What is a contemporary home going to look like in 2024?

angular contemporary home with timber cladding
(Image credit: Unique Home Stays)

Exactly what is a contemporary home going to look like and how can we expect living in one to feel as we head into 2024?

Unlike some house design ideas, contemporary home design is not a fixed concept, but one that evolves according to trends, the way we live, the access we have to new products as well as the environment that surrounds us. 

"A contemporary House in 2023/2024 is a home that thinks about climate inside and out," explains Ben Hawkins, architect at Granit Architecture + Interiors. "A contemporary house, whether new build or older building stock that has been altered, is very much driven by climate as well as the aesthetics of design. In this context it is not just changes in external but also internal climate with a stronger focus on naturally heated, ventilated and lit space. A passive (minimal active mechanical solutions) approach rather than active (bigger heating systems, air conditioning etc) should form a cornerstone of contemporary design. And this comes with its own challenges."

In this article, with the help of some top design experts, we explore the direction that contemporary house design is heading in as 2023 draws to a close and we get ready to step into a new year, covering everything from the way houses are being constructed to design features that are becoming increasingly important to help modern life run smoothly. 

What is a contemporary home?

While the first thing that springs to mind for many people when they hear the term 'contemporary home' is one that is very minimalist and sleek in its design, free from fussy details and with a limited palette of visible adornment, this is not necessarily a correct assumption. 

There is no fixed style when it comes to contemporary self builds or extensions.  A contemporary home is of the moment and should reflect what is going on in the world, the way people are wanting to live their lives. It should respond to the climate it will need to withstand as well as being capable of adapting easily over time.

Because of the requirement for contemporary homes to be highly practical buildings that mirror, through their construction and structural elements, the environment they are being built in, they naturally often end up looking very fuss-free, clean and will, ideally, settle seamlessly into their setting. 

That said, there is still room for plenty of individual touches to be included in contemporary design — in fact these houses should very much showcase the personalities of their inhabitants.

1. Houses will be better equipped for hot weather

We are all well aware that climate change is a huge issue to be addressed — and it certainly isn't one that is going to just go away. For this reason, new homes are now being built with this very much in mind.

"Good home design is as much about function as it is appearance. This year – the hottest in history – is proof climate change is happening and so a major challenge for contemporary house design is climate resilience," explains architect Matt Bargery of Modern Architecture Workshop. "This includes the obvious steps around energy efficiency, but perhaps equally creating a localised renewable energy supply so we can live in an off-grid, decarbonising world. 

"There are also benefits from using modern methods of construction, such as SIPs, that create more efficient homes. We’re all going to have to find ways of living in a hotter, drier, wetter and generally more unpredictable climate.”

Architect David Nossiter of David Nossiter Architects agrees: "Global warming and a fashion for larger glazed openings have highlighted overheating as an ever pressing concern," he says. "Planners increasingly require designers to limit areas of south facing glazing, submit glass specifications and make provision for solar shading. "

"It has been well reported that a move towards more glass in buildings is resulting in overheating," comments Ben Hawkins. "The challenge of how to get natural light (and when needed warmth) in without suffering from excessive solar gain is front and centre. Contemporary architects are addressing this through the careful planning of glazing locations and shading, strong projecting elements, whether overhangs or brise soleil have become prominent features. This is supported by the new Building Regulations Part O and a good example of where regulations and design meet and how a good architect will work within the constraints to create an outstanding piece of architecture."

contemporary single storey extension with brise soleil

Methods of protecting homes from overheating, such as deep overhangs or brise soleil, as can be seen within the design of this building by Granit, will become more common.  (Image credit: Granit)

2. More multi-generational spaces

In many ways this is not really a modern-day concept but one that harks back to the days when it was the norm for several generations to live together under one roof — something that is once again becoming important to families. 

"Ageing populations are leading designers to consider flexible living spaces and multi-generation accommodation," says David Nossiter. "Communal outdoor spaces boast natural surveillance, allowing occupants to mind the wellbeing of the frail, whilst providing opportunities for those on their own to engage with their community." 

As well as lifetime homes that are capable of meeting the needs of a range of age groups, houses should also be adaptable in a way that means they will continue to suit the lifestyle of all family members as the years pass.

