Washington DC Metropolitan Area Modern, Mid-Century and Contemporary Homes for Sale
When it comes to homes for sale in the Washington Metropolitan area, descriptions like Modern, Mid-Century and Contemporary have become increasingly popular buzzwords. This may seem a little strange in a region so known for history and tradition. After all, isn’t DC, Alexandria and Arlington all about classic old Colonial and Victorian architecture?
The simple answer is that you can have it all in an area that has continued to evolve over time, and that there is plenty of room for properties of all sizes, types and styles. But while we often associate “modern” with brand new cutting edge creations straight out of Architectural Digest, it’s actually a concept dating back a century!
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The modernist movement sprung up in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a counter reaction to ornate styles like Victorian, Beaux Arts and Gothic. The new trend embraced concepts that came out of English Arts and Crafts as well as Germany’s Bauhaus School. Before long, the Prairie School emerged with an American Midwestern style that favored craftsmanship and functionality.
The Prairie School’s most famous proponent was Frank Lloyd Wright. A great example of the architect’s work is the Pope-Leighy House in Alexandria. But a more widespread influence can be found in the American Craftsman movement that led to do-it-yourself mail order kit homes.
The best-known supplier of this DYI trend was Sears Roebuck through its Modern Homes Catalog. There were approximately 75,000 of these homes sold between 1908 and 1940. And while there were numerous different models and styles, the most recognizable signatures included low-pitched gable roofs, wide overhangs and front porches.
These days you can find these coveted Craftsman homes throughout the region, including DC’s Anacostia and Takoma neighborhoods, Alexandria’s Del Ray, Arlington’s Lyon Village and Lyon Park, and Maryland’s Hyattsville and Mount Rainier.
But Craftsman was just one segment of the larger modernist movement that also included Art Deco, Art Moderne, Futurism, Brutalism, Postmodern and International. These concepts were often applied to hotels, office buildings and apartment complexes. And, many of those structures later converted to condos for sale.
The term Mid-Century Modern homes pertains to a wide range of styles that generally emerged from the 1940s to early 1970s. That can pertain to everything from common Ranch and Split-Level properties to much more stylized low-slung structures with flat roofs and large window walls. Think for instance, of the epitome of “California-cool” homes built into canyon walls that you see in the movies.
But those hipster pads aren’t exclusive to the West Coast. Take the example of Hollin Hills, located between Route 1 and the Potomac River in southern Alexandria. Built between 1949 and 1970, the community is entirely comprised of 450 midcentury modern homes. The award-winning collaboration between developer Robert Davenport and architect Charles Goodman resulted in iconic structures with either flat or butterfly roofs and giant 24-square foot window walls. The homes are also set back into ungraded terrain, all facing in different directions and surrounded by 32 acres of hilly splendor. The emphasis on natural elements is one that is common to modernistic design.
By its broadest definition, contemporary architecture simply means that which is new and current. The term gained popularity during the late 1950s and as decades passed, became used more synonymously with “modern.” Today, some of the better known DC Metro architects associated with exciting and creative design forms include Robert Gurney, Travis Price, David Jameson, Hugh Jacobson, Alan Dynerman and Mark McInturff.
While Hollin Hills is unique in the region as a modernist community, you’ll find plenty of individual examples of creative design throughout DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland. Price has built incredible tree houses tucked away into Rock Creek for example, while urban designer Jeff Speck built a stunning glass and steel flatiron-style home on a triangular lot at the corner of Florida Avenue and 10th Street in the U Street Corridor.
In other words, you don’t need to feel limited in your search for something different. From upscale suburbs like Great Falls and McLean in Fairfax County to centuries old city streets, Washington Metropolitan area modern, contemporary and midcentury homes for sale are much more common than you’d think.
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Listing information last updated on February 15th, 2019 at 4:33pm EST.