Flavors of Modernism – What’s Your Favorite?
This is a piece I’ve been wanting to do for a while and I’ve finally had the time to do it. Whenever a new client contacts me about their desire to purchase a modern home, it sometimes takes a few rounds of questions, or seeing a few homes first, to narrow down the specific type of modern home that they like the most. And while some people definitely have a specific “flavor” of modern home that they like more than others, many other people are less strict about the overall house, and more interested in the specific details and the overall vibe that they get from one home vs. another.
I’ve had clients who were adamant that we only look at ranch homes who ended up buying a 2-story or split-level, and others who started out looking at everything and decided they only wanted to look at ranches.
What about you? What’s your favorite flavor of modern? Let me know in the comments, or send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what types of modern homes you love and what you’d like to buy when you’re ready to buy.
Simple MCM Split-Level
Plentiful in some towns, the basic MCM Split level typically has an open Living Room / Dining Room and then the Kitchen on the main floor, with bedrooms up half a flight of stairs and a family room and another bathroom down half a flight from the main level. Often built with a carport, some have since been converted to having a garage, although carports are still found on many of these efficient MCM homes.
Small Flat-Roof Ranch
If you like the style but don’t need a lot of space, there are small one-level, flat-roofed MCM homes peppered throughout the Chicago suburbs. Often featuring a couple of built-ins and usually incorporating large windows, these can be a great choice for an MCM home on a budget.
While these homes seem to existing in large numbers in the western part of the U.S., they’re much less common around here, but they do exist. One of the great benefits of such homes is that, in most cases, the common spaces and bedrooms have vaulted ceilings, as they follow the roofline from one end of the house to the other.
Classic Low, Long Sprawling MCM Ranch
One of the most popular and sought after flavors of modern homes in the area are the long, low, classic Midwest MCM ranch. Many of these were built with the features that so many people are looking for: Large windows looking out to nature, exposed post and beam construction with wood ceilings, built-ins and room dividers, wood walls, exposed brick, feature fireplaces and more. If you’re lucky enough to find one that’s been thoughtfully remodeled in character with the home’s aesthetic, but updated for today’s living, you’ll have to jump as those go quickly and for a premium.
Shed Roof / Barn Houses
Sometimes referred to as “’70s Modern” homes, houses with one or more shed rooflines with small or no overhangs can also be found all over the suburbs. Clever floor plans will often incorporate loft style bedrooms, rooms and hallways open to spaces below, atriums and other interesting features.
Executive Split Level
Much larger than the Simple MCM Split mentioned earlier, these are homes on a much grander scale, and can also be found in a number of different suburbs in the area. Many of these homes were built with a 3-car garage (even though they were built in the ’60s) and four bedrooms, plus multiple fireplaces, sunken living rooms and more.
The mixed-roof ranch is another style that you’ll find here and there. Combining a flat roof on some portions of the house with an A-Frame style gable (often in a central common area or over a bedroom or two) these homes offer many of the benefits of their respective styles in a single home: Post and beam construction, clerestory gable windows for natural light and views of nature – without giving up privacy, and open floor plans.
Stark, Open Space Modern
Seen more from the late ’70s / early ’80s onward, these homes dip their toes into the world of postmodernism and can be either small or quite large, and typically feature soaring spaces on the main level with smaller upper levels so that the main floor levels take advantage of extra height and high windows. While some of these homes feature wood walls and ceilings, many are starkly finished in white throughout for a cooler look.
One of the least common but most intriguing types of homes are Brutalist-style buildings which are generally made out of poured or cast concrete. As concrete lends itself well to unusual forms, these homes often have many curves and spaces that would be difficult to render in wood and drywall.
The first thing I need to mention is that I made up this term. I was originally going to write “Organic Modern” but that term has been applied to a whole different style in the last few years by the design & remodeling community. When I say Taliesin Organic, I’m talking about homes that were designed by architects who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, and that incorporate Wright’s principles of organic modernism, but taken to more individualistic and, sometimes, “extreme” directions. Many of the homes by architects such as Bruce Goff or Don Erickson would fit into this category.
Another Wright-devised (or inspired) style is the Usonian house. A long, low home with a pitched roof (often with vaulted ceilings on the inside), and incorporating natural materials throughout such as wood, glass, brick and stone. Usonian-style homes were designed & built not only by Wright, but also by a number of his students as well as other architects inspired by the concept.
Always in much higher demand than there is supply, this is one of the types of homes I often have buyers requesting to find. Unfortunately, there are so few “glass box” style homes in the Chicago suburbs. The most well-known is probably A. James Speyer’s Ben Rose house, although it’s the pavilion designed by Speyer’s student, David Haid, and added 20+ years after the house was built, that most people are thinking of. Other beautiful examples of “glass box” style homes are H.P. Davis Rockwell’s “House on a Bluff” (one of the most pure examples of a glass box house) and Dennis Blair’s Schell House.
Of course there are so many beautiful modern homes out there, and they don’t all fit neatly into this box or that one. So tell me…what are your favorite styles of modern homes?