VIDEO: 4 Experts Share their Best Advice for Bringing Modern Design into your Home

Despite nearing a century old, modern design remains as influential as ever. As the pandemic continues to transform the ways we work, play and live, SPACES brought together an expert panel of design and construction experts to discuss the future of modern design.

Jogreet Chadha, director of marketing and sales for Integrated Resources Group, is an expert on sourcing stone for building projects. Celebrated architect Jonathan Feldman, of Feldman Architecture, spoke about the role of modernism in his work. Alison Damonte, principal and owner of an eponymous interior design firm, talked about modern interiors. Dan Pelsinger, founder of Matrozzi Pelsinger Builders, delved into the nitty gritty of getting buildings off the ground.

Watch the full video of the event here:

Here are a few highlights from the panel, which was moderated by SPACES editor-at-large Heather Hebert.

Customization Is King

IRG modern
In this custom kitchen, the appliances can be hidden behind flush cabinetry to create an ideal entertaining space. The backsplash is a charismatic marble, while the kitchen island is a harder engineered quartzite to maintain the color scheme without sacrificing durability. Photo courtesy of Integrated Resources Group. 

Jogreet Chadha has been hanging around her family’s stone and surfaces business since she was a child, and has seen tastes for marbles and quartzites come and go.

“The last couple years, we’ve really seen a shift in clients’ tastes,” she says. “We’ve had a new reference for modern design.”

Since the start of the pandemic, families are putting more serious thought into what they want from their homes. That has spurred a rise in custom-built, multifunctional layouts.

“In all of these bespoke designs, there’s no compromising of functionality for aesthetics,” Chadha says. “They’re pushing the envelope to make these out-of-the-box designs, and the key thing is that the functionality is there.”

Sustainability Reigns Supreme

modern caterpillar house
Outdoor water tanks are a sculptural element in this home by Feldman Architecture. They’re also an invaluable resource for staving off wildfires. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a modernist, which to me comes down to having a mindset of looking forward and thinking about tomorrow,” says Jonathan Feldman says.

In today’s environmentally unstable world, a big part of looking forward is making sure new projects have a minimal carbon footprint and climate resilience. Feldman’s early projects were in beautiful rural settings, and he thought a lot about how to build without disrupting the local ecosystem. He incorporated sustainable features such as passive heating and cooling systems and in-house water recycling.

Even for more traditional projects on urban or suburban lots, a green mindset can go a long way toward a forward-thinking client’s peace of mind, according to Feldman.

modern feldman sunrise
This 2,000-square-foot, 2-bed, 2.5-bath home designed by Feldman Architecture opens onto an outdoor pavilion and a pool, making the home feel larger than it actually is and connecting the homeowner’s lifestyle to nature. The interior design is by Studio Collins Weir, and the landscape architecture is Arterra Landscape Architecture. Photo by Adam Rouse.

“As a firm, we started thinking about how, when you don’t have full immersion in nature, you still might be able to create that connection to the outdoors,” he says. “There’s a focus in our projects on taking advantage of our wonderful climate and creating indoor-outdoor living spaces.”

New, Old Soul

downtempo damonte modern
In this mod dining room, Bauhaus-era chairs from 1926 are paired with a contemporary table. The home was designed by Signum Architecture with interiors by Alison Damonte. Photo by Bruce Damonte. 

Modern design has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century, and that tradition is important to interior designer Alison Damonte. She enjoys incorporating midcentury-modern furniture and decorative elements into her designs. Beauty and history aside, vintage furnishings are also an eco-friendly choice, and readily available, so clients don’t have to worry about irksome manufacturing delays. 

“The inclusion of vintage furniture is a very contemporary idea. Vintage really gives a home soul,” Damonte says. “The tension that’s created between new and old can enliven a space.”

Down to Brass Tacks

modern aidlin darling
Pelsinger worked with Aidlin Darling Design on this San Francisco home, where narrow streets made it difficult to get all the materials in. Photo by Matthew Millman. 

Modern designers and architects are welcome to think outside the box all they want, but ultimately their designs must be buildable.  That’s where Dan Pelsinger comes in. The company he founded, Matrozzi Pelsinger Builders, has been constructing modern homes since 1985.

He recommends considering logistical challenges early on in the design process. His firm has worked on buildings on narrow, steep San Francisco streets, as well as isolated projects in rural Wyoming and Montana. He says every context brings its own challenges.

The Modern Ethos

downtempo demonte exterior
This home, which was designed by Signum Architecture with interiors by Alison Damonte, is an example of a contemporary design with modern elements. Today, modern design combines elements from the 20th century with new innovations. Photo by Bruce Damonte.

In design, the terms “modern” and “contemporary” are often used interchangeably, but technically they have different meanings. Modernism refers to the early-to-mid-20th-century movement characterized by minimalism, clean lines and understated natural materials, among other attributes. Contemporary design refers to current innovations in the design space. But the panelists agreed that the philosophy of modernism—always looking toward the future—is a guiding force and as relevant today as ever. 

“With our projects, I always think, we have an opportunity to design a space that will shape the way families live into the future,” Feldman says. “To me that is the heart of modernism—optimism that we can always do better.”

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RB Smith is a freelance writer who was born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis. He has worked for The Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon and The Nome Nugget in Nome, Alaska.