The LR2 House in LA by Montalba Architects is an example of the Local Modern style that's become popular across the US.
The LR2 House in LA by Montalba Architects is an example of the Local Modern style that's become popular across the US.Photo: Kevin Scott

Explore 10 of America’s Favorite Residential Architectural Styles Today

From modern farmhouses to glass boxes, discover the most popular architectural styles for new residential construction now

As we slide into a post-postmodern world where many architectural styles have been altered and hodgepodged to such a degree as to become unrecognizable, there are nevertheless a handful of identifiable styles visible among new-build homes popping up across the country. Although architectural styles used to signify something of their region—think Craftsman homes in the Northwest, Colonial in the Northeast, or the sprawling California ranch house—today’s architectural styles are less locationally driven and more about the individual lifestyles being framed within them. Modern and contemporary styles still have a stronghold on new construction, but as we found, they have spawned many offshoots, each of which has bloomed into a distinct aesthetic in its own right. Below, we’ve compiled an overview of 10 popular residential architectural styles in the US today.

1. Modern farmhouse

Kipnis Architecture and Planning put a contemporary spin on the gable-roofed forms of farmhouses using white siding and modern windows.

From coast to coast, over the last several years the modern farmhouse style has become ubiquitous in architectural and interior design. Modern farmhouses take the simple gabled roof forms of farmhouses and barns, and apply more modern touches—like vertical board-and-batten siding and restrained black-and-white color palettes—to give a contemporary spin on its more rustic roots. Many modern farmhouses draw on classic American typologies such as Georgian or Colonial, and even though some forecasters predict this style might be past its prime, architects across the country are still seeing clients request it today. Nathan Kipnis, of Kipnis Architecture and Planning, attributes its popularity to the hectic pace of modern life. “The modern farmhouse evokes a calm and peaceful interior, hearkening back to a simpler time,” he reflects. Brandon Ingram, of C. Brandon Ingram Design, agrees: “Our lives are more hectic and busier than ever. Homes that provide a sense of familiarity and tradition feel more comfortable and grounded.”

2. Local modern

Features and materials of traditional Hawaiian architecture are modernized at the Kauhale Kai house by De Reus Architects.

Photo: Joe Fletcher

One notable exception to the geographic lawlessness of houses today? Modern home designs—characterized by clean lines, rectilinear shapes, simple and restrained color palettes, and exposed materials—which continue to dominate the market. Here, peculiarities of locality play into design a bit more than we see elsewhere: Rather than the generic modernism of years past, architects across the country report that clients are requesting modern designs that relate to their unique natural and built context. “This has led us toward architectural responses that utilize local materials, are executed by local craftspeople, and imbue the work with a clear sense of place,” relays Joe Herrin, of Heliotrope. “We’re finding our clients wanting modern homes that still reflect the culture and DNA of the neighborhood, and that can coexist with surrounding historic and eclectic homes,” agrees David Montalba, of AD PRO Directory–listed firm Montalba Architects.

3. Industrial

Exposed steel I-beams, flat roofs, and metal cladding typify the industrial style, as seen in the Miner Road project by Faulkner Architects.

Photo: Joe Fletcher

Following the rise in popularity of shipping container architecture in previous decades, industrial styles still have a hold on new home designers today. Steel and concrete structures are left exposed to create a dramatic effect and weather over time, lending an unpretentious air of strength and durability. These buildings often utilize elements like flat roofs, unadorned steel crossbeams, exposed brick walls, and corrugated metal siding, all reminiscent of industrial warehouse spaces and buildings typically used for less domestic purposes. Simple forms and geometries abound, with a distinct lack of more organic elements like curved shapes, soft textures, and overly decorative ornamentation. High ceiling heights and double-height interior spaces are also characteristic qualities of this style.

4. Contemporary glass house

Floor-to-ceiling glass wraps the Flower House by No Architecture.

In the latter half of the 20th century—following the completion of such modernist icons as Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois, and the Stahl House in Los Angeles—all-glass houses peaked in popularity. Today the legacy lives on. “We continue to see great interest in contemporary glass houses that have a strong relationship to nature,” reveals Andrew Heid, of AD PRO Directory–listed firm No Architecture. These designs are characterized by a radical sense of transparency, where entire walls are made of windows, allowing exterior views to become the backdrop for domestic life within. “Simplicity, clarity, natural light, and views are key,” Heid says of this see-through style.

5. Landform

Hacker’s High Desert house is designed to blend in with the colors of its surroundings.

Photo: Jeremy Bittermann

In more rural and remote locations, architects are designing homes that blend with their surroundings. “The term landform is one we have adopted to reference designs that blend with or reflect the topography of the surrounding landscape,” explains Corey Martin, of Hacker. “These clients are looking for continuity between inside and out, unique connections to their surroundings, and a natural material palette.” For these homes, a connection to nature is achieved not just by framing views and utilizing natural materials, but rather through careful siting and the form and massing of the structure itself. Whether it’s a green roof, a building spanning a natural wildlife corridor below, or a structure bermed into a hillside, this residential style is all about becoming one with nature.

