The Many Faces of Modern: Crazy For Contemporary


“It started in certain markets with open living spaces, a lot of glass, outdoor living, flat roofs and then caught fire in California. Initially, it was more of a coastal trend, but over the last couple of years I have seen it from North Carolina to Seattle,” says Danny Hertzberg, who, as a member of The Jills team at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Miami, witnessed first-hand the incubation of the style following the recession. “In the last five years, contemporary has become a major, major trend, and it’s one of those housing trends that’s going to be here for a long time,” he adds.

In spite of the number of architects with inter-national acclaim who gravitated to Miami, Hertzberg believes the trend is consumer driven, sparked by de-mand from younger home buyers. “Now we are seeing it in all age groups, and not just from the ultra high-end consumers,” he says. “We’re seeing itin $1 million properties and $600,000 and $700,000 properties.”

This is a dramatic change for an aesthetic formerly the sole provenance of notable architects commissioned to design properties at the highest price points.

Now, innovative contemporary styles are filtering down to all aspects of residential architecture as consumers become more conscious of architecture and the possibilities that emerge from good design, explains architect Steven Dewan, senior principal at Bassenian Lagoni in Newport Beach, California. “We have just entered into a period where the looks of homes are changing. There is an attitude that some-thing different is desirable again,” he says.

“In Chicago, there is a strong preference to-ward a modern aesthetic. There is more glass, more open flowing spaces and clean lines,” says Jennifer Ames, with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago. “And for some people, modern is about energy efficiency. People are mindful of how they want to live and question if a home fits with their value sys-tem, and for many, the modern aesthetic is more in line with their values.”

“Contemporary has taken over the spotlight for home sales,” says Tony Sutton, owner of Est Est Inc., an interior design firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It used to be 10 to 15 percent of the business. It is now easily70 percent of the business.”

Hertzberg agrees, regarding Miami real estate, “Nine out of 10 calls we get are for modern.”

Like many other markets in California, the shift in design preferences in the last decade in Malibu has been toward contemporary. “If it’s a good contemporary, built in the last 10 years, it will sell very quickly. If it’s brand new construction with lotsof glass and big open spaces with an infinity pool, it will sell even faster and for top dollar,” says Sandro Dazzan, with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Malibu Colony office.

Particularly in-demand are single-level contemporaries, where living spaces stretch across one floor, and the basement is devoted to other amenity spaces, such as media rooms. Because Malibu zoning uses a formula based on the lot size to determine allowable square footage, Dazzan says capturing that addition-al space on the lower level is prized. Compared to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the contemporary look here tends to be warmer, using materials such as wood to play into the beach atmosphere.