One of my favorite things about modern design is that it gives equal consideration to aesthetics and utility. Even the simplest modern furniture often has some kind of dual functionality, or at least some subtle quirk or changeable feature designed to make the piece more usable. But the extra utility isn’t just added on, it’s integrated into the design from the ground up, which means it’s as attractive as it is useful. For instance, while traditional side tables rarely have more than surface ornamentation (and a single flat surface to put things on), these modern accent tables use asymmetry and moving parts to create a look that’s simple, stylish, and ever so subtly more useful.
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Some of my favorite modern accent tables are “transformer” style tables like this Tartus table. All folded together, it looks like a very basic, cylindrical table, not much more than a bare-bones geometric shape. But the table is actually divided into three separate layers that are connected to a central post and can be swung to either side. That means the table can be manipulated to look like staggered tiers or fanned out layers. Splitting apart the layers reveals hidden storage compartments inside the table, which can either be used to tuck away items and keep them hidden, or as an organizer or display for things like remotes or magazines if you want to leave the table untwisted.
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Hidden storage is actually a fairly common feature of modern furniture, though it’s often incorporated a bit more subtly. This Tokyo table, for instance, has a very simple, streamlined look, with a basic white tabletop and base, but as with the Tartus table, the topmost portion swings out of the way, revealing a storage area inside. In this case, though, because the moving part is both fairly thin and fairly mobile, it’s useful in its own right rather than just as a removable lid. Especially if it’s placed alongside a chair or sofa, the movable tabletop can also be used as a drink tray or TV tray.
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Of course, some improvements are more straightforward. There’s no real trick to this Libby end table: it’s simple and square and outfitted with a fairly large drawer. But rather than looking like a clunky file cabinet, it’s designed to have a sleek, modern style that keeps it from being overly utilitarian feeling. Part of that is that it’s designed to have white space – a simple rectangular cutout that keeps the table from being a solid, cabinet-like mass. It also helps that the design is asymmetrical, both because the white space is shifted to one side, and because the drawer is made of a separate, contrasting material. Together, that creates a table that’s both functional and attractive, simple yet eye-catching.
Asymmetry is another powerful tool of modern design. Most traditional furnishings are pretty strictly symmetrical, and doing away with that restriction makes it possible to have designs that are more intuitive and functional. This two-tier Marco table is extremely simple in design – it doesn’t have any moving parts or hidden features – but having two connected two-leg tables not only creates more surface area, but also a simple yet striking geometric design. Both tabletops seem to be floating, and the mis-matched legs create the illusion that the table shouldn’t be able to support itself, which makes this incredibly simple table seem just a little bit daring.
Even simpler designs can have a similar effect. These Pasos nesting tables are as simple as simple can be – a basic square chromed steel frame paired with a glass tabletop. But when stacked together, the transparent tabletops create an eye-catching telescoping effect, with each clear level suspended over the next. The added functionality lies in the fact that you get three matching tables that stow away in the space of one, and when you pull the tables apart slightly to make use of the added surface space, you still get the same unique, layered look.
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Then there are modern tables that provide functionality for the sake of functionality. This Bob side table has a similar modern chrome-and-glass aesthetic, and an elegant, slightly asymmetrical Z shaped design, but it also incorporates simple folds of leather fabric so it can serve as a magazine stand, mail carrier, or even a place to put your remotes. Unlike some of the other designs, the storage can’t be hidden away, but the design is simple, functional, and accessible, while maintaining a streamlined and minimalist look and feel.
Modern accent tables may be simple, but often that simplicity is paired both with utility and beauty; you just have to find the right piece for your space!