At first glance, furniture styles might look pretty much the same. Especially soft furnishings, chairs and sofas for instance, where subtle differences in colour, fabric or internal construction might not be immediately obvious to the untrained or casual eye. There are, however, differences between traditional, contemporary and designer sofas that stand out once you have an idea of what to look for. Colour may be a firm indicator. Traditional styles of sofa are designed to complement traditionally decorated rooms, which tend to use dark woods and muted shades of other colours. See our categories on traditional leather sofas and traditional fabric sofas for more ideas.
In traditional furniture you will notice that the fabric patterns are generally small and the colours used incorporate warm tones that blend comfortably with wooden furniture. In contrast, contemporary sofas will be in brighter colours, often fashionable shades that might also be reflected in catwalk fashion garment colours.
The patterns will be bolder and the colours more stark, incorporating more contrasting shades than complementary ones. Designer furniture pushes the boundary in both colour and style, often deliberately going against styles that have become accepted. For instance, if sofas are expected to have high backs and small cushions, designer sofas will likely have low backs and large cushions. Designer furniture often has cleaner lines than traditionally styled furniture and sofas are no exception. Designer Italian leather sofas and designer fabric sofas have their own pages, be sure to take a look!
Expect to see unusual shapes and fabrics, minimalist, box-like structures and block colourings. Designers love to bring unexpected materials into their creations, so if we are used to seeing fabric and wood, designers will incorporate leather and steel. Price points will be another indication of the differences between contemporary, traditional and designer sofas. Mass produced items tend to be less expensive than items that are hand produced or that are likely to be high fashion and so have higher demand. To get a better understanding see the sections on contemporary leather sofas and contemporary fabric sofas.
Designer style can be achieved in a mass-produced fashion, but a compromise will be seen between styling and materials in order to balance the cost. Shape is another indicator of the type of sofa you are looking at. Whilst traditional furniture is balanced and symmetrical, contemporary styles often bring in a deliberate aspect of disharmony. Mixing up the balance of furniture in this manner is one way of achieving a contemporary look in a room that is traditionally furnished. On a traditionally styled sofa you would probably place cushions in an equally balance way with one at either end and maybe one in the middle. Give the sofa a more contemporary look by rearranging the cushions and placing two at one end and one at the other. As tastes change, we tend to want to change the look and atmosphere of our surroundings on a regular basis. This is easy to do with accessories, but not so easy with major purchases such as sofas.
By adopting the trick of creating elements of unbalance, it is possible to bring the contemporary or designer look into a traditional setting. Blend in the look by adding extra elements of unbalanced design, for instance with door curtains which lend themselves readily to contemporary settings. Simply tie the curtain back against one side of the door, allowing the fabric to drape at an angle and you instantly have a look of fashionable, contemporary unbalance.