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Why it’s time to stop obsessing over antique furniture

Resplendent four-poster beds, lush armchairs with fine embroidery and wholesome bar cabinets can make anyone feel like they are sitting in the lap of royalty. They tell us stories of a beautiful, bygone era. But do they behold the needs of a modern, compact city home? Are they functional?

Antiques sat a lot prettier in lavish bungalows and independent homes during the British Raj. But they lose the charm and even, at times, become a liability when custom fitted into city apartments. In apartments, where space is precious and the ceiling is not too high, bulky four-poster beds, for example, may not be the wisest choice.

And it’s not just modern floor plans and space constraints that make antique furniture an impractical choice. A lot else has changed over the years. With working professionals settling and buying apartments in the city, and managing their busy lifestyles, comes the need for products that are easy to use and maintain. Think about the nightmare of cleaning the dust that settles on an intricately carved sofa set. Don’t forget, these are heavy-set pieces made using dense woods like mahogany that need special care and attention while cleaning. Add to that the fact that one needs to be extra careful in the handling of the furniture and making sure that it doesn’t stain.

The argument stood strong back then; the denser the wood, the more tenacious the furniture. Yes, modern and contemporary furniture, by comparison, does have a shorter shelf-life. However, it is created with a lot more functionality keeping in mind our current needs, lifestyles and constantly evolving technology.

Modern is not contemporary

Clocks tell a lot more than just the time. They speak of an era and a moment all at once. Since the day electronics took over our lives, clocks haven’t been left with much of a role. These days, even the microwave can tell you the time.

The case of the contemporary

In comparison, contemporary furniture is ever changing. It doesn’t belong to a decade, but to a moment. Think of it as design that evolves with you. When houses got smaller, contemporary furniture got sleeker to combat the space-crunch problem. Light wood, metal, glass and microfiber helped them do this effortlessly. Textures became smoother, lines were crisper. When outdoor spaces were reduced, contemporary design brought outdoor-sy elements inside the house.


The philosophy of contemporary furniture plays a large role here. It seeks to express the practical use of the piece in the simplest way possible. Take for example how our homes change faster now that they would have 50 years ago. The world is smaller and travel is easier, so the furniture is lighter and easy to move.


Our rooms are also ever changing depending on life decisions and milestones. Contemporary furniture is made to fit into that evolution without disrupting the entire make-up of the room. For example, if you decide to bring in a flatmate to share your apartment or get married or have a baby, it’ll be easier to move around, add, remove, customize, replace or embellish contemporary furniture.


Also, the colors in contemporary furniture are muted; they range from pale to deep, dark hues of earthy tones and these colors can be mixed and matched far more easily than antiques would allow. Think of it as design for a new living. It’s furniture that gets along more easily with the other pieces in your room. Adding embellishments and accessories that showcase your personality is easier with monotones without worrying about clashing. This means you can change it at any time without redoing the entire house. Imagine, you travel to Turkey and fall in love with a piece of hand-painted, teal or turquoise ceramic floor lamp. It’s likely that you’ll be able to bring it into a home with contemporary furniture without it looking out of place than in a home that has antique, dark-wood, immovable furniture.

The philosophy holds true on many counts. There is an ease in contemporary furniture. It fits into our lives as effortlessly as it fits into sharp corners. It is design that is sensitive to evolving with you. Consider how rigid and hierarchical office life used to be. It is much more casual now. Much in the same way, contemporary design aims to keep it casual. It is unfettered with none of the whims of the olden days.

It’s furniture that serves you, not the other way.

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