Design Movements | Modernism

Modernism Main Image

Modernism is best described as a way of thinking rather than a style. Many Modernists shared the belief that design of an object should be based purely on its purpose. The well-known phrase ‘form follows function’ was coined by American Architect Louis Sullivan and is often quoted when discussing Modernism. The core of Modernism within an architectural context is to have no ornamentation in a room. With such a contrast to the historical styles of Rococo where embellishments were the highlight, this new way of thinking was deemed to be radical. 

Modernism Farnsworth House

Farnsworth House – Ludwig Mies van de Rohe - 1951

Modernism Farnsworth Interior2

Farnsworth House – Ludwig Mies van de Rohe - 1951


Modernism coincided with the end of World War 1 in 1918 and with the growth of consumerism; a no fuss approach to the design aesthetic was adopted. Sub forms of Modernism developed across Europe known collectively as the International Style with Germany having its Bauhaus Movement. Materials usually included fibreglass, tubular steel, laminated plywood, concrete and plastic. Built-in low level furniture made the interior feel spacious and modular seating gave the appearance of simplicity. With white being the main colour used, bold colours sometimes featured but were normally limited to primary colours and abstract motifs. Having natural light was an important element and this was achieved with large banks of windows.

Modernism Glass Pavilion Interior 2

Glass Pavilion – Steve Hermann – 2010

Modernism Glass Pavilion Interior 1

Glass Pavilion – Steve Hermann – 2010


Today we still see the core aspects of Modernism used in Interior spaces. Comfort is perhaps considered more but the simplicity of clean lines and no clutter are still a driving force behind many interiors of present day living.


Cover image features design from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and David Trubridge