3 Purely Modern Homes

Discover what makes modern design special by taking a closer look at three modern homes, with modern characteristics highlighted by Marvin Architectural Consultant Marco Vincent.

September 6, 2022

When it comes to modern architecture, the familiar idiom “less is more” is the mantra that guides every aspect of this popular design. “It’s all about less lines, less angles, less details, and less materials,” said Marco Vincent, Lead Architecture Consultant in the Marvin Design Lab. But that doesn’t mean today’s modern home is less than. It is quite the opposite, as illustrated by the three purely modern structures highlighted here.

Function Over Form

Unlike traditional home designs that led with form, today’s modern home is driven by function. It welcomes the outside in and thoughtfully adapts the structure to the site, instead of imposing its architecture on top of it.

“The traditional home is often focused on being symmetrical for the sake of being symmetrical and then you build the spaces from there,” Vincent said. By contrast, modern home design “likely reflects the designer’s interest in the functionality of the spaces and how they connect with their site.”

Functional aspiration is the appeal of today’s modern home. On a corner, non-waterfront lot in Sag Harbor, New York the challenge to build a home that would offer privacy, along with a water view, was solved by flipping the front of the structure to face the back. This creative repositioning to the rear of the property gave the homeowners privacy by directing its expansive windows opposite the street. And it allowed for a breathtaking bonus view of the water from the second-floor balcony.

Siting in a New Light

Siting a home is often a tradeoff between views and daylighting, natural air, and natural light, Vincent said. South-facing properties are preferred, but if the most beautiful views are to the North, the modern home would most likely be positioned in that direction to take advantage of the vista.

In Minnesota, a home built on the shores of Lake Minnetonka was naturally sited to bask in its expansive lake views via the generous use of windows and the open concept living area. The function of this Tonka Bay house is on full display, even from the outside, as the lake can be seen through the home before walking through the front door.

Hugging the Earth

Along with design asymmetry, the concept of a low profile is also a common feature in today’s modern architecture. “Modern homes kind of hug their environment … on this longitudinal horizontal plane,” Vincent said. In Golden Valley, Minnesota a total home renovation simplified and modernized an existing structure that dated back to 1961. Although the original footprint remained unchanged, fresh minimal landscaping offered a distinctly clear view of the home “hugging” the property.

The roof structure of modern homes can also play a critical role in defining that horizontal expanse. “Flat roofs generally embody a more modern home,” Vincent said. But a low gabled roof, like the example on the Tonka Bay home, is also widely accepted on modern structures.

Space + Light = Modern

Open concept living and expansive outdoor views, aided by the incorporation of narrow sightline windows, is another key trait of a modern home’s design. “The lot experience is the lived experience,” Vincent said. On that note, Sag Harbor home designer John Patrick Winberry of The Up Studio stated he always places the path of the sun at the top of his project strategy. “There is this big blazing ball of fire in the sky that effects everything,” he said.

The massing of large windows and open spaces offers a lightness that allows breathing room for the home and its occupants. And it is not dependent on size as the basic tenets that drive modern design can be applied to 1,000 or 10,000 square feet. “It’s all about human scale and creating spaces that people are drawn to,” said Tony Videen of STR8 Modern, designer and homeowner of the Golden Valley home.

Materials Matter

Outside a truly modern home, materials can run the gamut from earthen to industrialized. In Sag Harbor and Golden Valley, ebony exteriors showcase the clean lines of the design. Tonka Bay’s structure offers a slight nod to prairie-style architecture, mirrored in its use of natural materials like slate, stone, and stucco.

The interior of a modern home will most likely repeat this organic simplicity with the use of earthen palettes. Modern homes typically feature furnishings that mimic the natural elements. Greys, creams, whites, and taupe are all prominent colors used in these three homes.

Life is not Symmetrical

In short, according to Vincent, modern homes “reflect the programming and the response to the functionality and functional needs of the homeowners.” And they are designed accordingly - often in an asymmetrical manner. “Life is not symmetrical,” he added. “Living, working, and playing is not a symmetrical experience. It’s always imbalanced in some way. And these modern homes reflect that.”

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