Upon first hearing the term, you may think “modern” simply means a home that is built in the present time. That’s not quite accurate. The modern category of home designs actually reflects a specific era, the post-Industrial Revolution era to be exact. In fact, homes that are built in the present time are more likely to be labeled “contemporary” than “modern.”
Confused? You’re not alone. Many realtors, lenders, and even builders use the terms “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably when describing home styles. Lane Lenhart, CEO and owner of 4G Design & Holistic Home in West Hollywood, California, explains the difference between the two styles.
“Contemporary is, literally, what is being created and produced right now. It is dynamic, meaning it’s constantly changing. It can be quite eclectic – contemporary style isn’t tied down to one specific style – it’s of the moment and borrows bits and pieces from a variety of styles and eras.
Modern style describes a static, era-specific design and style that breaks with those pre-Industrial Revolution traditional styles. Modern design is connected to the age of the 1920s-1950s, although some make the case that modern design refers to anything from the 20th Century.”
While it is possible for contemporary architecture to incorporate elements of modern home design, it is not possible for a truly modern home design to also be contemporary. The modern home style does not change.
The History of Modern Home Design
As mentioned above, the modern style of architectural design emerged in the early 1900’s, growing in popularity and becoming the dominant style after World War II. In many ways, modern design was a direct rebuke of the ornate, neo-classical architecture of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Along with this rejection of earlier styles, builders and architects were eager to take advantage of advances in construction technology, which made it easier to use glass, steel, and concrete in their designs. Modern homes are sleek, uncluttered, and unadorned, while prominently featuring glass, concrete, and steel.
One of the most famous examples of a modern style home is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House located 90 minutes southwest of Chicago. Other famous modern style homes are Philip Johnson’s The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut and Charles and Ray Eames’ Eames House near Los Angeles, California. Additional styles that are considered modern include Bauhaus and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mid Century Modern.
Characteristics of Homes Designed in the Modern Style
Modern homes are dramatic to look at and distinctive in their lack of ornamentation. These are very “bare bones” homes, often just one level or one level with an exposed loft, heavily focused on function and not much else. Most designs begin with a simple boxy shape and a very large open floor plan, and the few embellishments may include exposed beams and lots of floor-to-ceiling windows. Talk about living in a fishbowl!
The heavy use of glass has intention, though. Designers of the time wanted to help people feel more connected to nature, so they removed walls and replaced them with windows, surrounding homeowners with their natural environment. In many cases, architects drew inspiration for the home’s design from the landscape surrounding it.
As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe explained: “Nature, too, shall live its own life. We must be aware not to disrupt it with the color of our houses and interior fittings. Yet we should attempt to bring nature, houses and human beings together into a higher unity.”
In many cases, the easiest way to identify a modern home style is to look at the roof. You will not find the traditional triangular peaks and gables on a modern roof. Instead, you will notice bold, horizontal.
Key Elements of Modern Home Design Are:
- Strong horizontal elements
- Large expanses of floor to ceiling windows
- Intentional asymmetry
- Blurred boundaries between indoor and outdoor
- Severe lack of ornamentation, decorations, and “frills”
- Monochromatic in color indoors and out, with white being preferred
- Warm wood and brick tones inside
- Flat roofs with plateaus or overhangs
- Heavy use of glass, steel, and concrete
- Large, open floorplans
- Clean, geometric lines
- Strong use of natural lighting
Modern Homes Today
Can you find a new modern home today? Absolutely! Since modern homes refer to a specific home style and design elements and not whatever is trendy at the time, those elements can be replicated and incorporated into a custom home design. You can have a brand new home in the modern style! If you love clear-cut lines and geometric shapes, lots of windows, and a no frills style, a modern home may be perfect for you.
Start your search for modern homebuilders today at New Home Source!
Liyya Hassanali is a Project Manager and Content Strategist for Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides marketing strategies and content for architects, interior designers, and landscape designers. She is a 15+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry, working closely with her clients to provide written content that meets their marketing goals and gets results.
Liyya is passionate about home design and décor and is a confessed HGTV and Pinterest addict. When not providing content writing services for her clients, she can be found browsing home décor sites or spending time with her family.