Modern vs. contemporary: Which is it?


NEW YORK – Dec. 2, 2016 – Make sure property descriptions are accurate. Luxury homes described as modern and ones described as contemporary can vary in price by about $275,000, according to a analysis of luxury homes. But defining the two styles has proven tricky, even though the terms often get used interchangeably.

“It’s rather confusing because a contemporary [home] keeps shifting,” Chris Bardt, an architect and professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, told The Wall Street Journal.

John Stewart, residential committee chair of the American Institute of Architects, describes a modern home and décor as having simple lines. He says modern homes tend to have a “stripped-down” aesthetic, often with cube-shaped structures, flat roofs, monochromatic color palettes, low-key furnishings, and often incorporate exposed steel and concrete.

On the other hand, contemporary homes often combine materials and bright colors, says Sheila Schmitz, editor of Houzz, a home design website. Contemporary homes may feature a black-and-white color palette, interiors baked in natural light, and floor plans that make the indoor-outdoor connection seamless.

But the word “contemporary” sometimes can make some buyers think dated over time, such as a contemporary house that was built in 1984, and it isn’t always a good description for home sellers to use.

A recent analysis of 2016 home listings through September found that luxury homes described as contemporary had a median listing price of $1.115 million. On the other hand, homes described as “modern” had a median list price of $1.39 million. What’s more, contemporary homes tend to spend longer on the market – 109 days versus 81 days, respectively.

Source: “Modern or Contemporary: What’s the Difference in Home Styles?” The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 10, 2016)

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