The Many Faces of Modern: More than Glass Boxes

Real Estate

The idea that contemporary designs are solely hard-edged minimalistic glass boxes, as pristine as an art museum, is being revised by new expressions of the aesthetic tempered by climate, cultural preferences and changing lifestyle expectations. In fact, emerging contemporary design is likely to choreograph a convergence of hard and soft materials, hot and cold elements.

More than Glass Boxes

“There is a new minimalism now, and I think it is more relaxed and more organic in nature,” says Philadelphia designer Michele Plachter, whose practice includes new urban residences as well as historical classics.“There is warm contemporary design that is comfortable and easy, but still with clean lines and bold materials. A contemporary home in the moun-tains will look different than a contemporary home on the beach —but the principles of clean lines and strong materials transfer to any location,” observes San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers.“The misconception is that contemporary is very minimal. That’s one aspect of the style, but there is a whole spectrum to this too,” says Mark Mantione, vice president of sales and marketing for Merritt, a firm specializing in luxurious custom finishes. Still, he says, “It’s hard to get that hard-edged minimal Scandinavian look out of people’s minds.”

“Modern architecture is booming in Philadelphia. If asked to do a new-construction, I tend to look for ways to warm it up,” explains Plachter. “I look for antique pieces to bring an element of soul to a newer space. Even if staying in a monochromatic color scheme, I will bring more organic textures.

“Not only is the popular perception of contemporary design being challenged, but even the interpretation of theterm is up for debate. “Contemporary in the world of design has many meanings. To me, it is of the moment or current,” says Jeffers.

Some see contemporary as part of a style evolution that begins with traditional or classic. And rather than a reference to design during a specific period, many believe modern plays into the concept of an abstraction of form and space. Frequently, the two terms are used interchangeably. Yet, no matter how the concept is framed or defined, both modern and contemporary are becoming preferred styles in many regions of the country.


Part of an article by Camilla McLaughlin. This story first appeared in Homes & Estates 2017 Edition 4, the flagship publication of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.