Contemporary or Modern style homes are always a popular choice, especially for busy families. Clean lines and modern amenities typify these two styles and make them a great choice for anyone looking to build or buy a new home. Most people think of these as one style of home, but did you know that there are distinct differences between the two?
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Contemporary house plans are built on the foundation that is the modern style. Contemporary basically means whatever is popular at the time. Modern house plans are based on the Modernist Movement. It was a move from the traditional ways that tried to reinvent how we looked at the world.
In the 1890’s an “avant-garde” movement began. The new way of thinking was to push back against previous norms. This new era of everything for art and poetry to architecture and science was characterized by radical changes in how things were portrayed. The Modernist Movement was inspired by great thinkers like Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. Their theories on how the mind worked and reality were completely different than those of the previous generations.
This inspired people to look at the world differently. Gone were the traditional techniques. Bring in the Modern way of doing things. This was the teenaged rebellion of its time. People didn’t want the traditional brick and stone houses any longer. They wanted bright and airy homes that reflected how they viewed the world.
The First World War
The political turmoil of the early 1900’s greatly encouraged this movement. The world was constantly changing. And it seemed to be getting smaller by the day. Wars were no longer being fought between just two countries. Multiple nations were getting involved in the conflict.
While war is always a terrible thing, it does bring two things with it: social and technological advancement. Prior to the World War I, the idea was that the way of life should evolve slowly. There was a belief that change was something that could only be brought about as a trickle rather than a stream.
Modernists challenged this idea. They believed that the previous ways of thinking had brought about the unnecessary conflict in Europe and that if there was to be a change, it needed to happen all at once.
Thanks to the war, the technological advances of the time were growing by leaps and bounds. Electricity was becoming widely available, telephone services were becoming something that everyone had and air travel was now a norm.
By the 1920’s, Modernism had taken root in every aspect of art, science and even politics. It had evolved with the times, however. Prior to this time, Modernism sought to overthrow every idea that had come before it. This movement wanted to leave those ideas behind and establish its own in their place.
The Modernists of the 1920’s took a step back and decided to build upon those previous ideals. This about face may have been brought about by the public’s reactions to the prior Modernists’ views. There had been a poor reception to the Modernists’ art and music.
The Modernists of the 1920’s tried to merge the old ideas with the new. They tried to find a balance. Home designers feared the new technology would make the older designing styles obsolete and so they tried to find a balance between the traditional designs and new and increasingly available technology.
Gone were the days of the horse and buggy and needing to have a space for them. Instead everyone was getting an automobile and therefor needed a place to store it and all of the things that it needed.
Elements of Modern Design
The modern design that came from the Modernist movement was typified by the lack of ornamentation. Prior designs had been chock full of ornamentation and frills. The Modern design was simplistic in comparison. The emphasis was on the materials used, rather than the craftsmanship. There were new ways of making windows and so more and more windows were added to homes and commercial buildings.
This was the world of the future and the modern designs reflected it. Rooms were airy and open with light pouring in from the outside. There was easy access to the outdoors for entertaining. And as people’s views on family changed, there was a move to a more isolated family grouping.
In reaction to this, more rooms were added to give children privacy and to give them a place to play and grow without being constantly underfoot. Gone was the central hearth. Now we had heat pouring in from radiators and central units. Home designers took advantage of this technological advancement to make the rooms larger and the floor plans flowed from one room to another.
World of the Future
Modern Design embraced the idea of the future. The designs included plastic and metal and glass in every aspect that they could be combined. Modern Design was often in grey and white and black. It would showcase exposed steel, plastic tubing and large open windows.
Modern Design was moving away from traditional brick and wood homes. Instead it moved towards the industrial and technological era. The homes would often be in odd geometric shapes and feature windows and doors where it didn’t seem possible to have them. It was full of clean lines and large open floor plans.
Outdoor Living Areas
Modern homes were designed with entertaining in mind. As a consequence, they often had large outdoor living areas where guests could mingle. Many of the Modern homes had these outdoor living areas that were separate from the environment around them. They showed the control the designers had over the environment.
Elements of Contemporary Design
Contemporary design resembles Modern Design closely. And no wonder, Contemporary Design builds upon Modern Design. They both have the same devotion to connecting the indoors and the outdoors. They both have homes that give you a feeling of open space and room.
One of the major components of Contemporary Design is its sustainability. While Modern Design embraced the materials used in the building process, Contemporary Design embraces the marvel of the world around us. Many Contemporary homes are built with sustainable or recycled materials. They are built to leave a small carbon footprint and to be energy efficient.
Large windows are put in to bring in an abundance of light and many contemporary homes will have green roofs or living roofs. These are roofs where plant life is encouraged and could even be gardened to become a sustainable food source.
Outdoor Living Areas
Contemporary Designs put a large emphasis on entertaining. This includes outdoor living spaces. Many Contemporary homes will have large outdoor kitchens with all of the amenities included. Many Contemporary homes will have large covered patio spaces with freestanding fireplaces.
One of the newest trends in Contemporary homes is to have entire rooms that can be opened up and used outdoors. While entertaining outdoors is something that is part and parcel of the Contemporary Design, formal dining rooms are starting to make a comeback.
Modern Design can be perceived as cold and almost industrial. Contemporary Design, however, has no fear in embracing the whimsy and absurdity of life itself. Much of the inspiration for Contemporary Design comes from the world around us and the world can be quite silly. Contemporary Design may include pieces from the local area that the home is being built in. It may also include memorabilia from far off places.
An example of Modern Design.
An example of Contemporary Design.
Modern and Contemporary Design
There are some things that these two designs share. While they have their differences, Modern and Contemporary Design come from the same root. They were both born in the idea that the old ways of doing things may not be the best ways.
Both Modern and Contemporary Designs share the love of clean lines. Modern tends to be more geometric and almost industrial in its feel. Contemporary, on the other hand, feels more organic with inspiration drawn from nature.
Both Modern and Contemporary Design have a tendency to be hard on your power grid. Modern Design, if it is not installed and built correctly, can have large windows and rooms that will tread heavily on your resources. Contemporary Design tends to have very modern appliances in the kitchen namely large stoves and refrigerators. These will draw heavily on the electricity coming into your home.
Esthetics wise, there is one notable difference between a Contemporary home and a Modern home. That difference is the colors and materials used in decorating and construction. A Modern home will have lots of grey, black and white and have artificial and stark decorations. The home will be patterned in a way that accentuates the bold designs of the modern world around it.
A Contemporary home will be decorated in greens, browns, and tans. All of these colors lend to the natural look that the Contemporary Design strives for. It will be decorated with natural fabrics and materials and usually those that are local to the area that the home is being built.
I find it appropriate to be writing about Contemporary and Modern house designs on Earth Day. Today is a day to celebrate all of the beauty of our home. Both Contemporary and Modern house designs embrace the outdoors and try to bring as much of that natural beauty inside as possible.
So even if your home isn’t equipped with a large outdoor living area, step outside today and just take a moment to be grateful for this wonderful little slice of the universe. If you are reading this blog and Earth Day is over, go ahead and do it anyway. If there is one thing to learn about these home designs it is that the designers appreciate the beauty of the world around them.
Here at Nelson Design Group we have an entire collection of Contemporary/Modern Home Designs. In my next blog, I will showcase some of those plans. Look for that in the next couple of days. If you can’t wait that long, go here.
Nelson Design Group has over 1,800 house plans on our website. All of which can be customized to fit your needs. We also design custom built homes and can help you plan for a remodel. Just give us a call today.