What Is Modern Home Design?

Oct 05, 2018  By Thomasville

Modern, contemporary, mid-mod, Scandinavian…what, exactly, is modern home design? Well, who are you asking? There can be as many definitions of modern home design as there are designers, as any quick Internet search will prove.

At the root, though, modern home design is the design-child of modern art. Victorian and Gilded Age excesses became old-fashioned, and fussiness went by the wayside in art, fashion, literature, architecture, and design. What we call the “modern” design movement is actually more than a century old, dating from the German Bauhaus and Scandinavian styles that emerged in the late 1800s, and continuing through the mid-1900s.

The rejection of ornate flourishes produced Shaker, Craftsman, and eventually Art Deco styles, which all fall under the umbrella of modern design movements. But with those styles having their own distinct definitions, these days the term “modern home design” tends to be associated with certain defining elements:

  • Clean, straight lines, without embellishment.
  • Architecture free of accents, trims, and decorative elements.
  • Rooms that feature open space.
  • Low, horizontal furnishings that contribute to the sense of spaciousness and calm.
  • Minimalism, incorporating only what’s essential and rejecting all clutter.
  • High-sheen, reflective surfaces, such as glass, Lucite, polished chrome, and stainless steel.
  • Natural and neutral palette, embracing natural woods and wood veneers, linen, and woven fibers.
  • Expressed, visible structural architectural elements.
  • Natural light and unadorned windows.

Contemporary and modern home design are often discussed together, but they are different. “Contemporary” is a fluid term, referring to whatever is going on right now, which, at the moment, includes a lot of elements of modern and mid-century modern design. Contemporary design can include elements of modern home design, but also post-modern pop-art bursts of intense color, or art deco accessories, or chunky rustic or industrial touches.

Perhaps the ethic that most universally describes modern home design is that form follows function. Every piece of modern furniture is designed to do its job perfectly, consuming no more material or space than it needs to do that job. The result is elegant, clean, and sophisticated, which makes modern furniture work perfectly within lots of other design styles.

Just because somebody looks at a room and says “That’s so modern!” doesn’t necessarily mean that modern home design is at work. But when it is, you can be guaranteed that you’ve created a room that works perfectly for the life you lead.

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