Looking for a Contemporary Furniture Store in NJ?

Is contemporary furniture here to stay? What kind of news flash is that? Of course it is. After all, there will never be a shortage of people wanting to decorate their homes with the very latest styles.

Here’s the catch. In the design world, contemporary doesn’t mean “whatever’s currently in fashion.” For that matter, neither does modern – even though “contemporary” is defined as “modern” at dictionary.com, and “modern” is the top synonym for “contemporary” on thesaurus.com.


Modern vs. Contemporary
Modern vs. Contemporary


The terms modern and contemporary actually define two specific and different styles of design, and we’ll explore the differences (and similarities) momentarily. Generally speaking, however, contemporary furniture and design favor simple, clean, and sophisticated looks rather than ornate appearances, and are likely to feature a mix of materials and concepts from different periods.

Popular trends and new technologies certainly play a role in defining contemporary furniture, but there are no strict rules for designers or homeowners to follow. When it comes to design, “contemporary” defines more of an overall look and welcoming feel – a spacious escape from the hectic world we live in – than a rigid philosophy.

That brief description might lead you to wonder why so many contemporary furniture stores and chains in New Jersey and elsewhere advertising and selling “contemporary furniture” have disappeared over the last decade. We’ll examine that question shortly; for now, be assured that the demand for contemporary design and furnishings is just as strong as ever.

Furniture and Design: Modern vs. Contemporary

Let’s first clear up the very common confusion between modern and contemporary before we get into the details of contemporary furniture and design. The best way to start is with a quick look at the history and development of each style.

Modern Style

A Model T is a very cool antique car, but Henry Ford’s innovation was considered the ultimate in modern transportation in the early 20th century. In a nutshell, that explains why it’s easy to be confused by the term “modern furniture.” What designers now call “modern” style was incredibly modern – back when it was first popular, many decades ago.


Noguchi Cocktail Table


Modern furniture, as defined by the design and furniture industries, differs in many ways from the pieces which are popular today. But the term “modern” is still used to describe the design approach that dominated the Western world for generations.

Modernism was a cultural and philosophical movement that had its roots in the late 19th century (even before the Model T). It was sparked by the widespread changes occurring at the time; they included industrialization, and the evolution of political and sociological thought to match the realities of the 20th century.

One aspect of Modernism was the development of furniture and design styles that were diametrically opposed to the highly-decorative Victorian and Neoclassical styles which had previously been in vogue. Modern furniture and design were light rather than dark and heavy, minimalist and functional rather than ornate, created for the masses and not the elites. That approach matched perfectly with the invention of equipment which could mass-produce quality furniture.

Many of the original principles of the modern style were defined by the Bauhaus school of design, architecture, and applied arts led by famed German architect Walter Gropius. The Bauhaus focused on mass production of functional pieces, usually with severe lines, and its influence was felt worldwide. A short time later, the Scandinavian design movement flourished in Northern Europe, also focusing on function and simplicity. It contributed greatly to the world’s acceptance of modern design principles.


Bauhaus Arts School
Bauhaus Arts School


In the mid-20th century, the modern style evolved into what’s called “Mid-Century” modern, basically an American interpretation of modern design principles. Function and minimalism still predominated but often with contrasting looks, more liberal mixes of color and texture, and common use of materials like plastic, vinyl, and glass. “Postmodern” styles changed the rules even more toward the end of the century, but is not usually included in the modern furniture category.

Today, most people use the term “modern furniture” to mean Mid-Century modern, but it can also refer to earlier modern styles.

Contemporary Style

It was the 1970s when designers first referred to “contemporary style,” which began as a mix of modern design with other styles ranging from Neoclassical to Art Deco. Eventually, contemporary design took on a definition all its own featuring softer lines and curves and a liberal use of bolder colors added to modern’s common reliance on tone-on-tone palettes. Eventually, influences from later styles such as Deconstructivism and Futurism could be seen in some contemporary design work.


Contemporary Sofa and Loveseat


Contemporary furniture is primarily soothing and inspiring, yet it can be either stark or sleek. That’s because there are no definitive rules that define contemporary style, making it more personal than modern could ever be. The lack of rigid precepts is particularly evident in the development of what’s called “casual contemporary” design, quite popular for the last two decades and heavily influenced by the Danish modern style. Casual contemporary furniture is often oversized and versatile, yet still comfortable and elegant.

Despite the recent surge of interest in vintage furniture, and the buzz around new trends like “modern farmhouse,” contemporary furniture – in all of its forms – remains the most popular style in America.

