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What Distinguishes a Contemporary Home From a Modern One?

Though used interchangeably, “contemporary” and “modern” actually mean something different when it comes to architecture and design. Here’s a rundown on how you can tell the difference. 


What is a Contemporary Home?


Contemporary homes have asymmetrical facades, with minimal decoration, usually consisting of textures like wood or metal with traditional siding. The look is clean and monochromatic with straight lines. The interiors continue the use of straight lines and minimal color. The front door style has a retro influence with a 5-lite offset, 1 long lite, or 3-5 rectangles. 


Stairs feature an open staircase with horizontal metal railing. The interior is wide open, with minimal doors and walls, and plentiful natural light from bold, geometric-shaped or large windows. The kitchen includes a large Island, and smooth cabinet doors, often a high gloss finish in white or natural stain, with no crown molding. Tile is installed in a stacked/straight pattern.


The fireplace is tall and flat, emphasizing the angled ceiling. It may have a concrete or tile facade, and an extended mantle and hearth. Lighting and ceiling fans have geometric details (round, square, linear), usually with black with gold/brass or white detailing. 


What is a Modern Home?


Modern homes are derived from Mid-Century Modern design, and encompass current trends like Farmhouse Modern. The exterior is minimal and neutral, with stained or painted trim details. Black windows and black roofs with white or gray exteriors are common, usually featuring board and batten siding. 


The interiors also feature neutral colors and textures. The stairs may have horizontal or vertical rails, with wood elements and a blocky newel post. Colors usually consist of black metal with paint or stain combo. The interiors are large, open spaces with tall windows and vaulted ceilings. Barn doors are commonly found in these open areas, and apron sinks are frequently found in the kitchen. Tile is installed in an offset horizontal (running bond) pattern. 


Fireplaces have details like a small, unobtrusive flat stone facade, and a clean mantle with no corbels. Linear fireplaces adhere to a straight-line design. (If you add shiplap, you’ve created another element for Farmhouse Modern!) Finishes in white, gray, medium wood tones, or concrete may be used to have a more modern influence. Lighting is more rustic while maintaining a modern detail through shape or color.


Which Home Style to Choose


As a rule, homeowners aren’t strict about which of these two styles they prefer. Most of the time, they may prefer something that’s contemporary with modern influences. For example, by mixing and matching some of the above front door styles, fireplace details, lighting and tile installations, you’ve combined styles and created a unique look! Don’t worry, we have an Interior Designer working with you that will make sure your home looks amazing while you create your own special style.

No matter your style, we are here to help you create, design, and build the home you’ve always dreamt of! Want to learn more or get started? Contact Cindy at cindy@heartlandbuilders.com.