Modern architecture, at its core, is all about paring down to the basics and living a life of intention. It's also based on simple, abstract forms and geometric shapes, which makes it one of the most sophisticated, refined, and artful design movements to borrow from when decorating. Think clean lines, wide open spaces, high-impact but neutral color contrasting, and lots and lots of natural light. If we've just described the minimalist space of your dreams, learn about the key characteristics of modern architecture below and then see how interiors designers bring this 20th-century design trend to life today.
A Nod to Nature
Though there is a decidedly futuristic feel to modern architecture, it actually really emphasizes a connection to nature and use of nature-inspired materials. Consider, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright's legendary spaces that borrow from their natural surroundings and mimic organic patterns, like spirals, domes, and tons of skylights.
Now, this is how to make an entrance. With sky-high ceilings, large windows, and sleek floating stairs, this foyer stays true to a modern aesthetic, and yet there are plenty of traditional undertones that make it feel timeless. The console table in the center of the room picks up on the linear black banister and window frames while introducing some contrasting shapes.
Asymmetry and Cubism
There's very little ornamentation when it comes to modern architecture, so the general shape of the building is where things get exciting. In fact, many modern buildings are pieces of art in of themselves, the asymmetrical and cubic shapes shifting based on your own perspective. The goal is to allow the structure to stand alone rather than having to rely on excessive décor and color to bring a room to life.
Quintessentially modern, this kitchen space captures the easy, spare sophistication we expect from this design trend. A cool, tight color palate is key, as are clean lines and access to plenty of natural light (we love how the cubic window blends seamlessly into the wall). Though austere and elegant, the light ash-hued hardwood floors bring in a decidedly casual touch, which keeps things balanced. The lone suspended light bulb is the perfect piece to illuminate the geometric white lacquered island.
Bold Use of Steel, Concrete, and Aluminium
Though modernists live by the "less is more" mentality, there's still plenty of room for bold, personality-packed designs, especially through the use of steel and other statement-making materials. See, for example, the Museo Soumaya in Mexico City. The repeating aluminum hexagon tiles are reminiscent of fish scales, and the building itself looks like an oscillating wave.
Trying the modern trait inside…
Since there isn't a ton going on in the room, each piece needs to make an impact, which is accomplished through rich materials and contrasting shapes. There's a bit of everything in this bathroom, and yet it has an undeniably modern sensibility to it. The use of concrete introduces some of the grit you'd get from industrial design while the metallic, pearl-like sconces give it a glamorous side. The tall mirror and glass elements are clear nods to modernism too.
Clean Lines and Open Floor Plans
You know you're looking at a modernist building if there are clean lines, huge glass windows, and an open floor plan. Looking out onto the Los Angeles skyline beyond, the Stahl House, designed by Pierre Koenig, both blends into its surroundings while also standing out as unique and museum-like.
Though almost every last detail in this space has sharp angles, there's also plenty of warmth thanks to the plush textiles, spacious sofa, and cloud-like carpet. The low furniture also contributes to a grounded, down-to-earth personality of this space, while the concrete floors and stark white paint honor the edgier side of modern architecture.
And now, switch gears and get inspired by a much more over-the-top aesthetic: Art Deco architecture.