Modern vs. Contemporary: Can you Spot the Difference?
Being able to differentiate between these two popular design styles can help customers better articulate their vision.
Learn how the designers of this home artfully meld opposites together into a cohesive and comfortable space.
December 6, 2021
This Modern European-style home, nestled near the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, makes abundant use of its one-of-a-kind location. The home was co-designed by architects Jim McNeal and Angela Liesmacki-Decoux of James McNeal Architecture & Design and built by Hendel Homes, led by owner, Rick Hendel. The house brings together many juxtaposing elements to create a space that is artful, timeless, and perfectly suited to the owners’ lifestyle.
Yin and yang is a dualism concept that’s as old as time. It’s the philosophy that all things exist as opposites that interconnect and complement each other. This was the inspiration for architect Jim McNeal as he designed this Modern European home.
The challenge was three-fold: Find harmony between a warm atmosphere and a modern aesthetic while maintaining clean, crisp lines; blend a natural setting nestled between a marsh and Lake Minnetonka with outdoor entertaining areas; and balance functionality with beauty. The result? All these juxtaposing elements come together to create a dynamic space for the homeowners to live, entertain, and enjoy.
A Classic Look, Built for Modern Living
As you approach the property, the first thing that jumps out is the stark white stucco contrasted with ebony-clad Modern Direct Glaze windows. Old-growth trees encapsulate the area, and a feeling of seclusion engulfs you in the lakefront lot. “This is such a unique property, with water surrounding both sides and views of a historic stone bridge,” McNeal said. “We wanted to make sure we created a structure that worked with, not against, the space.”
Approaching the entry, a simple arch over the front door helps to soften the look, inviting visitors and making them feel welcome. Around the back, you are greeted by a spectacular outdoor space, complete with a glittering pool. “We know how important the melding of space is for the owners,” McNeal said, noting the patio for sun lounging, entertainment areas for al fresco dining, and a cabana.
A Room with a View
If you can pry yourself from the outdoor space and move indoors, your eyes are immediately drawn to the vaulted ceilings, highlighted by the beauty of natural wood beams. It’s a look that harkens back to the home’s continental roots. “We were trying to create a look that is traditional in its form, but modern in its execution,” said Angela Liesmacki-Decoux, co-architect on the project. “That’s how you create something that’s timeless and awe-inspiring.”
Not to be outdone by the vaulted ceilings are the views. In fact, the home takes advantage of its unique location and offers lake views from multiple angles. “It’s not every day you get to work with a home that has double water views,” Liesmacki-Decoux said. “You can stand in the center of the home and take in these beautiful, bucolic views out of both sides.”
The sheer number of windows manages to be a statement as well as an ancillary element. “We love the Marvin Modern line of windows because they can be a statement without overwhelming the overall design,” McNeal said. “They give us the freedom and flexibility to be creative and bring a vision to life.”
Bringing the Outdoors In—and the Indoors Out
The main level open-concept great room also features a dining room that is literally a glass box, providing the ambiance of dining in nature.
Of paramount importance to the homeowners was a cohesive flow between indoor and outdoor living. The use of live plants inside helps to accomplish this and adds a flourish of biophilic design. But it’s the expanse of glass in every room that does the heavy lifting. “After we completed the build, people kept referring to the house as ‘the jewel box,’” McNeal said. “At dusk from the outside looking in, the home carries all the brilliance you would expect from a lit jewel box.”