Contemporary luxury home.

A Complete Guide To Contemporary Style Houses

Carla Ayers7-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 20, 2023

If you’re looking for a home style that’s modern, clean, minimalist and unique, a contemporary-style home might be just what you need. Let’s look at a broad range of features, benefits and considerations to keep in mind as you search for your perfect home!

What Is A Contemporary-Style House?

A contemporary house is a popular house style that reflects 21st-century architectural styles. Because it mirrors the trends of the time period it was built in, a contemporary-style house can encompass a number of different architectural and design styles. Current popular contemporary trends range from modern farmhouse to midcentury modern to bohemian. The trends of contemporary architecture are constantly evolving and changing.

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Exterior Design Features Of A Contemporary-Style House

The exteriors of contemporary houses are varied, but share a lot of common characteristics, such as large windows and asymmetrical designs.

Here are some common features you might see on contemporary homes, no matter the style:

  • Strong lines: These homes have striking angles and free-form lines that convey movement.
  • Unique, asymmetrical shapes: Because of the strong lines, contemporary homes often have asymmetrical, geometric shapes.
  • Floor-to-ceiling or clerestory windows: Light is an important factor in contemporary homes, and generally contain an abundance of windows.
  • Mixed materials: These homes can be built from combinations of concrete, steel, brick, stone, wood and glass, giving them a unique look.
  • Sustainability and eco-friendliness: Builders of these homes often attempt to minimize waste and carbon footprints by using reclaimed and recycled materials, and by installing environmentally friendly features such as solar panels.

Interior Design Features Of A Contemporary-Style House

The interior design characteristics of contemporary houses are as varied as their exteriors. Here are some common features you might encounter:

  • Clean lines: While also a hallmark of exteriors, interiors of contemporary homes are built with clean lines in mind. These clean lines often carry over into furniture, too.
  • Natural light: Large windows let in plenty of light. These windows can be floor to ceiling, or a series of panels set high into walls to allow light without compromising wall space.
  • Open floor plans: These homes eliminate walls that form traditional, formal rooms, combining kitchen, dining and living space into an open area.
  • Minimal home decor: Furniture is often chosen to highlight the structure of the room and not overwhelm it.
  • Simple decoration: Functionality is a main feature in contemporary design. Often, decor and features will carry this theme as well, allowing nature, light and space to take precedent over clutter, both visual and material.
  • Neutral colors: Neutrals form the base of contemporary design. Colors like white, black, gray and beige are most common, with pops of color here and there via artwork, accessories or furniture pieces.
  • Natural materials: Stone, glass and lighter woods are often used in these homes to provide visual interest and texture. Furniture upholstery is often textured as well as being natural, like wool.
  • Little to no moldings: Simplicity is key, and so contemporary homes often have either no moldings or simple, unadorned baseboards or crown moldings.
  • State-of-the-art appliances: As part of the sustainability movement, many contemporary homes have state-of-the-art, energy-efficient appliances. Stainless steel is very popular and fits into the contemporary aesthetic.

Benefits Of A Contemporary House

Because the definition of a contemporary home encompasses so many types, there are a lot of benefits to choosing a contemporary place to live. The simplistic, generally very neutral home design appeals to a broad range of homeowners and home buyers. And because contemporary design encompasses many styles, you can mix and match styles to suit your tastes, whether you’re into sparking joy with minimal belongings or desire a boho paradise with plenty of plants and natural woods and fabrics.

Modern Vs. Contemporary Houses

Given that the words contemporary and modern are synonymous, it’s a common misconception that modern architecture and modern design are the same as contemporary architecture and design. In the world of architecture and design, they’re two different concepts.

Modern design refers to a specific period, generally the mid-1920s through the 1970s. One of the most popular design styles of this era is midcentury modern.

Contemporary design is an overarching term that covers all the design styles that are currently popular. While they share some general commonalities, these design styles are varied.

The concepts popularized by modern design, such as minimalism, natural light and open floor plans, are still used in contemporary designs today. These two design styles are very intertwined and don’t seem to be going away any time soon!

Traditional Vs. Contemporary Houses

There are some key differences between traditional and contemporary houses. Traditional houses are designed with classical elements in mind. These include smaller doors and windows and a more symmetrical exterior. Historically, homes were hard to heat, so separate rooms allowed residents to heat the rooms they needed to without the expense and effort of heating a huge open space. Smaller windows kept the heat in as well.

Contemporary homes may incorporate some of these features, but generally include much more open, flexible spaces. Bigger windows allow more natural light, and energy-efficient appliances and building materials allow homeowners to heat and cool their homes efficiently.

How Much Does A Contemporary House Cost?

Costs vary depending on where you live, but in general, the more popular a home design is, the more it’ll cost. Contemporary homes are inherently trendy (it’s the entire concept of them) and so can often fetch a higher price tag if there’s competition.

If you decide to start from scratch, you’ll have to consider the cost of building a house with a contemporary design or hiring a designer to create a contemporary house plan. Because so many features of contemporary homes are designed to be state-of-the-art, you may pay a little more than a basic, more traditional home.

Because contemporary design is so broad, though, all of these factors are variable. Taking a look at your local market can give you a good idea of the current trends and prices in your area.

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Ways To Create A Contemporary Home Right Now

If buying or building a new home is not in your plans or budget right now, you can still infuse your current living space with some contemporary design features. Contemporary homes tend to feel warm and inviting, even without a lot of stuff.

  • Update your flooring: Get rid of old carpet or damaged flooring and add some neutrals with light wood or a simple gray laminate flooring. This can change the look of any space!
  • Repaint with neutrals: Paint is a relatively inexpensive way to change the décor of your home. Consider a light gray or clean white to neutralize your space. This also provides a nice neutral palette to allow furniture or artwork to pop.
  • Increase light: Even if your windows are small, you can add more lights internally. Consider adding can lights in the ceiling or bringing in sleek, modern lamps for making your rooms brighter. You can even swap out fussy window treatments for simple blinds or fabric panels to let in more light.
  • Incorporate textures: Whether via decor items or furniture pieces themselves, consider adding items with natural textures. Think wool, wood, linen, jute and stone.
  • Invest in furniture: Buying a new couch or dining table is an effective way to change the look and feel of your home. Consider pieces with clean lines and geometric shapes. Exposed legs can make a sofa feel modern!
  • Add plants: Bring those important elements of nature indoors with some greenery. Plants not only provide beauty, but they help make your interior air cleaner. Currently, trendy plants to incorporate include aloe, spider plants, snake plants, pothos, philodendron and fiddle leaf figs. Choose plants that are larger scale, and if you don’t have gardening experience, choose ones that are low maintenance.
  • Level up your dishware: Bring in a contemporary feel with new dishes. Consider geometric shapes. This is a great way to bring in interesting textures or pops of color, too. And think beyond the dishware itself and find some fun, funky napkins, silverware and glassware.

The Bottom Line: Is A Contemporary House Right For You?

Because contemporary design is such a broad term and encompasses everything trendy, a contemporary home might be at the top of your list. They’re full of light, texture, open space, and you can personalize them however you’d like and still stay on-trend.

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Carla Ayers

Carla is Section Editor for Rocket Homes and is a Realtor® with a background in commercial and residential property management, leasing and arts management. She has a Bachelors in Arts Marketing and Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications from Eastern Michigan University.