by Sep 6, 2011ModArchitecture0 comments


unmistakably modern arne jacobsen designed vola faucet (1968)

What is MODERN and what is CONTEMPORARY?  These terms are often used interchangeably but fundamentally there IS a difference, at least in the design & architecture world.  If you look the terms up in the dictionary, you will be even more confused – they seem to be synonymous.  So here is my 101 primer on design:  Modern is a clean and unadorned style.  With roots in the early 20th century, modern is truly form follows function.  Modern design does not change.  If something is modern, it will always be modern.  That is why the Saarinen designed Miller House and Garden or the Irwin Union Bank Building look so darn good today – because they are classic modern in design, and they remain unchanged.   Contemporary, on the other hand, is what is hip and in and trendy at the time.  It is a moving target.  Perhaps MODERN was CONTEMPORARY in the 1950’s (a style now known as midcentury modern, which is kind of a ‘subset’ of modern), but flash forward to the 1970’s  and 1980’s and contemporary had a whole new meaning.  Picture avocado and gold shag carpet, and lots of teal, brass and mirrors.

irwin union bank building in columbus, in designed by eero saarinen 1954 (photo from 2010)

The modern homes that have managed to escape ‘contemporary’ remodels are highly coveted 50 years or so after they were built.  New modern homes are almost non existent because of high custom building costs and lack of buildable land.  But what about the truly contemporary homes?  Homes that epitomize the era when they were built?  The market is full of time capsule gems just waiting for a new lease on life, but buyers often overlook these homes.  Look past ‘dated’ and look at the bones of these homes.  Most were custom built for forward thinking clients, and were not ‘cookie cutter’ homes.  And they all have modern elements incorporated in the design.  I applaud the buyer who is looking for the time capsule and who is content to live in a home as it is because they love it.  But what about the buyer looking for something new, or current contemporary, or modern?  It’s certainly worth looking at contemporary homes!

rudy hermes designed 1978 contemporary home in delhi

A prime example is our newest listing in Hyde Park.  This contemporary home was designed and custom built by the original owner in 1986.  It last sold in 2000 for $624,500.  We currently have this house, with one of the most sought after addresses in the entire city (Grandin Road) on the market for $415,000.  Why, you ask?  Is it in terrible condition?  On the contrary – it is in excellent condition, but it has a strong color palette and an eclectic use of ‘contemporary’ materials.  Some may say it needs design simplification and some may say it looks dated, but at the end of the day it is a whole lot of quality cool house for the money, and because of its location, there is plenty of room to add whatever touches you think it needs to make it your modern or contemporarydream home.  It already has Arne Jacobsen Vola faucets (my personal fave – see above) – it doesn’t get any more modern than that!

1986 contemporary design on lower grandin in hyde park


great room of hyde park contemporary


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