Modern apartment designs are all dependent on details. There are many large and small details to consider when planning a modern home renovation.
I am an architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture, working on a variety of projects including apartment renovations. I put together this list of a few modern details to think about for a modern apartment or loft renovation based on our past projects. All images here are from our projects.
The first thing to think about in modern design is minimalism. Minimalist design is at the core of modern architecture. You can keep it simple and have a very elegant and dignified design without any unnecessary frills.
The picture below is of a white loft apartment in Tribeca with a simple and minimal white marble fireplace surround. The marble has some veining that brings character to the fireplace but still is ultra minimal.
You are going to need space to put stuff. Instead of shelves you can make wall niches. These are recesses in walls that create shelves and storage space.
In the white hallway below you can see wall niches used for plants and even a marble bench.
Exposed concrete is a really powerful modern design detail. Although not everyone likes the look of exposed concrete, leaving concrete exposed is becoming more and more popular in modern design as it has a very special mix of texture and minimalist qualities.
It is also becoming common to use faux materials. In fact, the one thing I am always surprised about is just how much people like faux materials such as the concrete finish on the walls in the picture below. This is a Sheetrock wall with an applied concrete texture, not a poured in place concrete wall.
One common trend in modern design is all white interiors. Two things about white is that it goes great with black and metal but it also can look good with an accent wall or detail. Sometimes, modern apartments can be a bit stark and they can be livened up with an accent wall.
In the picture below you can see an accent wall in a home office in all white loft in Chelsea NYC. The study has metal and glass doors that open to a bright red accent wall that pops out in this all white apartment.
Flooring is a very important part of any apartment design. There are many options for modern flooring, dark, light, wide plank, whatever options you choose to use make sure that the flooring is thought out and works with the apartment as a whole.
In the Tribeca Loft below you will see a bleached wood floor. Bleaching wood takes the color out and gives it a very desaturated look.
Modern Glass Details
Glass is very modern, especially when paired with simple details. Use as much frameless glass as possible with point support clips to make the glass feel light and seamless.
In the picture below you can see a glass rail at the mezzanine level of a loft apartment. The glass is supported by round stainless steel point support clips attached at the bottom. Each individual piece of glass has a connector clip at the top, aside from that there is no frame.
Details make or break a project. If the budget allows, you can look into custom details.
The picture below is of a simple black tube ceiling and wall mounted coat rack at a front entrance foyer in a concrete apartment. This coat rack was custom made to work with the industrial feel of the overall apartment. My black leather jacket also goes very well with the apartment design.
Storage is really important. I cannot emphasize enough how I do not believe there is such a thing as too much storage space. You need the storage to work with the overall design but more importantly it needs to work with your lifestyle.
In the picture below, you can see open shoe cubbies in a walk in closet with no door. If you are a very neat person with nice things that you want to display this may be a good idea for you. On the other hand, if your closet is always a mess you should put a door on it, and maybe avoid open cubbies.
Modernism had its origins in the industrial revolution, it is therefore fitting to incorporate some industrial design elements into a modern home.
Here we have an all white staircase with little accent lights. The handrail is a very industrial looking steel that has a modern vibe to it.
Modern Barn Door
Barn doors are very popular right now. A barn door is a door that slides on a track where the track is face mounted on the wall so that the door slides in front of the wall with an exposed track.
Here we have an industrial looking barn door in a Lower East Side Apartment in Manhattan.
Modern Flat Panel Doors
Simplicity is often the key to modern design. Flat panels without any detail are a real feature of modern design.
These doors are in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment. These are painted solid core flat panel wood doors. This is an incredibly simple and modern design element.
Reveals are a modern detail especially to replace frames. Different materials being joined together have seams. These seams can crack and open over time, for example, the seam between a Sheetrock wall and a door jamb. These details are usually covered by a molding, so that if the Sheetrock cracks it will not be seen. If you want a frameless or trimless rood without moldings you are going to be subject to cracking at those joints. This is resolved with reveals. There are many different products that can be used to create these reveals to separate the materials.
