Homes inspired by modern design are all the rage right now. Watch any home renovation show and you’ll see everyone requesting some of the key characteristics of this style—open, flowing spaces, clean lines, and an abundance of natural light. Despite what the name suggests, modern architecture is a throwback to ‘50s and ‘60s style. The new aesthetic that emerged during that era, inspired by the International and Bauhaus movements, put heavy emphasis on both form and function and blurring the line between the indoors and outdoors.
As a result, modern design is both flexible and practical. The growing awareness around sustainability has created even more buzz for modern architecture and its eco-friendly building standards. As you look at homes on the market, you will notice the trend toward open floor plans, larger windows, less ornamentation, and clean, simple lines.
The characteristics of modern design
Modern architecture (and contemporary architecture, which shares a very similar aesthetic with evolving upgrades based on what is trendy at the moment) relies heavily on simplicity, livability, and the concept that “form follows function.” Here are nine key characteristics of modern homes:
- Clean lines and curves
- Linear masses with little ornamentation
- Interesting rooflines and asymmetry
- Utilizing natural light with large windows and skylights
- Innovative and eco-friendly building materials
- Expansive interiors and open floor plans
- Energy-efficiency and technology integration
- Sprawling, single-story layouts
- Integration of interior and exterior space
A brief history of modern architecture
Modern design elements emerged from the movement toward less formality in all areas of life during the ‘40s—at home, socially, and in the workplace. Rigid forms, conventional standards, and traditional style dictates were replaced by freer, more natural expression. Today, this mid-century movement is returning full force, with people abandoning the cookie cutter suburban tract homes and developments that became popular in the ‘80s. The new millennium has seen even more of a shift to self reliance and individualism, and the “not so big house” movement is another example of designers addressing a need for housing that makes sense rather than makes a statement.
As costs continue to rise for new construction, the modern home evolved into more of a personal environment. Special occasion spaces were abandoned in favor of multipurpose spaces. Instead of defined rooms like parlors, sitting rooms, and dining rooms, homeowners favor entertaining and living space hybrids, “bonus” rooms, and much more informality. Although separate media rooms and home offices have emerged with new importance, they are flexible enough to serve other needs on occasion. No matter what purpose each room serves, open, flowing spaces are the norm.
New living styles that embody this flexibility—co-housing, live-work spaces, sustainable communities, off-grid options, and zero-impact living—have added a contemporary influence to modern spatial design. Environmental and energy concerns have had an enormous impact on building materials and building codes. Today, passive and active systems for heating and cooling; sustainable water collection, delivery, and purification; eco-friendly technology; and merging indoor and outdoor spaces are even bigger factors in modern architecture.
Using technology to build functional sustainability
Contemporary designers are embracing the philosophy that technology points the way to a better future, and that the future must be sustainable. Therefore, the contemporary take on modern designs trend toward living spaces that utilize tech to create flexible, adaptable, and healthy homes.
“Smart homes,” equipped with energy and time-saving devices—from smart doorbells to smart refrigerators—are becoming the norm. Today’s homeowners have the ability to monitor and control heat and air conditioning systems from afar, to turn lights on or off, start the oven, adjust the sprinkler system, “see” the condition of the property, and call for assistance if necessary.
Integrating elements of modern style in contemporary homes
While contemporary architecture is technically architecture that incorporates whatever the trends are today, current contemporary style borrows heavily from mid-century modern and modern aesthetics. Mid-century modern design, characterized by low profiles, asymmetric lines, geometric shapes, and retro Scandinavian and European design influences, is making a big comeback. Despite this style emerging over 80 years ago, its simplicity and functionality have proved to be timeless, and thanks to technology, we’ve gotten even better at making modern homes more efficient and practical.
This is a time of great opportunity for modern design. Form is less important than function and while some modern homes continue to look normal on the outside, they are thoroughly modern inside. Others utilize space-age concepts, rely on reclaimed materials and unexpected adaptations, and are stunningly non-traditional. One thing is certain: Despite being rooted in the past, modern homes are the future.