"A contemporary house today is characterised by flexible living spaces, designed to adapt to the changing needs of its occupants and provide a seamless flow between different areas of the house." explains Simon Baker of Nash Baker Architects

listed cottage extension

Studio BAD took on this listed cottage renovation and extension. They looked at how the existing house was used and how it could be updated and extended to future proof the house as well as giving the owners the opportunity to accommodate extended family members and connect better with the garden and surrounding landscape. (Image credit: BAD Studio)

3. Designs will have to adapt to trickier sites

It is no secret that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find building plots on which to construct new homes — particularly for individual self builders. Contemporary home design is reflecting this, and will continue to do so. 

"As available sites for new build become increasingly difficult to find, architects are designing clever compact designs on overlooked plots," says David Nossiter. 

From infill plots that require designers to think of ways of getting the most usable space out of a tight site, to homes built on brownfield sites and on pieces of land that might not previously have been considered for building a home on, such as redundant petrol stations, it will become more and more necessary for self builders and the architects they turn to for a design to come up with solutions that may look quite like nothing we have seen before. 

contemporary self build

Located on a compact site in London, Lantern House, designed by David Nossiter, has been organised around an internal courtyard and care has been taken to ensure no overlooking issues.  (Image credit: David Nossiter Architects)

4. Existing buildings will get an overhaul

This brings us very nicely on to the next point here — the reuse of what we already have.

"The largest challenge facing our build environment is the task of upgrading the energy efficiency of our existing housing stock," points out David Nossiter. "In real terms retrofitting a home means installing sustainable heating and ventilation systems, greater levels of insulation, particularly on solid walled housing stock — and triple glazing.

"In recognition of this, the Passivhaus Trust have set a standard for retrofit termed Enerphit, which is more stringent than the minimum Building Regulations requirements, but not as strict as new build Passivhaus."

This reuse of buildings already in existence is something that architects up and down the country of seeing an increase in.

"Many self builders are now choosing to buy existing houses, buildings, churches, farm buildings and structures and convert them into their ideal home," says architect Darren Bray director of Studio Bad Architects.

"By choosing this philosophy, self builders are delivering a more circular sustainable build and economy, rather than a linear build or economy, which aligns more with a 'take – make – dispose ‘ philosophy, whereas a circular project, falls within the approach of ‘reduce – reuse – recycle.'

"Basically we all need to be using less raw new materials and using more biomaterials that come from sustainable sources. We need to choose to re-imagine and breathe new life into old existing buildings, where the carbon has already been used and locked up. The focus has to be on eco efficiency and so many self builders are choosing to do this. Its about re-imagining buildings and heritage assets that have low impact and low energy usage, but have big architectural impact on contemporary models of reuse and retrofit projects. 

"There are now so many wonderful examples of self builders taking small existing buildings and transforming them into incredible family homes." 

contemporary eco friendly extension

Working with, and improving upon, existing housing stock is a vital approach when it comes to good contemporary design. This Grade II listed 17th century property has been completely renovated and an angular timber frame extension, designed by Mole Architects, added. The house is now almost at Passivhaus standards. (Image credit: David Butler)

5. More renewable building materials will be seen

As homeowners become increasingly aware of the impact their homes can have on the environment, building, extending or renovating with sustainability in mind is something that is being prioritised. 

"Designers will need to change their approaches to reach emerging new targets, which are beyond the current standards set by building control, and clients should be open to adapting their brief to accommodate more sustainable methods of design and construction — such as using timber frame SIPS panels, floating buildings above the ground instead of placing them on concrete bases within the ground etc." says Ian Phillips, director of VESP.

"There are so many self builders out there who are making some very informed and morally significant decisions based on what they want to achiceve, but also what minimal impact that want to leave on the built environment and more widely the planet," observes Darren Bray.

Using renewable materials may be just one step that can be taken in order to achieve a more sustainable home, yet it is hugely important going forwards. 

"Whilst the buildings we construct now are very efficient in terms of their space heating, and can utilise energy production through PV panels, the embodied carbon of a new house may still be high if designed in a certain way, for example with lots of concrete in the ground and lots of glass in the elevations," explains Ian Phillips. 

"In terms of renewables, responsibly sourced timber is chief among sustainable structural materials," says David Nossiter. "Architects have started to propose stone as a low embodied carbon alternative to brick and concrete too."

modern kitchen diner

Spaces that can accommodate a number of generations easily and which will effortlessly adapt to changing needs are key going forward. This project, by Scotframe is a great example of an accessible, yet modern, home.  (Image credit: Scotframe)

6. Fabric first approach for heating as the norm

Although we often talk about taking a 'fabric first' approach, for many people this remains something closely linked with those intent on building a highly energy efficient home, such as a Passivhaus. However, this really is a way of designing and building homes that can – and should – be adopted by anyone who not only wants to ensure they are building a home that doesn't negatively impact on the environment, but also one that can save them money on their energy bills, adapt as their needs change and feel comfortable to live in on a day-to-day basis. 