This picture is of a door that matches the walls and has a small reveal around the door jamb.
Black Metal and Glass
Black metal and glass doors are a great look for a modern apartment.
Ultra Modern Industrial Door Hardware
The door hardware should be coordinated with the overall design of the entire apartment.
In the photo below we have a very modern and industrial door pull for a sliding door.
Smart Home Devices & Systems
There are many options for smart homes. Some people love them and many people do not. I am actually surprised at how few of my clients care about having smart homes. I will not go deep into smart homes but the one smart device everyone seems to want are smart learning thermostats. These learn your patterns to program for comfort and efficiency.
Bells and Whistles
The picture below is of a telescopic downdraft hood, that retracts into the cabinet below when not in use.
White On White
White on white kitchen with white cabinets, white countertop, and white subway tile backsplash.
Kitchen islands are convenient but also look good. They are a real great addition to a kitchen. We have another post in Kitchen Renovations in NYC if you want to see more.
Kitchen Counter Seating
Kitchen islands are a great place for seating. The countertop can overhang and make a sitting area for stools. You want to consider the height of the countertop.
Panel Ready Kitchen Appliances
One important decision to make is whether to do panel ready appliances or to leave the appliance material exposed. Either option is good for a modern apartment. Dishwashers and refrigerators can often come with an option to install a panel matching the cabinets so that they blend together.
The apartment below has panel ready appliances with doors matching the kitchen. The walls were painted to match the cabinets for a more simple continuous look.
Under Cabinet Lighting Accent Lighting
Under cabinet lighting will help you see better for your working surfaces as task lighting, and really add mood with design elegance.
Modern kitchens often have an island or a peninsula. Putting a slab material to match the countertop down the side is called a countertop waterfall. This can be done in many cases with a continuous or bookmatched stone so that the veining (if there is any) can be continuous. These corners are miter cut to minimize the joint visibility.
Stand Out Finishes for Fixtures
This kitchen is all white with a gold faucet. A bright pop of color can really liven up a space.
Unique Kitchen Faucets
This is a very unique articulating kitchen faucet. These types of details can really add to a design. Of course you do not have to go with a faucet this industrial looking but think about all the details down to the kitchen sink and faucet.
Magnetic paint can make a fun wall for kids or for adults to post things on the wall.
A bathtub can be a sculptural element if you pic one with the right design. If the bathroom is large enough you could install a freestanding tub to be more of a feature.
Thin or Butt Joint Grout Lines
You will probably want to minimize your grout line for multiple reasons. Grout gets dirty and discolors over time, also minimizing can make for a modern modern aesthetic. The bathroom below has white marble look porcelain tile with butt joints.
Modern Bathroom Fixtures
This bathroom has modern wall mounted fixtures and a custom ceiling mounted towel rack.
Linear Shower Drain
Linear Shower Drains are a sleek and minimalist option for a modern bathroom. Linear drains can have a grill, or as in the picture below, can have the bathroom floor material integrated into the drain. The groove around the perimeter is where the water drains. This can be easily removed for maintenance and cleaning. In this example we have a concrete bathroom with concrete material in the linear drain. This could be any material. You can put tile into the drain to match a tile floor. There are also square shower drains that can have a material on top.
Integrating the material on top of the drain is a great bathroom design detail, and a linear drain adds a real modern look.
Barn Door Style Shower Doors
Barn door style shower doors are a great touch for a modern bathroom design.
Wall Mounted Toilet
Wall mounted toilets are a more modern look and are easy to clean. One major advantage of a wall mounted toilet is that for renovation projects, they are much easier to move around because they do not require a drain in the floor. This can expand your option for locating the toilet in an apartment renovation.
Make It Your Home
I am not going to suggest that you get a giant chipmunk for your home, but I am going to leave you with this one piece of advice:
It’s your home, you can do whatever you want with it.
Modern Apartment Details
As an architect, I study design and construction, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. Every project is different and must be assessed on its own unique characteristics. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.
Thank you for reading our blog post on Details For Modern Apartments.
I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect you can contact us directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.