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Building A Modern Home vs Building Contemporary Homes: What’s the Difference?

Updated November 12, 2018
Chad Hanson
Chad Hanson

As the Managing General Partner at Sustainable 9 Design + Build, Chad is responsible for establishing the vision and strategy for our clients. What helps separate Chad from other visionaries in the home building sector is his ability to create a unique customer service experience that is both highly personalized and encourages collaboration. Chad’s experience and expertise in the field makes him a pleasure to work with and an all-around expert in Minnesota Modern.

If you’ve been looking into building or purchasing a new home, you might be drawn to something more eco-friendly. Or that is designed to fit your specific needs. At some point, you might come across the idea of building a modern home vs. contemporary houses. But what’s the difference between the two?

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to home design is the difference between modern and contemporary design. From an outside perspective, it’s understandable why someone may get these two styles and design choices mixed-up. While there are certainly a lot of similarities between building contemporary homes and building modern homes, such as their tendency to incorporate large windows and flat roofs, there is plenty that differentiates these two popular styles.

For starters, contemporary houses are associated with design facets originating from the latter half of the 20th century, while a modern home will have roots that trace back an international style of the 1920s. So, what else makes these two distinct design approaches unique?

Exterior: Architecture and Structural Elements

In terms of the exterior, the design for both modern and contemporary houses may, at times, look very similar. With a keen-eye and a little guidance, there is a difference between the two to be seen.

building a modern house that is blue by sustainable 9

Architecture

Above is a home that we helped create that features modern architecture. In comparing it with the home below, which is more contemporary-driven, you’ll see that the modern house is more balanced and structured. Because contemporary houses are less restrictive and incorporate different styles, there is more freeform, and an architect can take more artistic liberties in the design. That isn’t to say that a modern-design home can’t be innovative, but typically contemporary homes will stand out a little more in terms of the uniqueness of their shape. You’ll also notice the similarities in the large windows used in each design, as well as the flat roof.

Structural Elements

The difference in architecture between modern and contemporary houses, there is also a difference in the materials used to create the structure. Modern homes are often built with traditional materials and tend to look “normal” on the exterior.

Contemporary building materials are often eco-friendly, recycled, and can sometimes be very different or outside the box materials. An example of an outside the box material is when contemporary builders used old shipping containers to construct a house in Santa Monica, California. A home like that isn’t for everyone. Although having a home that is built using sustainable and eco-friendly materials is something that is rising in popularity.

The contemporary house below, for example, has minimized its footprint by minimizing the amount of landscaping around it. Rock, brick, and concrete are also common materials. This is because of their ability to be recycled, their longevity of life, and sustainability. At Sustainable 9 we work exceptionally hard to make every home that we build eco-friendly and efficient. Designing homes in this way saves you money in the long run, increases the value of the house, and ensures that we are doing our part to help the planet.

Contemporary Home
Courtesy of the Contemporist

Interior: Features, Design, and Decor Inside

Features and Design

Unlike the exterior, the interior is more differentiated between the two styles. The interior is, most likely, the place where you’ll decide what style you naturally lean more towards.

In the simplest explanation, contemporary can be described as a combination of modernism and minimalism without focusing on one single style at a time. It’s a combination of the most popular design trends from around the world.

On the other hand, modern design is very distinguishable, in that it will feature crisp, sharp lines, warm neutral colors, and balance throughout the design.

While contemporary will give off different styles throughout different rooms and sections of the house, modern design will choose a style and stick to it. Modern design is more common in this way and often preferred.

To help illustrate this, take a look at these two interiors:

Modern Kitchen Layout and Design with Furniture

The first picture is a design that Sustainable 9 helped create and bring to life and is an example of a modern interior. Some key characteristics to note that in modern interiors is the use of wood materials and earth tones. These materials help to create a functional home that still sticks to the simple form of modern design. It is both inviting (feels like home) and beautifully designed!

Contemporary Home Design and Style
Courtesy of Architectural Digest

With our contemporary example, we see the combination of both modernism (trendy design) and minimalism. These features, paired with plain white walls and big windows, create a contemporary feel.

