Modern interior design often gets a bad rap: “It’s too impersonal.” “It’s boring.” “It’s not practical for real life.” These five homes (three of which belong to families with kids) show that modern design can be warm, inviting, livable, and above all, highly personal.
An Eero Saarinen Tulip table. Gio Ponti chairs. Freestanding stairs, walls finished to resemble concrete, an all-black kitchen. The Manhattan apartment of jewelry designer Kim Dunham pretty much exemplifies what most of us consider modern design. The inclusion of organic materials such as leather seating and hardwood floors, along with well-placed greenery and huge windows that look out onto a lush private terrace, adds a welcoming warmth to what could have been an intimidating space.
Gleaming chrome and glossy acrylic are considered go-to materials of modern decor, but you won’t find much of either in the California home of photographer Laura Resen and her family. Wood, wicker, and woven textiles make up most of the furnishings here (and in fact, Danish Modern designers such as Finn Juhl and Kaare Klint made ample use of wood). The streamlined silhouettes put the spotlight on the artisanal and natural touches that make each piece unique. The subtle hues and restrained embellishments also allow the collections of books, art, and Tibetan vessels to add a quiet energy without disturbing the overall sense of serenity.
When designing a home for a family of four, Tharon Anderson incorporated low-slung midcentury-style seating, clean-lined tables, and abstract art. But she also included soft rugs that the kids (and adults) could walk on barefoot, sofa upholstery as durable as it is plush, and easy-to-wipe-down leather dining chairs. Dashes of color such as the blue kitchen backsplash enliven the otherwise neutral palette.
Designer David Netto and his family live in a 1959 glass house by Richard Neutra, a doyen of modernist architecture. It’s only fitting, then, that many of the furnishings are exemplars of Mid-Century Modern design including Corbusier’s square leather chair with a tubular steel frame and stools with woven seats by Jens Risom. But this is a family home, not a museum, so you will also find fluffy sheepskin throws for maximum comfort, a geometric African stool found while traveling in Kenya, and even a Louis XV desk in the bedroom. (And when you think about it, that Louis XV desk was probably considered modern in the 18th century.)
What’s black, white, gray, and stylish all over? The home of One Kings Lane’s own Suki LaBarre and her husband. Other than the brilliant red background of a Warhol portrait of Suki’s mother, the apartment is a study in neutral tones and simple silhouettes. But as well as being monochromatic, the home is a playground of textures, from the gray velvet sofa to the quilted leather dining chairs to a hide-and-acrylic bench. Not-so-modern pieces—a bone-inlay chair, an ornate iron fireplace screen—add a personal touch.