What Has Happened to Contemporary Furniture Stores in NJ?

This question it time to revisit the question we asked earlier: if contemporary furniture remains so popular – and so many different colors, materials, styles, and approaches can be used – what happened to all of the contemporary furniture stores in New Jersey which used to dot our roads and highways?

The answer is found in a catchphrase from the Bill Clinton 1992 presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.” (No, we certainly don’t think you’re stupid. That was just the catchphrase.)

The economic crash of the 2000s caused enormous fallout for nearly every business and the retail furniture industry wasn’t immune. The recession, with dramatic effects that are still being felt by many families, led to a huge drop in sales of new furniture. In other words, people still wanted contemporary furniture. They just didn’t have the disposable income they needed to buy it.

The economy-based decline in demand forced independent contemporary furniture stores and larger contemporary furniture chains in New Jersey and the rest of the country to close their doors in record numbers. Nearly ten percent of all furniture stores had to shut down in 2010 alone, with many more following suit in the following years.

So it’s understandable why some mistakenly believe that contemporary furniture is on its way out. Some contemporary stores in New Jersey have even closed recently.


Design Spree
Design Spree. Photograph: Google Maps


Design Spree, with locations in Maywood, NJ and Lawrence Township, NJ is an example of stores that have closed their doors recently (summer of 2014). They carried a variety of high-end furniture, including contemporary pieces.


ABC Carpet & Home
ABC Carpet & Home. Photograph: Mark Umali


ABC Carpet & Home is a high-end store which has recently closed a few of its locations including the one in South Hackensack, NJ. They carry a variety of genres, including contemporary furniture.


Valitalia. Photograph: Google Maps


Valitalia is another contemporary furniture store that was located on Route 17 South in Paramus, NJ and has closed very recently. They specialized in high-end Italian furniture.

On the contrary, though, many new stores specializing in contemporary or Mid-Century modern furniture are starting to pop up all over the country – and with the economy continuing to recover, their futures look bright.

Modern vs. Contemporary Styles

If you’re still a bit hazy on the similarities and differences between modern and contemporary furniture and design, here’s a cheat sheet.

Similarities: Both styles aim to create open, light, and uncluttered looks that are aesthetically pleasing and extremely functional, without unnecessary ornamentation. Both make liberal use of plastics, synthetics, and natural woods, both often feature glass, metals and exposed, straight legs, and both are likely to use neutral color palettes to some degree. Perhaps most importantly, both create a welcoming feel with their clean lines and uncluttered looks.

Differences: Modern furniture follows strict design rules but contemporary style has no such constraints and is free to take influences or pieces from other styles to adapt and adopt, mix, and match. Contemporary style allows and even encourages the use of bold colors, while modern design sticks mostly to natural and neutral palettes. Modern features strong and straight lines while contemporary leans toward softer curves, some contemporary designs can have a stark look that’s never seen in modern design – and to put the differences in just a few words, modern is predictable where contemporary is “almost anything goes.”

For a more in-depth article describing the differences between contemporary and modern furniture, click here.

To get an even better feel for contemporary furniture and design, let’s go room-by-room and look at typical design choices.

Contemporary Living Rooms

Naturally, a contemporary living room will have a spacious and uncluttered look, in keeping with the primary goal of contemporary design. Furniture is likely to be large, comfortable, and padded, yet within the context of the room it won’t appear boxy or overpowering. Functional sectionals or curved couches with clean lines, square legs, and straight arms are common. They define the room as both fashionably sleek and eminently comfortable.


Eton Sectional


Materials used to manufacture contemporary furniture are also elegant and fresh. Woods are very light or very dark, fabrics are usually solid or textured (although at times you will see light or geometric prints), and leather of all colors, even bright ones, is often featured. Reflective metals like stainless steel and chrome are the most popular choice for legs and arms.


Squared Area Rug


Accessories like area rugs and throw pillows are used as eye-catching accent pieces to provide colors and textures that contrast with the more sedate shades and clean lines of the furniture, enlivening the room and giving it a clean, welcoming appearance.


Contemporary Cocktail Table


One other set of elements usually crucial to the design of a contemporary living room is its occasional tables, which complete the transformation of an open room into an inviting space. Cocktail and end tables are most commonly made from metal bases and glass tops, although the addition of a natural wood to the mix softens the cold look of a metal-and-glass table and contributes an extra layer of complexity and warmth.

