gold line svg


Modern Design Trends, inspired by Dwell on Design



Designed By: Office of Mobile Design by Jennifer Siegal

Last weekend the EHD crew attended the Dwell on Design market. (Sara is taking the photo so she’s not in it). We cruised around, scoped out some new product and then over the weekend Sara and I went to the Home Tour to see what is happening in that world. I think it’s safe to say that often architects and designers live in two different spheres and approach design differently so it was really interesting to learn more about the architecture world and hear about their process and intent. While I do love to ‘decorate’ (something that architects don’t) I was inspired by a few things from the tour and it got me thinking – If I were to build a modern house, what would I include?


So taking inspiration from the weekend, I found 4 things that I would incorporate into a modern house, if I were to ever have one.

1. Open up as many rooms as possible to the outside. Sure, we live in Southern California where if you were doing a new build you’d be crazy to NOT do this but its importance was hammered home this weekend. We weren’t allowed to take photos in too many of the houses so many of these photos are sourced online – but we credited each below the photo for your reference.


Most of the houses we toured weren’t that big and yet they felt big because every room opened up to the exterior. You could barely tell where one space stopped and started.


Of course this whole ‘indoor/outdoor flow’ thing isn’t new, but I guess I hadn’t spent that much time in these modern houses before so the impact of that particular element was huge. Even if I wasn’t into the particular style of the house, it just felt so big, open and airy.


If you are remodeling and interested in doing this, we saw that a lot of the homes were using Nana doors which are folding doors that can be retrofitted into a remodel or obviously a new build, and can instantly change the flow of a room.

2. Include Pine, Cedar, Douglas fir both inside and out. Softwoods are happening folks. Now I’ve used Pine on our castle, Douglas fir on our beams and refinished on our old Redwood deck, but I have a cabin project coming up where I want to do something similar to the below picture on the entire insides of the structure.


That’s right. I want to clad it in eastern pine. Sealed, but not stained. How beautiful is that? It can go casual lake house, but it can also go modern cabin in a warmer way than white oak or maple.

I sure wish this was one of the houses we toured because that is amazing.


This bathroom is also 100% Douglas fir. Inexpensive, super durable and so pretty.


This kitchen is also out of Douglas fir and is so so beautiful and warm, yet modern. This particular partnership with Wood, Naturally is so satisfying because I’m able to show you how you can use less exotic wood in a really beautiful way (as well as the usual decks and castles ;)) is so fun.

As my regular readers might remember, Wood, Naturally is a campaign that encourages the use of softwoods in and around the home. Their website and pinterest has a lot of great resources – spanning from aspirational projects to simple how-to plans. So if you’re loving the softwood trend as much as I am, check them out.


Geez. That view. With the Douglas fir Beams, ceiling, and doors.

One of the houses on the home tour (below) had this beautiful original ceiling (the only thing that was original in the whole house, actually). It is Douglas fir that has been walnut blasted (sandblasted with walnut shells) which made it look original, unstained, unfinished and gave it more of a rustic look.


The architects (Hsu McCullough Architects) were generous with information about the ‘walnut blastin’ and I immediately googled it and found very little, but this upcoming cabin project has 100% Douglas fir on the huge ceilings with like 10 coats of brown stain. We refinished our Douglas fir beams in our current house but it was laborious which was expensive, and yet I don’t want to paint them so I think this could be a great solution. If any of you have experience with either sandblasting or WALNUT blasting (what?) please let me know.


Many of the houses in the tour used cedar in a few different ways, both interior and exterior:


In this home by Minarc, the garage and doors are cedar and the black siding is painted Douglas fir.


I know there are a lot of composite options out there, and while they claim lower maintenance I don’t like the look or feel of them at all. Faux wood isn’t my thing and I prefer the real stuff. I also recently was on a deck that was made entirely out of a composite material and had to quickly step off as it was too hot to actually step on or touch.

