Modern & Contemporary Home Design in Michigan

The terms “modern” and “contemporary” are sometimes used interchangeably when describing architecture. Although the two styles have some overlapping features, they’re both distinct and have different elements in their designs.

But what are modern and contemporary house designs? Let’s explore the similarities and differences between the two so you can understand what to expect when choosing these designs for your home.

Key Features of Contemporary Home Architecture

Ambient and Natural Light

One of the most notable features of contemporary homes is the emphasis on letting natural light permeate the home during the day and warm, soft ambient lighting during the night. This is why you might generally notice most contemporary houses feature large windows, including floor-to-ceiling options that allow the homeowners to use sunlight while they go about their days.

However, these newer homes also have a large focus on energy efficiency. Many architecture and design firms will design new homes with LED lighting, particularly with warm tones. This allows them to prioritize function without completely sacrificing the form that makes a house feel like a home.

Asymmetrical and Geometric Lines

Before the middle of the 20th century, home designs put a lot of emphasis on symmetry in their overall designs. Many homes back then also used ornate embellishments like gable trim and carved columns.

Starting around the year 2000, all that changed completely. Instead of homes being symmetrical and having lavish ornaments, contemporary home design emphasizes minimalism, asymmetrical layouts, and clean lines to create a more unconventional form. Many contemporary architecture homes emphasize a singular focal point like an open-concept common room or living area as the largest part of the house, with other areas looking more subdued from the outside.

Natural Materials

As part of its focus on eco-friendly and energy-efficient design, many contemporary-style homes use natural materials in their exterior and interior designs. Many emphasize using wood in both the exterior and interior, as siding and flooring respectively.

Some contemporary homes also use features like green roofs and living walls to make the home feel more inviting and put an even greater emphasis on sustainability.

Neutral Color Palettes

One of the biggest differences that sets apart contemporary residential architecture from the styles that came before it is the color palettes these homes use. Where many homes before the current era are more likely to use pastels, white vinyl, and different beige tones, contemporary architecture takes a more natural approach.

In most cases, these homes use the original colors of stone and wood facades, along with black window trim and white walls to let the natural colors draw the eye. Even features using natural materials like stone walls are typically monochrome to give it a more minimalist feel.

Open Floor Plans

Contemporary home design favors an open concept with as few partitions between common areas as possible. Open floor plans are a hallmark of contemporary home design, with few walls separating the common areas like the living room, kitchen, and dining spaces. This lends an airy, natural feel to the interior.

What Makes Modern Home Architecture Different

Modern home architecture has some common threads with its contemporary cousin, as many of the highlights of contemporary design got their start in the modern home movement. However, there are a few key differences between the two, including the design elements they use most often.

Modern architecture was a departure from the styles that came before it in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Here’s what this shift toward function over form looks like in practice.

Geometric Lines

Modern house design gave rise to the emphasis on geometric lines, while contemporary architecture carries that legacy forward. Both inside and outside, modern homes feature strong vertical, horizontal, and angular lines to provide a simplified retreat away from the constant barrage of distractions and stress one might experience outside the home.

Minimalist Layout and Ornamentation

Previous architectural design styles used to create separate rooms to suit any given activity inside the home—anyone who has ever been inside a Victorian home with a separate parlor, family room, and den can attest to this. Many homes from this era even had doors separating the different rooms so the occupants could have privacy from their staff. When modern home design came onto the scene, that went out the window. Instead, as sensibilities continued to change, modern home design let its simple, horizon-hugging lines and clean shapes stand as an understated display of class.

Our Modern & Contemporary Home Designs

We’ve worked on many different modern and contemporary home designs for our clients in Michigan over the years. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Why Make Us Your Contemporary or Modern Home Design Firm


What Makes Us Different

You might have an idea in your mind of what architects are like—pretentious, stuffy people who would rather go with their vision instead of what you want for your living space.

Erase that picture when you choose us as your design partners. We believe our best assets are our ears and not our hands. We value friendliness, design agnosticism, and good listening skills above all else. After all, that’s why we started our firm—to get away from uptight architects!

Our Design Process at a Glance

Not sure what to expect when you choose to work with 42º North? Here’s a breakdown:

Connect With Us

We want to get to know you first. Expect to sit for a coffee with us so we can learn about your vision before we get started.

Tell Us About Your Vision

Listening is our greatest skill, even more than residential design. We’ll spend time learning about your current space through questionnaires and observations—including what you love and hate.

Give Us a Tour

We’ll view how you use your current space for ourselves. This gives us a chance to see the ergonomics, spatial relations, and scale of the home.

Watch Us Work

We’ll use the latest architectural CAD software to give you an exact visual of what your home will look like, down to the texture of the drapes.

Make Us Your Consultant

We won’t disappear after we get final approval on your residential redesign! Expect us to stay connected during construction so your project exceeds your expectations.

Connect with Our Contemporary Architecture Experts

Ready to bring your modern or contemporary residential architecture ideas to life? Connect with us to get started and let us be your custom home designer.