What is a Modern House?


Key Takeaways:

  • The cultural movement of Modernism emerged in the 20th century following World War I as a reaction to the more maximalist and extravagant styles of American architecture that dominated the 19th century.

  • Aesthetically, modern houses feature natural materials, clean lines, and geometric shapes. Designs usually focus on open floor plans with large windows.

  • The cost of building a modern home typically ranges from $200 to $500 per square foot, or more, depending on location and the materials used in the build.

  • The (often sustainable) materials used to build modern homes are more energy-efficient than traditional-style homes.

Introduction to Modern Houses

When you picture modern houses, your head is likely filled with images of open floor plans, natural light, geometric shapes, and clean lines. In recent years, the trend toward contemporary home design has become more popular than ever before. More and more homebuyers and renters are seeking out the benefits that come with modern design in homes, including open space, natural and sustainable materials, and minimalist interior design. In this article, we will dive into the history behind modern architecture, the benefits of choosing a modern home, and why it may be the right choice for you.

Historical Overview of Modern Architecture

The cultural movement of Modernism emerged in the 20th century following World War I as a reaction to the more maximalist and extravagant architectural styles that dominated the 19th century. Modern architects and designers sought to create structures that were simple, authentic, and functional while prioritizing quality of life. It has long been said that the pioneers of the modern architecture movement were notable architects Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charlotte Perriand, Ray Eames, Charles Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn.

Some of the most famous examples of mid-century modern architecture include:

Key Characteristics 

Modern houses are characterized by the use of natural materials such as stone, glass, and wood, as well as contemporary design. Some additional key characteristics of modern homes are:

  • Clean lines and geometric shapes: Traditional homes typically feature more frills and decorative embellishments and elements, while modern homes focus on contemporary design through geometric shapes and straight lines.

  • Open floor plans: Many modern homes have kitchens, living rooms, and dining rooms that are one large, connected room rather than separate rooms.

  • Large windows: The bright and airy nature of modern homes is attributed to large windows that let in plenty of natural light.

  • Natural color palettes: The neutral colors used in many modern homes often harmonize with nature, and reflect those of the world around them.

    Materials and Technology

    There are common materials and characteristics seen in contemporary homes today that show the continued advancements in the modern home movement. Many contemporary homes are built with sustainable materials, such as recycled materials, that ensure energy efficiency and weatherproofing. Additionally, homes are often equipped with smart home technology such as thermostats, lights, and security systems that are remotely controlled.

    Benefits of Owning a Modern Home

    Some of the benefits of owning a modern style home over a traditional style home involve personal taste in aesthetics, as well as a desire for modern living. If you are looking for a home design that is sleek, clean, and minimalist, with a lot of natural light and an open floor plan and living space, modern homes will work in your favor. Depending on the materials used, modern houses may also be more energy-efficient and fare better against extreme weather. Additionally, more contemporary homes will often be built with smart home integrations in mind for your convenience.

    A common misconception is that all modern homes are characterized by cold, sterile spaces that aren't necessarily conducive to everyday living. The truth is, thoughtfully designed, human-centric modern homes that employ natural materials and tactile finishes, deliver clearly organized, open, and light-filled buildings that cultivate connections to the world outdoors and moments of warm refuge that elevate everyday life.

    Cost of Building 

    The cost of building a modern home typically ranges from $200 to $500 per square foot, or more, depending on location and the materials used in the build. Material costs vary depending on location, but some estimate ranges for more expensive areas are:

    • Foundation: $1,000 to $10,000
    • Framing: $25,000 to $65,000
    • Roofing: $1,000 to $3,000
    • Exterior siding: $2 to $15 per square foot
    • Insulation: $0.10 to $1 per square foot
    • Drywall: $0.50 to $0.75 per square foot
    • Flooring: $1 to $5 per square foot
    • Windows: $500 to $2,000 per window
    • Doors: $200 to $2,000 per door
    • Cabinets: $100 to $500 per linear foot
    • Appliances: $1,000 to $10,000 per appliance
    • Countertops: $20 to $200 per square foot
    • Lighting: $50 to $500 per fixture
    • Hardware: $100 to $1,000

    At DEN, you can shop around for your perfect home plan, find contractors and builders, and source materials that fit into your budget to create the modern home of your dreams.

    Tips for Buying or Building a Modern Home

    There are many factors to consider when building or buying a modern home. Take the following tips into consideration to kickstart your journey:

    • Do your research: When you begin shopping for your new home, learn about the different styles of modern homes, as well as their materials and features.

    • List out your priorities: What is important to you in a home? Is it natural light? Large windows? Energy efficiency? Rank your priorities so you know which ones are the most important when it comes time to build or buy.

    • Shop and compare: Look at several different homes and brands to determine which business model and products best suit your needs, budget, and priorities.

    • Heavily consider energy efficiency: Although investing in a modern home may feel like a high cost to start, the energy efficiency many homes offer will save you money in the long run.


      • What differentiates a modern house from other design styles?
        A modern home is cleaner and more minimalist in design, with an emphasis on geometric shapes, lines, and bright, open spaces. Traditional-style homes typically feature more decorative embellishments and elements.

      • Are modern houses more energy efficient?
        Yes, because of the advancement in design and quality of materials, modern homes are generally more energy efficient than traditional-style homes.

      • What is the cost difference between building a traditional and a modern home?
        The cost difference between building a traditional vs. a modern home depends on many things, such as location, materials, size, and labor. In general, it is more expensive to build a modern home. However, modern home characteristics such as energy-efficient design will save a homeowner money in the long run on elements such as heating and cooling.

      • How does modern architecture prioritize sustainability?
        Modern architecture prioritizes sustainability by featuring energy-efficient materials such as insulation, water-saving features such as rainwater harvesting systems and low-flow toilets, and focusing on recycled materials in the build process.

      • What are some common misconceptions about modern homes?
        You will likely stumble upon resources that claim that modern homes are cold and impersonal. This is not necessarily true, as, like with any build, the atmosphere of a home will depend on the materials and colors used, as well as the furnishings following the build. It has also been said that modern homes are not durable. Modern homes are just as durable as traditional homes. In fact, many modern homes are built with high-quality materials that withstand extreme temperatures and weather better than traditional-style homes.

      • What are the different types of modern house styles?
        The different styles of modern houses include mid-century modern, contemporary, transitional, Scandinavian, and industrial.
      • What are the pros and cons of living in a modern house?
        Some of the pros of living in a modern house include natural light, open spaces, and energy-efficient materials that retain heat and cool. Some of the cons of living in a modern house are higher initial costs and a potential lack of privacy due to the large windows.

      • How much does it cost to build a modern house?
        The cost of building a modern home typically ranges from $200 to $500 per square foot, or more, depending on location and the materials used in the build.

      Traditional vs. Modern Homes


      Modern House

      Traditional House


      Clean lines, geometric shapes, open floor plans

      Ornate designs, traditional details, closed floor plans


      Glass, steel, concrete, wood

      Brick, stone, wood

      Energy Efficiency 

      Often energy-efficient, with features such as insulation, energy-efficient appliances, and renewable energy sources

      Less likely to be energy-efficient


      Generally designed to be sustainable, with features such as rainwater systems and recycled building materials

      Less likely to be sustainable


      Typically more expensive to build and maintain

      Typically less expensive to build and maintain 


      Focus on natural light

      Typically less natural light


      Maintains temperature well due to insulation

      Does not maintain temperature as well due to less weather-efficient building materials


      May require more maintenance due to high-quality materials and complex designs

      May require less maintenance

       DEN features a wide catalog of modern house plans that range in size, suggested materials, layouts, and more. Let us help you build your dream home.