For many people, the meaning of the word “contemporary” is hard to pin down because it’s always evolving to fit a modern context. The same can be said for contemporary architecture. However, we’re here to put a face and a definition to the contemporary home once and for all. Keep reading to learn how to identify this style of architecture, as well as what sets it apart from the crowd.

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Contemporary homes reflect today’s architecture. Image: Lochwood-Lozier Custom Homes

What is a contemporary home?

Put simply, contemporary homes reflect the architecture of today. While you may think that definition makes it synonymous with modern architecture, that’s actually a common misconception. Modern architecture refers to a style that was popularized from the 1920s to 1950s, one that embraced clean lines and stark minimalism. Contemporary architecture goes beyond that to define the ever-evolving architectural styles of the 21st century.

Most contemporary homes do have a modern flair to them, with design tweaks from postmodernism and deconstructivism, as well. For the first time, we also see homes where the building materials are just as important as the final product. With contemporary homes, we see a huge emphasis on natural and sustainable building materials.

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Contemporary homes are popular because they allow for individuality. Image: Openspace Architecture

What makes these homes so popular?

Contemporary homes are popular because they’ve broken the mold when it comes to changing architectural styles. Traditionally, the dominant architectural style of the time will be the complete opposite of the one that came before it. For example, the simplicity of Craftsman homes is in direct opposition to the over-opulence of the Victorian era that came before it.

However, the same cannot be said for contemporary architecture. In fact, this style borrows a lot from modern design, its predecessor. It borrowed what worked, as you can see from the emphasis on clean, simple lines and a connection to the outdoors, and fixed what didn’t. Contemporary homes are often much warmer in design than modern versions.

This ability to pick and choose characteristics led to a never-before-seen emphasis on individuality. Homeowners were free to design their homes in a way that truly worked for them, architectural conventions aside. It also may be why contemporary design seems to be sticking around for the long haul.

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In general, contemporary homes try to bring the interior and exterior together. Image: RW Anderson Homes

Defining features of a contemporary home

Though contemporary design does hold a strong emphasis on individuality, there are a few defining characteristics that tie this style of home together. They are:

Exterior:

  • An irregular, asymmetrical façade
  • Strong emphasis on geometric shapes
  • Large windows
  • Clerestory windows
  • Use of recycled building materials
  • Mixed materials on the exterior (e.g. wood and stone)

Interior:

  • One to two stories
  • An open floor plan
  • Lots of natural light
  • Use of natural or recycled materials
  • Green systems for plumbing, heating and air conditioning
  • A flexible layout suited to meet the family’s needs