Contemporary Dining Rooms

Dining tables and chairs are, of course, the centerpieces of dining rooms – no matter what design style is used. The geometric shapes, natural woods and metal frames and legs seen on most contemporary dining room tables and chairs make a powerful statement, yet are ideal for enhancements and accents which take the design to another level.


Mesa Dining Table


Some of the possibilities include transparent glass, butcher block, or even metal tabletops with elegant designs, as well as lacquered or exotic woods. A glass top is a popular choice and the perfect match for neutral or earth-toned rooms, with the added benefit of appearing either casual or formal depending on its surroundings.

Simple yet sophisticated metal or wooden legs are most often associated with contemporary furniture and they are two of the most common choices for dining room tables as well; the other is a solid pedestal or block base. As with all contemporary pieces, you won’t see the unnecessary design flairs (like ornate scrollwork) associated with older styles.


Frank Dining Chairs


Dining chairs are commonly open-framed, with their materials and colors usually matching those of the table. But as previously mentioned, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to contemporary furniture, and the use of leather, suede, or synthetics on chairs can provide a striking counterpoint to a dining table. Some chairs even feature some of the primary accent colors often used in other areas of a contemporary dining room to give it the “lively” appearance many people seek in a room used for family meals and celebrations. The creative use of texture and color is particularly important in small dining rooms where the clean and minimalist look of contemporary furniture can make the area look sterile.

Contemporary Bedrooms

Clean and minimalist may not sound like your idea of a “homey” bedroom, but contemporary furniture works extremely well in a bedroom when the design is executed properly. The freedom to use bright colors, warm woods, and varied textures makes it possible to design an extremely welcoming and comfortable haven within a home. And the open space of a contemporary design provides ample opportunities for natural light to add a relaxing airiness.


Wind Bed in Black


There are endless options when choosing a contemporary bed: simple platform or Scandinavian-style beds made from solid wood, combinations of wood and metal, rustic or industrial-style beds with more unusual materials or textures, even beds featuring materials so light that the mattress appears to be floating in mid-air. Some of the contemporary-style beds available today are almost works of art on their own.


Bento Bed


A headboard made from solid wood or with soft natural fabrics is the perfect way to make a minimalist bed take on a very different personality, through the right choices of shapes, textures, and colors. And just as with dining room tables and chairs, a contemporary bedroom’s nightstands, dressers, and other case pieces can either match or provide a contrast with the bed. Many of those furniture options feature diverse materials like stone, glass, and even cement, to give a contemporary bedroom a unique natural or eco-friendly feel. The right choices of relaxing or energizing colors complete the desired environment.

Contemporary Lighting

The open feel of contemporary design is ideal for the inclusion of natural light as one of a room’s featured elements. That’s rarely enough, of course, and the proper use of contemporary lighting fixtures such as table lamps and techniques serves to highlight the appearance of the room’s furniture and design.


Token Table Lamp


Track lighting is a common method used to show a contemporary décor to best advantage. Other fixtures like pendants and floor lamps are integral to contemporary lighting designs, though, and the freedom to create, innovate and “mix and match” allows for the use of unique lighting fixtures which can stand on their own as featured pieces, as long as they feature the same clean lines as the rest of the room’s contemporary design.


Token Table Lamp


Most experts suggest illuminating the room’s focal points, especially the major pieces of furniture, and recommend the installation of dimmer switches to take best advantage of changing patterns of light and shadows throughout the day and evening.

The Lasting Popularity of Contemporary Furniture

The popularity of design styles bound by rules and tradition, like Victorian, Art Deco, and modern, comes and goes. They may each periodically come back into fashion decades after their heyday, but their time in the spotlight for some of them is fleeting.

Contemporary design, on the other hand, is always “current.” There are general guidelines to follow, of course: minimalist approach, soft lines, and avoidance of ostentatious flourishes. But since the specifics of contemporary design vary with an individual’s tastes and the styles of the day, contemporary furniture is never stale or outdated. And the many styles of contemporary pieces sold at retail change regularly to match current trends.

Those updated styles, coupled with the overall flexibility of contemporary design, guarantee that contemporary furniture is here to stay.

Where Can I Find Contemporary Furniture in NJ?




As was previously stated, the economy is slowly but surely growing and contemporary furniture stores seem to be sprouting. FOW has survived the economic downturn and we have always carried contemporary furniture and will continue to do so. We are your complete resource for contemporary furniture and accessories, so browse our website or check out our showroom in person.


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