This cedar just sells that deck. We did meet a company, Thermory, at Dwell that utilized heat and steam in a thermal process. As a result, the wood requires less maintenance but is still 100% the real deal. I don’t think it’s cheap but it’s a great innovative new treatment. The above and below pic were from a house designed by, Jennifer Siegal from Office of Mobile Design, and in case you were wondering where those pillows and that rug were from (like I was on the tour) she got them from Merchant Modern and Studio Mandana.


3. Incorporate black to bring in some modern drama and contrast – in windows, railings, roofs, stairs, hardware and exterior siding. No surprise here as we’ve been seeing this for a while, but when the windows are huge and the frames aren’t chunky, even I want that drama. Now, I wouldn’t do black everything, but I’m into this trend for sure.


(Note, even more indoor/outdoor living).

It has to be combined with warmth for me. There are so many modern houses that feel too cold for this Oregon girl’s demeanor.


Sure, it doesn’t look like a house you’d think I’d build but I want to be there. That gray brick is super pretty.


When put with the right wood flooring and other warm/organic elements I’m into it. Maybe for me I’d be more on the ‘white house black roof’ side of things – like below.


Almost all of the windows of the houses we saw on the tour were black and while I would think that they would be busy, they were just lovely and dramatic. Does it make me wish I had painted ours black? (Remember this post?) Nope. Not in this house.

This was one of the houses we toured by Hsu McCullough Architects and their black windows even had more panes than the traditional style of window you would find in modern design but I loved it.


4. Concealed and built-in storage – so many builtins, so much less furniture, and very rarely is there any hardware.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Who doesn’t love a secret closet (with lots of secret storage)?


When it comes to storage yeah, conceal that stuff. And while I do love ‘free standing furniture’ more than architects do, a built-in like this below is pretty striking.


From the tour we saw this built-in desk and storage, which had a lot of ingenious function.


And this built-in floating vanity that was stunning from the house that was designed by Office of Mobile Design by Jennifer Siegal.


See? No hardware to be found.


One of the things that I loved learning about architecture (which you might already know) is that a large part of an architect’s job is to study the sun and wind before planning the design of the home to make sure that every room as a lot of natural light, but without harsh light. For instance you don’t want the sun to be beaming harshly in the dining room at 6pm, during dinner and when you have all the doors open you want the air to flow enough but make sure that the the house doesn’t become a wind tunnel. All of these houses had such amazing light and flow.


I can’t ever imagine doing a new build for myself (I don’t have the 3 year patience it takes) but regardless I was inspired by the ideas in the houses and the subsequent googling we did to find stunning versions of them.

Thanks to Wood, Naturally for sponsoring us at Dwell on Design and the Home Tours, and to Dwell for hosting us at the trade show and the architectural tour. We had such a great time, and loved getting a peek into some of these modern homes.

Besides these things, what modern elements would you put in your new modern fantasy house?

Fin Mark


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Comments are closed.
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I’m always captivated by those photos of expansive openings to the outside, but then I wonder: do y’all not have bugs in California? I live in Georgia, where aside from the fact that the oppressive heat and humidity would make it impractical to open up like that, we have roaches the size of field mice and countless other pests. Can you explain?


I live in Texas and feel the same way! Flying cockroaches are the worst………………..

YES! I’m in NJ and wondering that too. I just asked the same question. I also have squirrels and possums that visit my yard. I wouldn’t want them cuddling up next to me while I netflix binge.

See also: flys, ants, slugs, CENTIPEDES, gnats, spiders, mice, etc…


I live on SoCal and that is exactly why we did not incorporate that feature in our remodel. There are very few bugs but I still don’t want them in the house everyday. Besides bugs there are critters like squirrels, rabbits and even coyotes to consider. Eight foot French doors with screened transoms gave us the light and air we wanted for much less cost and critters.


The NanaWalls have optional retractable screen options. Just looked on their website. They are beautiful but very expensive. Love the idea though.


Seriously. I don’t think there are many mosquitos in southern California, but there are definitely various creepy crawlies, so I do wonder if people actually keep their houses open like that most of the time. It might be a situation where the design magazine version of reality differs from real life. I live in a city (Philadelphia), so in addition to bugs, stray cats, and mice, there are various humans who might find their way in. It does look nice in photos though!

