The Modern Look: Why Traditional Brick Construction Works So Well for a Contemporary Home

More and more custom home builders are being asked for less and less from clients who want a modern design. In 1947, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe opined that “less is more” in terms of aesthetic and functional architectural design and this began the evolution of “modern” home design.

“Despite popular belief, true modern homes do not follow popular trends,” according to home design website “Modern houses focus on structural simplicity, order and functionality — monochromatic walls, basic materials and clean architectural lines are the foundation.”

The website notes that this style includes minimalist and Bauhaus spaces as well as grid-like glass houses. Modern interior design emphasizes strong lines, a lack of ornamentation and minimal texture. Plus, it uses straightforward furniture and dramatic modern art to complement the stark architecture.

“In a modern house, lighting is a key structural element that accentuates planes and highlights focal points. Modern design is often a love-it or hate-it style — many appreciate its minimalist, uncluttered feel, while others miss the warmth and variety found in other styles,” Houzz concludes.


What about Modern Design in the Rockies?


Many see the pristine natural beauty of Colorado, with its mile-high mountains and trees as the archetypal example of traditional rugged home design, but as Mike Schroetlin, owner of Denver-based Schroetlin Custom Homes notes, the modern style is developing a greater following among his custom home clients.

“The demand for modern style homes is very popular right now, he said. “Several years ago almost nobody requested modern. Today, roughly half of our clients like some aspect of contemporary/modern styling. This style is not like something you would see in Miami, for example, but it is something softer - modern with a traditional or Colorado/Mountain flair to it.”


Using Brick in a Modern Home Design


Many think of brick construction and assume it is only used with a traditional home design. Can brick be incorporated in a modern design?  

“The clean lines of brick work well with modern design,” Schroetlin said. “Both interior and exterior brick can be an important part of a modern home.”  

“Traditional design often incorporates rustic, textured and frequently multi-colored brick in both exterior and interior,” notes Michael Earley of Acme Brick. “More modern designs incorporate brick with a more narrow color range and less surface texturing.”

Brick also works well as a visual counterpoint to the minimalistic interiors of modern homes.

Schroetlin notes, “Brick could be used in a kitchen wall, a wine cellar, accent wall in the office, or fireplace surround. It suggests the feel of an urban setting. Who doesn’t like the look of an exposed brick wall, whether it’s an urban loft downtown or a house in the suburbs?”

The “loft look” is very popular throughout the U.S. and especially in the Denver area. Brick complements this style perfectly. 

“Brick works very well with reclaimed wood, exposed pipes and natural lighting,” Schroetlin said. “I’ve heard this called “Modern Rustic,” “Colorado Contemporary,” “Mountain Contemporary” or other similar names. This is most popular of the modern styles among our clients.”

“Using brick indoors brings warmth and scale to an interior,” said Earley. “Any living space can benefit from the addition of brick.”


What Colors of Brick Work Best with a Modern Design?


“Color palette preferences change over time,” noted Earley. “Currently, grays and whites are in vogue. The beauty of brick is that the color palette is huge, from whites and tans to reds to earth tones and blacks and dark grays.

“Brick really is a timeless construction material that transcends fads. Plus, it is colorfast. It never fades like paint on wood or synthetic siding materials.”

“I agree with Michael,” Schroetlin said. “We see a large variety of colors being popular among our custom home clients. Anything gray is extremely popular now, but we also see requests for some of the traditional reds and browns.”


The Practical Considerations of Brick


“Visually, brick works perfectly with a modern design, but it also has other practical advantages that Coloradans want,” Earley said. “It is environmentally friendly, enabling home owners to save thousands of dollars each year on utilities.

“It is virtually maintenance free because it never needs painting. And it saves homeowners on their insurance payments because it is less likely to be destroyed by fire and wind.”


Are you considering building a home with a modern design? Talk to Mike Schroetlin at Schroetlin Custom Homes. If you are an architect and want more information about brick construction, contact Michael Earley at Acme Brick.