Emerging in the mid-20th century, modern architecture is defined by simple structures that emphasize functionality with a clean look. Well-known architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry endorsed modern style architecture all over America.
Leading modern architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, introduced the Prairie Style of architecture in Chicago. His signature boasted of decorative glass windows and wood frames, merging architecture with the environment. Although this style failed to trend outside of the midwest, it influenced modern architecture and still continues to do so.
Today, we are sharing 10 celebrated structures designed by some well-known architects of the mid-century. But before that, you want to know what goes into creating a modern architectural home.
WHAT IS MODERN ARCHITECTURE?
When we talk about modern architecture, we are talking about a mix of mid-century and contemporary styles. Modern homes can vary widely. One may be formed with massive windows, black steel, and concrete floors (a Miesian aesthetic). Another may be relaxed, blending earthy woods and natural stone (the modern California aesthetic). As different as these are, they are both modern styles.
Modern architecture prioritizes clean lines, sleek surfaces, gentle curves, open living spaces, and use of different materials like glass, wood and metals. Mid-century modern furnishings also use innovative plastics and polypropylene, like the famous Panton chair. It is all about creating simple and sophisticated living overly decorative and ornamental flourishes. The adage “form follows function” is the key principal to this style, and often mass appeal that is indicative of the times.
Take for example, the ranch style home. It was a popular style of the previous mid-century, especially among the middle class. They are one-story homes with low profiles, attached garages, and simple floorplans. The homes separate communal gathering areas from the intimate spaces, like the bedrooms and informal living rooms. They are easily molded to the lifestyles of the homeowners. Function is king.
Now that doesn’t mean modern homes lack style. In fact, some of the country’s most applauded architectural marvels are modern homes.
LET US SHOW YOU 10 OF OUR FAVORITE HOMES WITH MODERN ARCHITECTURE.
1. SAMARA | FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT | WEST LAFAYETTE, IN
John and Catherine Christian house, popularly called ‘SAMARA’ is a vision of Frank Lloyd Wright in Usonian architecture. Building the house on a 4-foot square grid, Wright made enough use of natural materials like glass and wood. The glass walls and doors merge the outdoors with indoors and let the home receive natural light.
The interiors are spacious with a large living room, just like the requirement of most of the homeowners today. It also boasts of a separate dining room, spacious porch conjoined with bedrooms, terrace and a well-landscaped garden. You will adore the combination of colors inside the house that looks incredibly appealing, especially within the living room. Illustration of a true modern home, Samara was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2015.
2. MILLER HOUSE | EERO SAARINEN | COLUMBUS, IN
Eero Saarinen designed Miller house for industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia. The house inarguably has one of the best modern architectures of the 1900s. Notice how the exteriors are covered with steel and glass and are used religiously all over the house. Slate tiles adorn the walkway in the yard as well as the homes’ exterior wall.
With an open and easygoing layout, flat roof and stone and glass walls, this house is an epitome of mid-century modern style architecture. The interiors are airy and bright with a sunken conversation pit that catches your attention at first glance. The bedrooms, guestrooms, kitchen and laundry are connected to the main living room in a pinwheel-like structure. The cylindrical fireplace in the middle of the living room is used during winters while adorning plants during summer and spring.
3. EAMES HOUSE | CHARLES & RAY EAMES | LOS ANGELES, CA
The Eames house is nestled around the hillside in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. The house was designed and built by one of the most admired architect couples and the owners of the house, Charles and Ray Eames.
A landmark of mid-century modern style architecture, this house has two structures of steel and glass walls. One was the Eames residence and the other was their studio. A courtyard separates the residence from the studio.
The interiors are airy, bright, welcoming and host a richly decorated space full of folk art, thousands of books, shells, rocks and prisms. It is a space where they loved to work, play and live alongside nature. This home till today showcases the style and collection of the couple.
4. VILLA SAVOYE | LE CORBUSIER | POISSY, FRANCE
Designed by known architect Le Corbusier just outside of Paris in 1929, the Villa Savoye was built on 5 principles of the architect.
- Pilotis are the slender columns that raise the building off the ground. It allowed free movement of air beneath the structure.
- Roof terrace merged the landscape within the indoor living areas.
- An open concept allowed for free flow of air and light.
- A sparse and well-manicured landscape that can be experimented with seasonally.
- Ribbon windows to merge the exteriors with the interiors and to let free flow of light and air.
These principles formed the basis for almost all of Le Corbusier structures including Villa Savoye. The lower floor was painted green to merge with the landscape. The use of ramps and spiral staircase makes this home functional yet modernist. The Villa Savoye is a true example of international style architecture.