6. Essentialism

Waechter Architecture’s Tower House exemplifies the firm’s essentialist approach.

Photo: Lara Swimmer

Today many architects report that instead of requesting a particular style or look, clients often request homes that feel open, bright, and minimalist. This clarity of expression is usually paired with a desire to be efficient and un-flashy with material choices, volumes, and façades. “While we’re influenced by a range of design traditions, what we’re really getting at with our work is a sense of design economy and experiential clarity, a style we’ve started to refer to as essentialism,” explains Ben Waechter, of Waechter Architecture. Miroslava Brooks and Daniel Markiewicz, of Forma, concur: “It’s not so much a specific style that our clients request as it is a desire for bright, open, and thoughtfully planned interiors with clever storage solutions. Spaces that are devoid of visual clutter and well organized.” Brooks and Markiewicz attribute the trend to the busy pace of modern life and the overload of visual information inundated us on a daily basis. “As our digital lives become ever more cluttered, our homes have the potential to be a place of respite, connecting us back to the physical world,” they say.

7. Cozy contemporary

In Sonoma County, California, the Blue Oaks house by Richard Beard Architects features natural materials and compact spaces to bring warmth to its contemporary design.

Photo: Matthew Millman

Contemporary homes, with their emphasis on simple forms and geometric lines, often center around open floor plans and high-contrast materials and textures. Although this style has been popular for several decades, it has also been criticized for feeling cold and unlivable. Today’s contemporary homes take a different tack, making an overt effort for comfort and coziness. “Clients will often emphasize that they want warm design, meaning they want clean lines and comfort, lofty spaces and cozy ones, elegance, and practicality,” explains John DeForest, of DeForest Architects. These designs consist of open floor plans that accommodate a more informal lifestyle. Rather than giant dining rooms and formal living rooms that sit empty most of the time, today’s cozy contemporary homes are more united and reflect a greater honesty about how Americans live today. Colors, textures, and details are carefully orchestrated to achieve the clean lines of contemporary design but without feeling cold.

8. California bungalow

The California bungalow influenced this modern take on the style by Design, Bitches.

Photo: Yoshihiro Makino

On the West Coast, the legacy of the California bungalow looms large. This spin on the traditional American Craftsman–style home was popular in the early 20th century, with its emphasis on efficient floor plans and single-story living, and it’s still sought-after nowadays. Today’s version of the California bungalow is somewhat refined in comparison to the more blocky language of early examples, but the strong indoor-outdoor connection remains. “It combines the scale and formal elements of the traditional California bungalow with modernist ideals such as open plan spaces, floor-to-ceiling glazing, easy-to-maintain materials, and functional layouts,” explains Rebecca Rudolph, of Design, Bitches, of the style. Her cofounder, Catherine Johnson, notes that color also plays a part in today’s California bungalow: “I would add that there are often a variety of material textures and interesting color combinations, sometimes playing on monochromatic schemes with varying value and saturation.” With the multiplicity of challenges facing our world today, it’s no wonder the bright and sunny optimism of California living still has a hold. “We’re particularly drawn to the broad overhanging roofs of California bungalows, which evoke a sense of cozy domesticity, and the generous use of porches, which foster a connection to nature,” adds John Ike, of Ike Baker Velten, a member of the AD PRO Directory.

9. Clean green

The Mill Valley Cabins by Feldman Architecture boast multiple sustainable credentials, including green roofs.

Joe Fletcher Photography 2011 ©

Today it could be argued that the best design is the most sustainable one. Homes across the country are increasingly incorporating green elements, like solar PV arrays and geothermal heating. However, instead of being tacked on as a late addition, these sustainable aspects are integrated into the overall architectural design. “One trend emerging in our work and resonating with an increasing number of clients is design that directly responds to the climate crisis,” says Jonathan Feldman, of Feldman Architecture. “It’s where issues of ecology, resources, and human and ecological wellbeing are embedded in design, rather than an afterthought.” Increasingly, clients are asking for zero-carbon designs—homes that carefully calibrate their energy consumption both in their operation and in the materials used to construct them.

10. Small but mighty

This ADU by Ike Baker Velten is one of many similarly sized units recently completed in California.

Photo: Richard Powers

A great number of new homes in urban settings today are being built not on empty plots, but rather on lots already containing homes. These small auxiliary buildings—often under 1,000 square feet—are referred to as ADUs (short for Accessory Dwelling Units) or DADUs (Detached Accessory Dwelling Units). Because property is at a premium in many urban centers like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago, homeowners are increasingly turning to these compact structures to maximize value and add livable area to their homes. “DADUs provide a nice way for homeowners to invest in their property and create rental income while also opening up the opportunity for more density in historically less dense areas of cities,” says Robert Hutchison, of Robert Hutchison Architecture. “Architecturally, the typology also gives us the chance to consider interesting spatial and formal expressions that don’t necessarily have to relate directly to the existing house on the property, and to define new exterior spaces between the DADU and the original home.” Whether functioning as rentable spaces for added income or as auxiliary living areas for art studios, guest rooms, or home offices, DADUs of every shape and form are popping up in backyards across the country.