Emma B.

I live in Australia (massive bugs all year, all round) and we have open plan like this. Its wonderful. There are some very good screen doors around at the moment that look almost see through that we sometimes close at the most bug-y times. The rest of the times we just suck it up. It’s not for everyone. I def wouldn’t ‘faint’ like the commenter below if I saw a centipede and neither would my kids. They’s scoop it up with a dustpan and brush and put it outside. I think it depends if you actually love the outdoors or… Read more »

I live in Canada, and would LOVE something like that. We have lot of bugs also, and I wouldn’t mind taking them out. The only thing stopping me from having an open plan like this would be the mosquitoes… These are the worst, and if you trap them inside and go to sleep, happy waking up the next morning covered in itchy bumps !


I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We do not have big bugs here. Flies are really the only nuisance. And the fog 🙂


Very few mosquitos in Southern California. I grew up there and when I moved to the east coast, I was horrified by the number of bugs out there in the world.


I live in SoCal. We have French doors that open onto our patio/pool. After a party, we spend the next couple days killing all the flies in the house. The other issue is that the air conditioning doesn’t work with the doors open. All this with just French doors, not a whole wall gone!


We really really don’t. Not having any water has some positive side effects (no stagnant pools for mosquitoes to breed). I remember as a kid having family from the East Coast visit and they would marvel that we would just sit in the grass, even at dusk. Their shock totally confused me. Then I moved east and got it.


I have always wondered this! I live in MN and with our winters, when it’s nice out, I desperately want to be outside. But Land of 10,000 Lakes means (probably) 10 million mosquitoes, so in my dream house, all of these outdoor dining/lounging spaces would be screened. And sufficiently insulated so I can close the house off from them in the winter and not lose all my heat.

I live in Monterey, California, and we have very few insects beyond a few houseflies. Our French doors are both open to the backyard all day without any issues. But I grew up in Minnesota so I’ve paid my dues as far as flying insects are concerned! 😉


My thoughts exactly! Those indoor/outdoor spaces are so beautiful, but they just make me itch! Where I live, they would all have to be screened in or else you would be eaten alive by mosquitoes, blackflies, horseflies, deerflies, and annoyed by moths and junebugs. And once all of those are gone, the wasps start! Not to mention the creepy crawlies! We have enough trouble with ants already, why would I open the door and invite them in?

I live in LA and we never close the doors. We occasionally get a cricket in the house making an annoying noise but that’s the worst problem and not definitely not worth closing the doors to the pool and yard.

I love love love modern design, especially when the homes are in warm, temperate climates to maximize outdoor living. There is one house in your book that has this concept that I still think about. I just wish I lived in a place that allowed for me to have that kind of home. We own a 1903 cottage that we are slowly renovating and I’m constantly dreaming of ways to make certain design elements modern without forsaking the history of the house. Maybe that’s how I’ll get my modern design fix! The indoor outdoor living would be my primary objective… Read more »

What’s the move to keep bugs out of your house when it opens up to that exterior like that? I leave the door open to yard for a few minutes and critters race in. I found a centipede coming in by the door and nearly fainted from fear.


You gave me a good laugh this morning. I live in Ohio and can only dream of indoor/outdoor living. I love this style and the California casual style she recently blogged about. I’m trying to find a way to incorporate them in Ohio.


I live in Nashville and feel the exact same way. I’m slowly updating my craftsman with some of the California Casual elements. So far, the porch railing has been updated to be less busy with horizontal rails versus the traditional vertical. Landscaping is less busy and was able to incorporate a palm tree (Windmill Palms are hardy down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit). As for the inside, the use of color and openness with neutral textures. I think we are a bit doomed from having walls that open up to the outdoors, but we can do a lot with lighting color… Read more »


I love Dwell magazine! Most of the houses are soooo expensive but I love the modern simplicity of them.


If I ever end up back in California, I’d love a place that opens up to the outdoors, but it’s totally impractical in New England. Just a quick copy editing note: please do not capitalize wood species, even douglas fir is lower case (you wouldn’t capitalize other plant names like Carrot or Sunflower).