5. KAUFMANN HOUSE | RICHARD NEUTRA | PALM SPRINGS, CA
The Kaufmann house was done in 1947 and was used by the Kaufmann family as a vacation home during cold winters. The materials of glass, steel, and natural stones were used in designing this international-style home.
The living and dining room are in the center of the home, while the other rooms are placed in different offshoots. The addition of a swimming pool gives this home a cohesive balance while keeping all the elements functional. The sliding glass doors overlap within each other and allow for light and air to pass through. The stones used around the house blend well with the landscape design and the hilly and mountain facade.
Richard Neutra’s residential architecture style was a blend of art, landscape, functionality and practical comfort. The same modern architecture depicts in the Kaufmann house which is now restored by the current owner to its original style.
EVEN MORE MODERN HOMES…
6. STAHL HOUSE | PIERRE KOENIG | LOS ANGELES, CA
Designed by renowned architect Pierre Koenig in 1959, the Stahl house is an embodiment of modern style architecture. Clarence Stahl and Carlotta Stahl’s dream home had to be spacious, airy, full of natural light and one that gave a stunning view. Their dream was realized in a small lot above Sunset Boulevard.
Materials like glass, steel, and concrete are used to surround the indoors to create beautiful and functional aesthetics of the house .
The house offers a panoramic view of downtown Los Angeles. It boasts of two rectangular boxes making an ‘L’ like structure. The house came to be known as a landmark in modern style architecture with a photograph by Julius Shulman. Even today, movies, television shows, and music videos are filmed in this home.
7. EPPICH HOUSE II | ARTHUR ERICKSON | WEST VANCOUVER, CANADA
Just by looking at the pictures you can tell how modern and beautiful this Eppich House II is. Designed by Arthur Erickson in 1979, this house belongs to the owner of Ebco Industries, Hugo Eppich and his wife Brigitte. The furnishings and furniture were also designed by Erickson & Francisco Kripacz but were manufactured by Hugo’s company.
The exteriors gladly stand with overlapping glass doors & walls supported by polished metal with rounded edges. You can find 3 terraced floors with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a recreation room, solarium, a flex room, a pool and a hot tub.
This home is a nature lover’s paradise with flawless and verdant landscape. Yet everything inside is so aesthetically beautiful and functional from yellow couches, turquoise bed frames, and red and gold armchairs.
8. A. QUINCY JONES HOUSE | A. QUINCY JONES | LOS ANGELES, CA
Architects A. Quincy Jones and his then wife Ruth Schneider designed and built this Jones home in 1939. Built on a hillside in the western slope of LA’s Laurel Canyon, A. Quincy converted the house into a residence studio after his divorce.
The home is a duplex with bedrooms and baths on the lower floor while upper floor boasts of open floor living space. You will love the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the light and air to let through. The earthy tones and subtle tilt of the house work perfectly with the natural and serene surroundings. This flexible and highly functional house is now converted into two residences and is a true representation of a mid-century modern home.
9. SCHINDLER HOUSE | RUDOLPH SCHINDLER | WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA
Joint dream of a couple, the Schindler House was designed and built in 1922 by Rudolph Schindler. The house was host to not one but two couples, the Schindlers and the Chaces. There were four rooms, 2 patios (one for each family), a shared kitchen and outdoor porches on the roof. It also had a guest apartment with kitchen and bath. Like a true modern home, this home has functional and open space, good use of materials and methodical use of space. It is the foundation of modern style architecture in California, as it was one of the first modern homes built during that era.
10. SHEATS GOLDSTEIN RESIDENCE | JOHN LAUTNER | LOS ANGELES, CA
The Sheats Goldstein residence was designed and built by John Lautner in 1961-63. It was originally built for Helen and Paul Sheats but was later bought by James Goldstein. The home has five bedrooms, four full baths and a half bath. Apart from it, the house also has a living room, guest bedrooms, a master bedroom, a tennis court and a night club. There is no air conditioning system in the house as cross-ventilation fulfills that purpose. The house boasts of open space living with flexible glass doors and walls. The view of Los Angeles is breathtaking from this functional yet highly modernist home.
ENLIGHTENING THE HOMEOWNERS
Mid-century modern architecture continues to inspire homeowners, interior designers, and architects alike. Bright and airy homes, open living spaces, simple and functional design are not only the homeowners’ necessity but also a style statement. This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are many more famous abodes, like Falling Water, that epitomize this style. That underscores the importance and abundance of this fascinating period in design.