Modern Design 102: Geometry

In continuing our exploration of modern design’s key characteristics, we land squarely on the topic of geometry.

Where traditional interiors rely on heavy texture and ornamental flourishes, the modern movement looks to clean, straight lines for its aesthetic building blocks.

The Building Blocks of Modern Design Represented by Blockitecture Blocks

Let’s take a closer look:

Back to Basics

To help achieve its hallmark of breathtaking simplicity, modern design relies, in large part, on the sharp and spare lines of its architecture, furnishings, accessories, patterns, and so on. But how did this passion for clean geometry evolve?

Modern style grew from a desire to bring function into lockstep with form, which meant setting aside unnecessary decoration in favor of crisp lines.

In the early part of the 20th century, as industrialization swept the globe, the modern movement embraced the functionalism and new technology of its time. In light of the increasingly machine-driven global culture, much art and design in fact began to reflect the aesthetics and utility of machines themselves.

Modern Geometric Poofs

In light of all this, simple geometry quickly came to center stage. Economical, adaptable, and efficient to construct, geometric forms became a defining characteristic of the modern aesthetic—and left an endless field of play available to those of us who would embrace modern design long into the future.

Making Space for Strong Geometry

When applied decoration went out the window, new materials stepped in, and creative expression turned to a streamlined, almost futuristic look. Today, modern interiors rely on strong edges, simple curves, and geometric angles as much as ever.

At the same time, industrial materials like chrome, concrete, glass, stainless steel, and other polished elements dominate the modern interior scene—materials that seem to lend themselves naturally to strong geometric forms.

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In fact, at its core, modern style is a form of extreme precision. So in many cases, the movement strives to illustrate the simplest forms: squares, rectangles, or rounds—all heightened to a new meaning and elegance by virtue of careful placement and emphasis.

Which brings us to the all-important factor of space. Much inspiration for modern design has come from the clean, geometric features of the Japanese style. In Japanese design, space is not seen as an emptiness or lack of something. On the contrary, it is considered an important design element.

Hip to Be Square at Home

You can establish a sense of structured, clean geometry in any interior space. Start with the bare bones of the room.

A Clean and Crip Modern Bedroom

For flooring, walls, or other surfaces, consider clean white, oversized tiles with rectified edges, or wood floors sanded down to minimize the grain.

To highlight the natural geometric lines of a room, skip moldings or trim around windows, doors, and walls.

A Modern Room with No Molding

Think organization from the outset, but try setting bookcases and shelving into the walls, rather than letting storage elements protrude into the space.

Now for furniture. Clean and spare is the name of the game here—but don’t think that this means boring. More often than not, modern furnishings can best be described as bold, striking, and often flat-out fun. Look for clean lines at every turn, and let yourself be picky.

A Moder and Crisp Geometric Tablescape

Finally, accessorize with flair and drama. This is a great place to begin playing with asymmetry—an effect that’s achieved by combining dissimilar objects that have equal visual weight or eye attraction. Today, asymmetrical balance is one of the defining characteristics of a modern, geometrically minded space.

While more casual in feeling, asymmetry can be quite difficult to achieve. So think about starting small: on your coffee table, balance an eye-catching, radial metal bowl with a neat, straight-lined stack of boldly colored books. Whatever your attempts, it’s worth experimenting until you nail it. Asymmetry suggests movement and can lead to very lively interiors.

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When you’ve achieved new heights of gorgeous geometry, post your own tips in the comments below, or share your pics with us by mentioning @UnisonHome when you share your style on Instagram. We love to see how you’re incorporating the essentials of modern design into your own interior spaces.