Notice that the primary colors are not warm, with white and black featured prominently. Materials that you’ll often find in the interior of a contemporary home are glass and different types of metal, leaving a colder feeling throughout. One detail that is similar between both is the open floor plan, with the contemporary example being a bit more spacious than the modern home but still similar with high ceilings and hanging light fixtures.

Decor

Beyond the design style of the rooms and living spaces, there is also a style to the decor. At times contemporary and modern are used interchangeably as describing words for furniture and decor. It’s important to note that while the words can work together, at their roots, they are different from each other and have different key features.

You’ll notice that contemporary, like the exterior of the home and the design, is going to have more variation between different pieces. Often sharper edges, trendier designs, and oversized furniture are all part of the decor elements if you’re interested in seeing some visuals of this look here.

Modern decor, like it’s exterior and design counterparts, is much warmer than contemporary. Modern decor finds its roots in trends and styles that are set by magazines and popular designers. If you’re familiar with Target’s brand Hearth and Hand, inspired and created by Chip and Joanna Gaines, then you’re familiar with modern design and decor. When you see modern decor, there is often a use of off white colors such as creams or blacks that have a hint of gray along with lots of warmer wood elements. These differences contrast the extremes that are often associated with contemporary design.

So Which is Better: Modern or Contemporary?

Some might say that there are things that make modern homes better, and others would argue for contemporary. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding how you want your home to be designed. The choice you make should be dependent on the needs of you and your family. Go with the design elements that you like the most, and that is most functional to your everyday life. And remember, there isn’t always a hard and fast line. Fight for what you like best.

If you’re struggling to decide between the two, then you might consider reaching out for some expert opinions on the matter. Another helpful tip is to head over to Pinterest and to look at different things that have been done. At Sustainable 9 we’re all about modern and contemporary homes and would love if you looked at some of our projects for inspiration.

Consider also making a list of the different elements you like or dislike before speaking to an architect or designer. A list will help speed up the process and give the architect direction for when they begin to design.

Sustainable 9 – A Premier Modern Home Designer in the Twin Cities

Sustainable 9 has been featured by multiple news channels, magazines, and newspapers throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul area as one of the premier modern home designers. At Sustainable 9, we believe in using eco-friendly materials throughout all of our homes. Researching what materials to use on and throughout your home is a priority to us.

We also believe in sustainability and using high-efficiency appliances throughout the homes we build. This ensures that you’re happy and proud of the finished product.

Contact Sustainable 9 today!

FAQ

What Is The Difference Between Modern & Contemporary Design?

A modern house is more balanced and structured. While contemporary houses are less restrictive and incorporate different styles, architects can take more artistic liberties in the design and often have a freeform approach. That isn’t to say that a modern-designed home can’t be innovative, but typically contemporary homes will stand out a little more in terms of the uniqueness of their shape.

As for the interior, contemporary can be described as a combination of modernism and minimalism without focusing on one single style at a time. On the other hand, modern design is very distinguishable, in that it will feature crisp, sharp lines, warm neutral colors, and balance throughout the design.

Which is Better – Modern or Contemporary?

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding how to design your home. The route that you ultimately take your home should be dependent on the needs of you and your family. Go with the design elements that you like the most, and that is most functional to your everyday life.

Where Do I Start With A Modern Or Contemporary Home?

If you’re interested in designing and creating an amazing and unique home, contact Sustainable 9! We design and build homes to fit all of your needs. Sustainability and eco-friendly materials and features are at the core of who we are. Get started creating your dream home today or check out some of our other homes and see the wide range of designs we can offer, including modern and contemporary houses.

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Chad Hanson
Chad Hanson

As the Managing General Partner at Sustainable 9 Design + Build, Chad is responsible for establishing the vision and strategy for our clients. What helps separate Chad from other visionaries in the home building sector is his ability to create a unique customer service experience that is both highly personalized and encourages collaboration. Chad’s experience and expertise in the field makes him a pleasure to work with and an all-around expert in Minnesota Modern.

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