let’s go back in time and see the work of some of the most inspirational contemporary designers of all time. Understanding the concepts and mentality behind a certain style can be of use when redecorating our homes or when working with clients on a new interior design project. We have selected nine of the most inspirational contemporary designers but the list certainly doesn’t end here.

Poul_Kjærholm_PK22_PK61

Poul Kjærholm PK22 Chair and PK61 coffee table

Poul_Kjærholm PK Chair

Poul Kjærholm PK Chair

Poul Kjærholm

(1929–1980)

An eminent Danish contemporary interior designer, Poul Kjaerholm’s furniture is of special interest to art collectors and serious furniture enthusiasts. The designer’s style incorporates the typical for the contemporary interior design clean lines and pure elegance and creates a perfect balance between modern and contemporary, by placing a focus on functionality. What is interesting about Poul Kjaerholm is his interest in steel as a dominant material through his furniture. Steel combined with natural elements such as canvas, leather, or cane were typical choices for contemporary furniture by Poul Kjaerholm.

Hans Wegner - Three legged Shell Chair, Contemporary Design

Hans Wegner - Three legged Shell Chair

Hayla Chair with sheepskin, Black and white

Hans Wegner - Hayla Chair with sheepskin 

Hans Wegner

(1914–2007)

Hans Wegner takes a central part in the postwar Scandinavian design and played an important role in shaping the well-known interior style today. The pieces created by this vibrant designer are actively used for contemporary and modern design as they express a true passion for aesthetics, functionalism, and Danish craftsmanship. Hans Wegner was responsible for popularizing Danish design internationally thanks to the functionality behind his furniture creations. The designer won the title of “The Master of the Chair” and was popular for creating wood and other natural materials with beautiful shapes and joints.

Safari Chair by Kaare Klint

Safari Chair by Kaare Klint

Kaare Klint

(1888-1954)

Kaare Klint had a passion for beauty and in his lifetime worked as a Danish architect, furniture designer, and artist. What is interesting about Kaare Klint is that he studied the human body and its dimensions and movements in order to translate his knowledge into the creation of furniture. The concepts detailed out by Kaare Klint are used today in contemporary design and continue living through time. Greatly influencing the Danish design, Kaare Klint’s work inspired popular designers such as Hans J. Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm, and Børge Mogensen.

Drop chairs, fully upholstered by Arne Jacobsen

Upholstered Drop chairs by Arne Jacobsen

 

Tan Leather Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen

Leather Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen

(1902-1971)

Another inspiration for today’s contemporary design is Arne Jacobsen. His work has served as inspiration for designs that can now be found in stores such as IKEA. A Danish architect and designer, his most popular work is the creation of smart and simple chair designs but he also had a say in the shaping of lighting and textile design. You may have heard his name related to the “Grandfather of Modern Danish Design”. His most popular works include The Egg and Swan chairs. His work was inspired by plants as gardening was one of his main passions in life. His designs are filled with sophistication, beauty, and versatility.

White and Teak 1953 Lounge Chairs by Finn Juhl

White and Teak 1953 Lounge Chairs by Finn Juhl

Chieftain chair, bench and chair by Finn Juhl in living room

Chieftain chair, bench and chair by Finn Juhl

 

Finn Juhl Sideboard

Finn Juhl Sideboard

Finn Juhl

(1912-1989)

Finn Juhl’s is another inspirational Danish architect, interior and industrial designer who was among the leaders of Danish design. His studies began in the 1930s when furniture design underwent an important period and when modern design began emerging. As one of the highly influential designers of the Mid-Century era, Finn Juhl placed great importance on the form of furniture rather than in functionality. His designs showed an appreciation for organic and natural forms and a passion for strong materials found within nature. His ideas for furniture derived from his understanding of the human body, turning him into a furniture sculptor rather than simply a constructor. His ultimate aim was to create furniture, which gives a sense of lightness.

Arne Vodder Oak sideboard

Arne Vodder Oak sideboard

Arne Vodder

(1926-2009)

Born in Denmark, Arne Vodder started his career as a cabinetmaker and architect and studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen where he developed a passion for furniture and design. The furniture designs created by this eminent designer are distinctive with their accent on simplicity and natural materials, including rosewood and teak. The furniture’s forms would resemble those found within nature and would sometimes include colorful panels adding more life and vibrancy into the piece. Arne Vodder became popular for his furniture creations including tables, seating, cabinetry, and more.

Finlandia Hall, Alvar Aalto

Finlandia Hall, Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto

(1898-1976)

If contemporary and modern design is something that intrigues you, chances are that you have come across the name of Alvar Aalto. One of the greatest names in modern architecture and design, his work is certainly an inspiration for contemporary designers around the world. What separates Alvar Aalto from the rest is his humanistic approach to design. He was one of the most influential architects, who took part in the Scandinavian modern movement. Alvar Aalto is best known for his commonly used method of bending wood to form a distinctive shape, which became a clear sign of his work. Elegant simplicity, functionality, and high-quality design available to all are all characteristics of his work.

Pattern by Josef Frank

Pattern by Josef Frank

Josef Frank

(1885-1967)

Josef Frank was an Austrian designer who was popular for his modernist style in rural settings. His designs are described as fun and uplifting and were also oriented towards humanistic architecture. Certainly, an inspiration for contemporary design today, Josef Frank’s designs would include gentle tropical flowers, birds, maps, and a thrill for adventure. He was highly interested in the everyday life of his clients and more specifically, the movement of items around the house. According to him, the house should not be considered a piece of art but rather a place where one lives.

Eames Chair black leather and wood

Eames Chair black leather and wood

LCW Chair by Charles Ray Eames

LCW Chair by Charles Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames

(1907-1978) (1912-1988)

Charles and Ray Eames were not only interior designers but textile and graphic designers, architects, and film-makers. In other words, they were inspired by all the surrounding beauty and searched for ways to exploit their practical use. They are among the most famous designers that helped shape modern furniture.  Functionality took center stage in their designs. Charles and Ray Eames are also known for softening the hard edges of modern design and giving it a mass appeal.


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