Hi Sue,
Emily is correct in capitalizing Douglas fir. This species’ common name is after one of the first botanists to describe it, David Douglas.



Loved this post Emily! My boyfriend has an architecture background (although now works in tech) and whenever he talks about his dream homes for us I panic with fear at the idea of living in a big concrete box with no warmth or character haha. (My lifelong dream home has always been a Victorian with a wrap-around porch, full of art and color…) I appreciate you mentioning some ways to make a modern home feel warmer, as it makes me less nervous about our housing search in the future. I’d love to see more posts like this in the future.


I love today’s comments, so thank you all for making my day. I too appreciate the concept of the indoor/outdoor lifestyle, the zen beauty of what Emily and company share here. As all of you have pointed out, it can be impractical for locations not blessed with temperate weather. It is certainly not ideal where there is a plethora of bugs and critters. Plus, when I read about things I need/should do–like open this and use that–I cringe, because the first thing I see is dollar signs and lots of them. That said, I see great inspiration here. I’ll have… Read more »


THANK YOU for doing a more modern post that was filled with different designs and colors from what we normally see on here. This was SO refreshing and needed. More of this please!


This was an incredible post! Would love to see more of these in the future.

ponsoring us at Dwell on Design and the Home Tours, and to Dwell for hosting us at the trade show and the architectural tour. We had such a great time, and loved getting a peek into some of these modern homes.

Besides these things, what modern elements w

Emma B.

Love this content Emily! It’s strange, I *never* thought I would be into modern design until the last few years or so. To me it feels like the more I learn about design (just a hobby for me) the more I learn to love and appreciate modern design. I started out loving vintage-y shabby chic, then mid century and now I live in a home that looks like a (cheaper) version of the ones you’ve posted above.

I’m always captivated by those photos of expansive openings to the outside, but then I wonder: do y’all not have bugs in California? I live in Georgia, where aside from the fact that the oppressive heat and humidity would make it impractical to open up like that, we have roaches the size of field mice and countless other pests. Can you explain?


Lizards and mice, occasionally bees are the most prevalent. I think the way to enjoy these houses is having the OPTION to open up the place on a nice day, for a few hours, or when you’re having a party, then just do a sweep after to see who is looking for a free ride. Set a couple of mousetraps or get a cat (extremely helpful, pays his rent 3x over with his expert hunting skills). The other issue is dust. This dry climate leaves a fine layer of grit. Another great reason to have less furniture!


I always enjoy your posts and I’m a huge fan. Still not pleased Secrets of a Stylist is gone. While I do love seeing how the other half decorate their homes, Emily can you please show us mere mortals that own an ugly brown bulky couch how to decorate around it. I’m sure I’m not the only one with the dilemma. Thank you in advance and keep up the good work.????


Get rid of the couch, it’s why they invented Craigslist! Free yourself!

I echo others, loved this post! I wanted to pin every single photo to my dream house board! Also, everyone’s bug concerns cracked me up. Not for every climate for sure, but a dream for me!


Oh my goodness, yes to more modern content on EHD! Rundowns on trends like this are one of my favorite features you do.

Thank you for featuring some photos of our Ridgemont Residence project featured on last weekend’s Dwell on Design home tours in Los Angeles. As for the finishing of the existing wood ceiling in this home’s Living Room: We removed many layers of existing paint by blasting the ceiling with crushed Walnut Shells. The crushed shells have an angular shape – a multi-faceted surface – and outstanding toughness under pressure while also being both biodegradable and non-corrosive. It’s sometimes used when a more softer, gentler substitute for the more common media such as sand. Search for “sandblasting with walnut shells” on… Read more »


Emily, we had the ceilings and beams sandblasted in our 1978 Colorado duplex. Upstairs, the beams had been painted brown and the ceilings were varnished. It made a world of difference.
Downstairs there was one room which had white painted ceilings and beams. The white paint was so gloppy, the structural engineer said we couldn’t sand blast the beams….so we did just did ceiling.
We have hickory floors, white walls and painted
kitchen cabinets…be wary of too much wood.


