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Modern/Contemporary Architectural Style

Modern and contemporary homes include Art Deco period and ranch-style homes.

Modern/Contemporary

"Modern" is a catch-all term for homes built since the 1920s. But all modern designs value function over form: you won't find many ornate touches, extraneous rooms or calculated symmetry. Instead, the facade is shaped in a way dictated by an effective layout of the interior.

Other common characteristics of modern design include flat, unadorned walls and flat roofs, or those with a "mod," abstract shape. This style also incorporated open floor plans and floor to ceiling glass (like that on modern bank buildings) to let in abundant natural light.

Art Deco
Coming of age in the flapper era, Art Deco seized hold around 1925 and remained popular until the onset of World War II. The name came from a 1925 Paris design fair, called the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes — "Art Deco" for short.

Art Deco inside and out leaves a slick, citified impression, a celebration of geometric shapes done in rich marbles, chrome and ebony sweeping towards the sky. Although it is decorative, the style borrows nothing from classical architecture. Instead, it emphasizes a linear, angular, vertical appearance. Predominantly used in city skyscrapers and apartments in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, Art Deco employs narrow, vertical-focus windows, geometric shapes above the roofline and building facades arranged in a series of setbacks to underscore the geometric form.

Exterior decorative elements include zigzags and geometric detailing, executed in the same material as the building or in metals, colored glazed bricks, or mosaic tiles. The tropical motif and stylized geometric representations — say of a sunset — were often used to decorate doors. You probably see a lot of Art Deco interiors if you watch 1930s films, particularly in the starlet's apartment.

Ranch

With their efficient use of space, economical build and emphasis on casual living, ranch-style houses were symbols of the Post-World War II "American Dream." Ranchers are one level, with a garage attached at the side. Garage and home have the same roofline: a gently sloping hip or gable roof with medium or deep eaves. Introduced in California in the 1930s, the ranch home was heavily influenced by the one-story Spanish rancho of the Southwest. As its popularity spread to the Midwest and Southeastern seaboard, the adobe was adapted to include native materials: walls of vertical wood siding, fieldstone or brick and a roof of wooden shingles. Frank Lloyd Wright also influenced the rancher, as he designed "Prairie" homes with low-pitched roofs, and without the "unnecessary" burden of attics or basements.


Ranch home sales reached a fevered pitch in the '50s and '60s, when they were the home of choice in the suburbs. In lieu of a front porch, a typical ranch house had a patio to the rear. For a ranch house to fit on smaller lots, it would be compressed by stacking, and thus the split-level was born (the house on the Brady Bunch has all of the split-ranch characteristics). Larger ranch houses have one or two wings at right angles to the main body of the house (think of South Fork on Dallas).

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