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Design Focus: Modern Style

The Modern Style of home design is an elegant combination of many styles, incorporating the best design elements of various periods in history. This style takes bold and daring steps in design, using natural colours and shapes, and various materials that help define it.

Modern styles of design usually celebrate the architect’s personal touch, and are not a general formation, as is the case in the Mediterranean style, Tudor style or the Traditional style. Modern evolved from a more personal view of design, taking into account the needs of the home owner, interior designer, and/or architect. This is why we see Modern houses taking various shapes, with the use of a range of materials and colours.


Modern Style (or modern architecture) is defined by the chronology, or era in which the style began to emerge. And in understanding the Modern style, we have to understand what triggered these events in architectural history.

Modern design is an offspring of modernism — an art movement from late 19th to early 20th century.  Modernism is characterized by intellectual, cultural, and creative breakthroughs — allowing artists and designers to push beyond the boundaries of the tradition. As a result, Modern design uses natural colours, minimalism, and straight lines — all introduced by modernism.

Further, the period around World War II made modern design a technological revolution. That period — from the 1920’s to the 1960’s — brought a change in the way both residential and corporate buildings were designed, as new kinds of materials were introduced. Such materials include reinforced steel and glass, and they became more popular in buildings than the traditional materials. At that time, architects and interior designers began expressing themselves more in their design, as Modern style takes in various shapes and colours. There was a new freedom for architects, as they became bolder in using shapes and colours, and explored new materials.

The ideas eventually spread all over the world, as these materials became mainstream, because of their durability, quality and the beauty they add to structures. In various parts of the world, they developed a style of their own using these materials. This is why the Modern style has no definite shape, colour or design — but it defines a period when the use of reinforced steel, glass and other materials in various forms and patterns boomed in the building industry — but, most importantly, the rise of cultural and creative freedom. There have also been some new materials, such as ceramics and synthetics, which are now being used in the building of homes, both interiors and exteriors. These materials add beauty and durability.

Modern style has adopted various approaches, from different regions of the world, as cultures and local styles have been applied to these fine materials, and we see various styles and shapes of buildings with modern day materials being featured. The common features in Modern style are the materials used, a functional minimalist application, and greater freedom of expression.

Modern style should not be confused with Contemporary style, as there are notable differences. The most important is the period: the modern style ran from the 1920’s to 1960’s, while the contemporary design embodies any current trend — regardless of the time. Also, the Modern style flaunts neutral colours and natural materials such as stone, wood, leather, linen, and sometimes wool. Contemporary design, on the other hand, will often include vibrant splashes of colour and other extremes. Additionally, the Modern style has a specific style format while the Contemporary style is the epitome of broad creativity. Modern style uses strong, straight lines, while its counterpart adores curves. Modern style has a defined set of design rules, used in a particular era, while the Contemporary style is a free blend of various styles, with (almost) no rules.


Modern style design is an expression of the personal interest of the interior designer or architect, and it also reflects the style of the home owner. Thus, the typical features you can find in a modern style design include:

Building Materials: A common element in Modern style designs are the building materials used, both in the interior and exterior of the building. These building materials are natural and mostly include reinforced steel, stainless steel, chrome, glass, synthetic materials, stone and ceramics. These materials define and beautify features of a Modern style design, with architects and designers using a combination of these materials to put their unique spin on Modern design. In residential construction, you’ll typically see plenty of glass and steel. Horizontal tight-fit stone may add contrast to horizontal tongue-and-groove siding, or smooth stucco. Architects may express their creativity by using different materials for the exterior and interior.

Style: The Modern style design celebrates a wide range of shapes and sizes, with a freedom of creativity and originality. Modern designs are defined by clean lines, simple proportions, abundant natural light, with open layouts, and are descendants of the International style of architecture, which developed in the 1920s. Shallow-pitched or flat roofs, large expanses of glass, strong connections with the outdoors, and spare, unornamented walls are Modern characteristics.

Colours: There is no specific colour or colour pattern used in building, but Modern style designs usually make use of neutral and natural colours. The pseudo-freedom of creativity and originality allows architects to do whatever they like with colours, as long as they are natural. Some experts call this freedom brutalism, particularly because Modern architects are adding splashes of outrageous colours — yet with a beautiful outcome. Architects tend to avoid the use of traditional, dark interiors and opt for plenty of daylight and natural colours. One popular combination of colour is the use of neutral tones of brown and gray, contrasted by shades of black and white for trim and flooring.

Minimalism: This is a way of saying “just a little, and that’s enough.” Minimalism focuses on less clutter, and the superfluous and ornate. Cabinet trims, columns and mouldings are consciously omitted, as well as an excessive use of colour(s), materials or textiles. Even accessories such as pillows, blankets, rugs, pottery, vases, and knick-knacks are either neglected or reduced. Minimalism encourages you to keep essential items like books and electronics tucked away inside a cabinet, or sliding wall unit. Focusing only on the essential brings comfort and calm to the home owner, and this is exactly why Modern style is has seen such a revival around the world.


In Canada, the Modern style has been in existence for a long time, and you will find many old and historical buildings made of concrete, glass and reinforced steel. You will also see homes, offices and other buildings that include the elements of the Modern design in almost every urban centre and even rural areas. Canadians have been impacted by the fast paced digital lifestyle, as much as anywhere, and are embracing the clean simplicity of the Modern style.


It’s easy to incorporate Modern style elements in your renovation or new home build. When selecting your furniture, window covering and accents, and open uncluttered spaces are the way to go.

Today’s Modern homes have clean lines that accentuate rectangular shapes, and typically include large windows and skylights, flooding the interior with natural light. Roller shades have become very popular. Horizontal tongue and groove siding, and/or smooth stucco or plaster are often contrasted with stone, for texture. A mix of natural wood, earthy elements like tight-fit manufactured stone, and natural colours can provide both a calming and eclectic feel.

Cultured Stone® veneers are affordable, and can be used on almost any feature wall or fireplace. Consider Boral’s Hewn Stone™Pro-Fit® Modera™ Ledgestone or Pro-Fit® Terrain™ Ledgestone. If you prefer to keep it real, with natural stone, you’ll love Pangaea® Ledgestone.


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