I am looking for Birdie’s pink wallpaper and I can’t find the post. Please help! Thanks. Great post1


I was asking about Birdie’s incredible new pink wallpaper but forgot to check notify me with replies. I actually want it another color but don’t know where it is from and can’t find the glorious post!


I work in a heavy timber building that has a tongue and groove sub floor and wall sheathing that had been painted and covered in drywall at various stages. 13 years ago, during my first week of work, the center stairwell and corridors were sandblasted to expose the wood. None of the tenant spaces were worked on. 13 years later little pieces of grit still fall from the ceiling onto our desks all the time. They infiltrated between the wood and anywhere that pipes and conduit penetrate walls and floors and they shake loose with the vibration of people walking… Read more »


Hi Emily! Any chance you could do a fun post about rugs!? I’d love to read a round up of rugs that could fit into these open and airy spaces, or possibly similar to the casual cali vibe. I loved the rug in the pics above that has a light blue tone and fringe. Still on the search for one for our living room area.

This site shares many interesting things 🙂


I just love looking at houses, whether they are designed in my favorite style, or not. After all, I only have one house. How many ideas can I realistically incorporate into my decor? This post was lots of fun, even if most of the houses were not practical for my climate. The rooms that opened to the outdoors looked particularly lovely. Thank you. Since many posters have been discussing practical considerations, I have one more – all the black and dark colors on the outsides of the buildings. Those colors might be perfect for colder climates, but not for my… Read more »


From what I understand, Walnut blasting is just another kind of media blasting. Other media include the usual sand but also glass bead, steel grit and even ground corncob! I suppose walnut shells are a more rapidly renewable resource and therefore arguably more sustainable than common sand. I do not have any experience with walnut blasting wood, but I hope you’ll post progress pics if you do it!

I love true indoor/outdoor living, including outside showers! We’re building a “tropical modern” house in Bali, where there is definitely lots of focus on bringing the outside inside. Check out our inspiration board:


Love this post! Having recently completed and moved into our version of one of these houses (after four long loooong years), I’d like to pass on a couple of hard won lessons. First is to make sure there is ENOUGH of that lovely inbuilt storage. I think we have enough now but worry what it’ll be like once our three kids get bigger and have and more more stuff… Second is to please please make sure the solar gain from those huge floor to ceiling Windows has been properly thought about. Emily had a similar problem in her last house… Read more »

Expectations are high regarding the new features which are going to come in with the launch of FIFA 18.
And particularly after an exhilarating release of trailer a few days back, fans have gone really crazy.
A high-quality game is definitely on the cards. Want to know more about it? Check out this website


Irrespective of the bug concern, I’m wondering if you need to get UV safe furniture? I live in CA and love lots of natural light, but have my couch in a bay window — it’s pretty bleached — not sure if I should have looked for one with special fabric. Love this post!


If you look back in the archives Emily did a post about that problem in her old house. I believe she had her windows tinted with a special tint that doesn’t block your view or natural light but protects your furniture. I can’t remeber all the specifics but I do remember she has posted about your exact issue.

Beautiful! A great source of inspiration! Amazing photos and wonderful design!


I have a sandblasted pine with Douglas fir beams ceiling similar to the pictures above. The sandblasting brings out the texture of the word and it is beautiful…one thing to keep in mind however, is that spider webs/ceiling dust bunnies can get hung up on the roughness of the beams. Just need to keep a long cleaning pole handy!

I think Douglas Fir is my new favorite wood! Thanks so much — again — for sharing all the great images and content.


I went to the Dwell show (and home tours) – my first time attending, driving down from San Francisco. I have to say, the show itself was beyond underwhelming…quite possibly the most lackluster trade show I have been to in my entire life, and I’ve been to a lot of trade shows, especially home related. I could go on, but should stop myself! The home tours, however, were fun. Will I go out of my way for it again? Probably not. One could probably take similar tours just by looking for nice open houses, but it was fun to see… Read more »


beautiful modern home design, one of the best sites around!

thanks for sharing information and insights I gain
penyebab rematik di usia muda yang harus diwaspadai

Go To Top