"Fabric first prioritises heat conservation over heat generation," says Rhys Denbigh, Director at Facit Homes, "with the theory being that no matter how renewable your energy may be, it is always best to use as little of it as possible."

"This is best achieved through insulation, good windows, airtightness and optimised design to passively capture as much of the sun’s heat as possible," explains sustainability architect Charlie Luxton. 

"As a practice we're making commitments to change the way we design in response to the climate emergency," says Ian Phillips. "Our goal is to incorporate the design philosophies of Passivhaus/zero carbon construction whilst still achieving the highest standards in terms of design quality and user experience that can be seen in our work."

"It’s become increasingly important for homeowners to understand how energy efficient their houses can be," agrees Robert Beagley, business development manager at Scotframe. "This is especially apparent when it comes to heating. When considering your next project, understanding how to keep your home warm using the minimum amount of energy is beneficial, with insulation and airtightness being an essential element to this.

"This ‘fabric first’ approach reduces the energy used in the building over the lifetime of a home, whilst also helping to reduce bills thanks to its superior thermal performance. This is particularly important at present as energy bills continue to rise."

contemporary eco friendly home

Designed by Levitate Architects, a fabric first approach was taken to this stunning self build. No heating at all is required for 70 per cent of the year. The immersion heater is powered by photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. (Image credit: Martin Gardner)

7. Clever technology to make life easier

No-one can be unaware of how much technology has advanced in the world in the last couple of years and home design and building have not missed out on these developments. 

"‘Our clients today are keen for their homes to be well-equipped with modern technology," says Simon Baker. "This can be to make life easier (such as controlling lights and blinds from their phone) but also includes technologies that minimise the environmental impact of the occupants, such as air source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels."

Get ready for cookers and ovens that take over the task of getting meals ready for you, for extractor fans that sense when they are needed and at what power level, toilets that double up as showers, glass that senses sunlight levels and a whole host of appliances that can be operated from wherever you might be in the world. 

8. Spaces to feel more connected to gardens

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we have grown accustomed to spending more time in our homes, with more people working from home than ever, but a sense of being directly connected to our outdoor surroundings while inside the house is something that is pretty much vital for most homeowners now.

"Large window ideas and natural light are prevalent in today’s architecture, not only to make the inside feel more spacious but to enhance the connection with the outside too" says Simon Baker.

Along with plenty of glazing – both internal and external – to ensure minimal obstruction between occupants and views, features such as internal courtyards and glass ceilings should be expected. 

contemporary house with large sliding doors

This striking new house, designed by Nash Baker, features a palette of natural and traditional materials to blend with the area, and the exterior uses oak cladding and handmade bricks (both locally sourced). A series of glazed sliding doors connect the house to its outdoor areas at both ground and first floor level.  (Image credit: Nash Baker Architects)

9. Simple designs will be favoured

Simple-shaped buildings with unfussy finishes and details not only look very modern in appearance, but they also tend to be cheaper to construct than heavily detailed and complicated structures. 

"A continuing trend is towards self building with tighter budgets — often achieved with simpler designs," explains Merry Albright of Border Oak. "This is especially relevant for the younger generation trying to get onto the housing market via self build."

Buildings that are square or rectangular in terms of shape will be cheaper than those with more convoluted forms — and stick to simple pitched or flat roofs if you want to slash build costs. 

10. Wellbeing will be a built-in feature

The focus on the overall wellbeing and health of the occupants of a house is an increasing priority — something that is set to continue.

Building a 'healthy home' can be achieved in a number of ways. Using products and finishes that are free from or low in chemicals is a great start, as is ensuring good air quality through the use of effective and modern methods of ventilation. 

"I'm predicting that 2023/2024 will finally be the year that mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) is established as a key element in self build and retrofit projects," says Paul Testa, architect and director at HEM Architects. "It's the most convincing way to maintain excellent air quality without increasing heat demand in the house."

A good connection to outdoors, plenty of natural light and excellent soundproofing between public and private areas of the home are also ways of ensuring a house is a pleasure to spend time in.

contemporary house on garden plot

This self build, on a garden plot, designed by Still House Design, has been built to Passivhaus principles and has no heating. It features MVHR and a huge rear south-facing window for solar gain. (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.