Building Modern Series: Part 3

In the conclusion of our 3 part Building Modern Series we will be rapping up our discussion on the various exterior components and considerations when building a modern and contemporary home.  If you missed Part 1 and/or Part 2, click here to read Part 1 and click here to read Part 2. Building a modern & contemporary custom home can be interpreted in many ways and wehope these guidelines will help you understand the many differences involved in designing and building your modern and contemporary custom home. Robare Custom Homes is here to to answer additional questions and help you every step of the process to building your modern dream home.

Exterior Materials

The exterior materials of a modern home set the tone for the home and are often used inside to tie the interior spaces together with the outdoor spaces. Also, the exterior materials are seldom structural or used in a structural application. They should generally be considered cosmetic materials.

Masonry – Stucco, stone, brick, concrete, CMU blocks, and Hardie siding are all widely used in modern construction, with stucco being the most prevalent. Cost-wise, stucco, brick and Hardie are comparable with CMU blocks being more costly and natural stone even more costly. Concrete is very specific to how it is utilized.

Panels – Various types of panels are used and are generally made of metal. These are usually more costly than masonry and require experienced installers. However, from an aesthetic viewpoint, these can be major contributors to the uniqueness of the design.

Wood – Wood is frequently used and mounted often as a horizontal design element and can transfer seamlessly into fencing. This wood should be chosen carefully for the Houston climate. Cedar and cypress are often used, and there is nothing that looks better than IPE wood from South America.

Tiles – Many tiles are now manufactured for exterior use, including natural stones such as travertine, slate, marble and granite. Man-made materials can be utilized as well.


In most modern homes, there will be no attic. Therefore, the home must be designed with a mechanical room in which to locate the equipment. This is actual living space, as opposed to putting the equipment in the unused attic space. You would also generally locate the water heater and other equipment here. Aesthetic considerations would include:

Supply & Return Registers – These air vents can be rather unsightly, but there are modern sleek alternatives that are more visually appealing. The returns can be particularly unsightly, but here too, with proper planning, they can be placed in less noticeable locations or even hidden.

Ductwork – Some like the industrial look, with the metal ductwork exposed in warehouse fashion. As you might guess, this is more costly than flexduct that is very inexpensive and designed to be hidden in the walls and ceiling. However, it is very effective for large open spaces in distributing the air.


Concrete floors can be incredibly attractive and durable. From a price perspective, it can run the gamut from just polishing and sealing the concrete, to staining, and/or scoring the floor with a saw to create lines or intricate patterns. If the slab is to be used for the final floor, you need to protect it as much as possible. Note that you should consider concrete the same as wood flooring. There are going to be imperfections, variations, shading, etc. If you don’t like the idea of this, go with a tile. They even have tiles meant to mimic concrete.

If you use different floor types, you will also have to be sure that the foundation is poured with the varying flooring thicknesses considered if you want them all to match at completion. Once the foundation is poured, you may have to live with your choices.

Stairs and Railings

This is a major design element in modern design and special attention should be paid to make it stand out.

Floating Stairs – This term is used to represent stairs that are not attached to walls on one, and especially, on two sides. They are free-standing and thus self-supporting. Generally steel is used for the basic structure.

Slab Treads – Big thick beautiful pieces of a hard wood are frequently used in this application. The thickness of the wood shows the beauty of the wood, but also solves a safety issue if done properly. Building code requires placement be designed to prohibit a small child from fitting between the treads and getting stuck or worse.

Cable Railing – Cables are a frequent and very attractive option. The prices do fall on the high side compared to traditional railings with wood or metal banisters. Some municipalities do not allow horizontal cabling, reason being that a small child can use them as ladders.

Glass Railing – Glass railings are very popular, but are sometimes limited by cost and sometimes by the idea of constantly needing to clean them.

Plumbing Fixtures

You just need to find a supplier that carries lines of modern fixtures. This needs to be considered early in a project because it can affect the foundation and framing designs. There are all kinds of unique sinks. Remember that unique = rare = $$. Another item quickly gaining popularity is hidden toilets. This means that the tank and plumbing connections are behind the wall. The only portions visible are the bowl and seat, which protrude from the wall, so there is nothing to clean around on the floor… very cool and unique.

Lighting and Light Fixtures

Can lights are very popular and inexpensive and are used generously in modern construction. Recessed rope lighting is used to create different effects, such as a “floating” ceiling. Landscape and exterior lighting can be the most dramatic of all effects.

If you wish to integrate your lighting into a home automation system, be sure to have the automation and electrical contractors coordinate this early in the process as it can dramatically change the electrical wiring.

Are you ready to get started on your Modern & Contemporary Home? Schedule your Builder Interview today. 210-372-9880