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Just Damn Good Architecture

Making Modern Work in Market Housing Design

When a developer, builder and architect all share a gut feeling that the Midwest market is “ready for modern”, it’s worth noting.

This conversation at a recent client meeting in our Des Moines, IA, office wasn’t driven by analysis of buyer profiles or highly specified market research. Instead, the lack of variety of available new homes in the area juxtaposed with pockets of modern custom builds made it clear to these industry veterans that adding modern designs to the plan portfolio made perfect sense.

Even without data to back it up, they all felt that modern architectural design – elevations, floor plan layouts, and finishes – is on the verge of a breakout moment in the Midwest. The region already has hundreds of examples of high-end custom homes in true modern, contemporary style. It’s only a matter of time before market rate consumers demand this same modern attention at their price point.

Not surprisingly, the statistics seem to support this thinking. According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting’s national 2018 Consumer Insights survey, 30% of buyers prefer a modern exterior style, and 37% prefer a modern interior style. Although a large percentage of midwestern consumers still look for somewhat traditional designs, the tide is shifting. Buyers on the coasts are twice as likely to prefer modern homes, and it’s only a matter of time before that sentiment works its way inland.

The examples below illustrate how builders can begin to incorporate modern plan designs into their existing product portfolios. When executed correctly, plans like these can help builders gradually introduce more contemporary options. Builders who leverage their most progressive neighborhoods to get this kind of product built soon will be poised to capture a fast-growing segment of modern-focused buyers.

Standard Lot Single Family Example

Littleton, CO

This plan offers both traditional and modern elevation styles, all with great detailing. But our architect was able to manipulate the single bay of the split garage to enhance the modern iteration with additional bracket detailing, cladding variations, and a signature flat awning.

No floor plan changes are needed to accommodate the modern exterior. The standard layout gets a fresh look with contemporary lines enhanced by large windows and simple, clean trim details and finishes.

Small Lot Single Family Example

Austin, TX



This community of 15 contemporary homes offers urban exteriors, modern interiors, energy-efficient features, and standard 2-car garages, despite a small footprint. Solavera is an infill neighborhood with unique home sites, mature trees, a nearby park and an incredible location ideal for this edgy, urban vibe.

The modern elevation allowed designers to maximize space over the garages, presenting eye-catching vertical elements that create an unforgettable streetscape experience.


Townhome Example

Austin, TX

A progressive neighborhood in the center of all the action in Austin demanded a decidedly modern exterior style to appeal to the hip young buyer profile the developer was targeting. The design took that vision a step further by using sleek, modern interior design, as well, resulting in a winning combination.

Even in suburban applications, modern elevations work well on multifamily buildings and help highlight unit individuality through contrasting forms, materials, and design lines.

Make the Move to Modern

Sometimes, considering modern designs is as easy as re-elevating a high-performing plan. Other times, starting from scratch is the best way to realize a truly modern design vision. Either way, the research proves that buyers are hungry for modern homes, and builders who embrace this reality today will capture the growing segment of new home buyers who say modern is their preferred style.

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