Modern patio furniture is called that primarily because of two reasons. One of those reasons is that its manufacture makes use of technologies unheard of in the past, resulting in a more durable finished product. Another reason we call this patio furniture “modern” is because a lot of it also takes its design cues from contemporary tastes and styles. Of course, that's not to say that all modern patio furniture boasts contemporary designs. Classical looks and feels are still very well represented. Plus, they have the added benefit of extra durability, so these modern sets will last longer than did their counterparts of yesteryear.
Speaking of manufacturing processes, modern patio furniture really shines in this area when it comes to metal and wicker. The metal patio furniture, for example, is customarily treated with a high tech powdered coating which causes it to resist rust even in places where it rains a lot. Wicker patio furniture in modern times is actually made of a synthetic material that won't crack, break, or burn. That way, you get the timeless look of wicker, without any of the associated drawbacks of the older natural material. There are also other materials which are more modern to begin with, like recycled plastic, for example.
Modern patio furniture is generally more comfortable than the older stuff, too. Not only that, the design options and customization alternatives are more plentiful. As a result, it's a lot easier today than it was years ago to put together a set of patio furniture that will look exactly like you want it to. One of the reasons for this is the wide range of fabrics available for outdoor cushions. As you'll see for yourself when you start shopping for patio furniture, almost any pattern or color you can imagine is available.