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5 Features to Look for in Contemporary House Plans

Surprise! Contemporary House Plans – Often Misunderstood and Overlooked – May Be Your Next Favorite Home Style


You’ve searched through many, many house plans to find the dream home to build for your family, but you haven’t found any right for you. Modern house plans, with their industrial, stripped-down design seem too sterile. And the myriad traditional home plans you have seen, like Colonial, Victorian, and Craftsman, seem plucked out of the past, and you want something that feels current. . . .

Contemporary house plans may be just the ticket! Contemporary is in a strict sense present-day architecture. As a result, it is a somewhat amorphous style of architecture that can encompass other design styles. Often confused with Modern style, Contemporary is less boxy and Spartan. Whereas Modern home plans exhibit strict rectilinear angles, an absence of ornament, minimalist exteriors of stucco or brick, and generous use of steel and concrete, Contemporary house plans use gables, angles, and various exterior materials to add interest. It often melds historic elements with contemporary lifestyle concepts. So Contemporary may re-interpret Colonial style with more radically steep gables, large expanses of asymmetrical glass, and wood siding installed in an angled pattern.

We take a look at this architectural design style to discover 5 popular distinguishing features that Contemporary house plans have to offer.


1. Irregular, Asymmetrical Facade

Where traditional styles, such as Georgian and Colonial, often depend on symmetrical placement of exterior elements like windows, dormers, and support posts, Contemporary home plans may deliberately place such features in asymmetrical patterns to provide an element of surprise and interest. The same goes for the plane of the façade. Instead of a straight wall, a Contemporary house may have bump-outs and walls on several planes for visual interest.


4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Contemporary style home with irregular asymmetry

This 4-bedroom, 3½-bath Contemporary home is a good example of re-interpretation of traditional styles in irregular asymmetry. The structure presents elements of Victorian, Eurpoean, and even Craftsman design in an interesting, unique way. Note the mix of symmtrical window placements with the asymmetrical treatment of the left and right sides of the house (Plan #168-1088).


2. Strong Geometric Shapes

Visual interest and implied action or movement are important features in Contemporary design, and it achieves them through the use of geometry. Unusual angles, geometric shapes like trapezoids and acute triangles, intersecting planes, and a mixtures of slopes all contribute to the – sometimes unsettling but visually stunning - feeling of movement.


Contemporary home with rooflines that seem to jut out and pierce the sky

5-bedroom, 5-bath Contemporary home with interesting shapes: squares, rectangles, triangles, intersecting planes

With rooflines that seem to jut out and pierce the sky, this 5-bedroom, 5-bath home is a good example of the use of strong geometric shapes. Squares, rectangles, triangles, intersecting planes, varying slopes, and soaring rooflines combine to present an exciting facade (Plan #161-1048).


3. Large, Often Asymmetrical Windows

Large windows that are cut off in sharp angles and asymmetrical shapes instead of squared off as in traditional designs are a quintessential aspect of Contemporary design. The window shapes add to the interest and implied movement of the other elements of the design style. They also allow lots of natural light into the interior, a hallmark of Contemporary house plans.


3-bedroom, 3-bath Contemporary home with trapezoidal windows

The trapezoidal windows, installed with the angles parallel with the roof lines, exaggerate the soaring profile of this 3-bedroom, 3-bath Contemporary vacation home (Plan #158-1255).


4. Open Floor Plan

Open floor plans are very much of the minute these days, and so by definition are contemporary; it makes sense, therefore, that they are an important part of Contemporary architectural design. The use of movable partitions to create general-purpose rooms and/or the use of non-load-bearing walls to facilitate creating alternative layouts if needed can be found in Contemporary houses. Often the interior space is arranged in an L-, T-, H-, or U-shape to make the most of outdoor space.


Closed glass door, making a wall of windows in Great Room of Contemporary home

Great Room in 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2-half-bath home with wall of movable glass doors

The Great Room in this 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2-half-bath home has a wall of movable glass doors, which allows the homeowner to effectively double the space by encompassing the adjacent glassed-in porch (Plan #101-1874).


Great Room in splendid Contemporary home that shows open nature of floor plan

Another view of the Great Room in this splendid Contemporary home shows the open nature of the floor plan. Note that the room is open to the kitchen at right in the photo. The design updates features like the vaulted support beams by introducing arches and cirved elements to soften the appearance of the structure (Plan #101-1874).


5. Ecological Features

Because Contemporary house plans are “present-day designs” and because sustainability, so-called “green” building, and ecological concerns are of the moment these days, they embrace all of these aspects on principle and make as low of an impact on the environment as possibile. So many Contemporary homes are built from local or reclaimed lumber and sustainable and/or eco-friendly materials like bamboo. They use energy systems like solar, wind, and geothermal for heating and cooling and power. And they are built to the highest standards in terms of insulation (important for both heating and cooling) and a tight building envelope to prevent air leaks and wasted energy.


2-bedroom, 1.5-bath Contemporary home with stone chimney

This 1,105-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 1½-bath Contemporary makes efficient use of the space in a limited footprint for low environmental impact. The stone in the chimney may be locally sourced, local or reclaimed lumber used in its framework, and solar panels installed on its large, flat roof area (Plan #138-1306).


So if you’re looking for something different and exciting as your next house, it may be time to start searching through Contemporary designs for your dream home.


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