Modernist Homes for Sale in the Raleigh / Durham Area

If you’re looking for modern homes for sale in the Triangle, you’re already a fan of the clean lines, flat roofs, and the many windows emphasizing natural light. The integration of the outside world with the interior of the house, the palettes that are mostly white or neutral - all the hallmarks of the modernist home. 

What you might be surprised to know, however, is that the Triangle has the third-largest concentrations of Modernist homes in the country, after Los Angeles and Chicago. And there’s a reason for that! 

Many mid century modernist houses were built in the area due to the vision of North Carolina State University School of Design founding dean Henry L. Kamphoefner. A modernist architect himself, he recruited internationally recognized architects to bring their design sensibilities - and house plans - to Raleigh. 

One well-known commercial example is the J.S. Dorton Arena, designed by faculty member Matthew Nowicki. The arena is well known for its arch-supported roof which requires no steel supports and unobstructed views from each seat. 

Kamphoefner also encouraged his faculty members to design and build houses for their families and friends, which led to many homes built across the area during the 1940s and 1950s. 

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The Rank residence: A “Modern Gothic” house designed by Tonic Design, a Raleigh company (source:


Modern home architecture first began in the early twentieth century and gained popularity after World War II. Frank Lloyd Wright designed one of the first modern-style houses, the Fallingwater house, pictured below. Wright’s work, also known as prairie-style architecture, is probably the most recognizable American name for this style, although he was one of several significant architects working during this period, including Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. 

Modernist architecture covers a specific period, from the 1920s to the 1950s. A revolt against the ornate decoration of the Victorian era, modernist architectural style requires form to follow function. It brought a minimalist sensibility to both residential and commercial architecture that emphasized simplicity, the use of natural materials like metal, concrete, and stone, and the use of windows to connect the inside of the home with the outdoors. 

For Wright, in particular, modernist residential design was intended to look natural in the landscape as if the home had always been there. In addition to Wright’s “Fallingwater,” his Wisconsin home, Taliesin, Welsh for “shining brow” was built on Wright’s favorite boyhood hill. Taliesin was built - and rebuilt - after fire twice destroyed the original structure. 

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Wright’s Fallingwater House (source:

Characteristics and features

The choice of materials used reflects the functional design of Modernist homes - stone, glass, reinforced concrete, and steel. Primarily, modernist homes are meant to simplify the living space with open floor plans, hardwood floors, and large glass installations. 

Sometimes home buyers are surprised at how warm modernist homes “feel” on the inside. But the use of the chosen materials was never meant to reflect austerity, but was instead a result of the revolutionary technological advances in building materials which enabled structures to be built stronger and taller - yet lighter. 

The open floor plans were meant to serve the families who lived there and emphasized spaces that were going to be used most often. This was in sharp contrast to the past era’s more “formal” and closed-off rooms that were hardly ever used. 

Modernist is not contemporary

Modernist architecture is not the same as Contemporary architecture, which features more wood and vaulted ceilings. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, and while it’s certainly odd to associate “modern” with house design that’s nearly a century old, Contemporary refers to 21st-century architecture. 

It reflects the ever-changing trends and while the style often borrows from multiple different past eras, Contemporary is a forward-thinking style that also incorporates the latest in technology and design aesthetics. 

And what about mid century modern, which is certainly a popular home decor style right now? There was a mid century modern architectural style that featured a more futuristic outlook than the earlier designs. But the reality is that most of these homes followed the Modernist approach to a great degree. Our use of the term mid century modern today most often refers to interior design. 

Neighborhoods containing modernist homes

Some popular neighborhoods including modern homes can be found around Eastwood Lake in Chapel Hill, such as Coker Hills and Lake Forest. Other modernist hot spots in Chapel Hill include Farrington Hills and Laurel Hill.

In Durham, the main hotspot is in Duke Forest, although you can find modernist homes scattered throughout downtown and in neighborhoods like Trinity Park and Forest Hills.

Raleigh features several neighborhoods that have modernist homes as well, including Country Club Hills, Hayes Barton, Lake Anne, and North Hills.

More information 

If you’re interested in designing a Modernist home you can contact us for our architect recommendations! I have designed several modernist homes and have sold some of them as well. I usually have one or two modernist homes under construction every year to be sold in the Raleigh/Durham area and would be happy to tell you about them.

To learn more about Triangle modernist homes as well as others in North Carolina there is also North Carolina Modernist Houses, a nonprofit dedicated to documenting, preserving, and promoting Modernist houses. Unfortunately, many modernist houses have fallen into disrepair over the years, and many are torn down as the land they occupy becomes more valuable than the structures themselves. 

Below is a complete list of Modernist homes for sale in the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill areas. Please feel free to Contact Us if you have any real estate questions or are interested in seeing any of these homes.

Modernist Homes for Sale in the Triangle

Listings provided courtesy of Triangle MLS, Inc. of NC, Internet Data Exchange Database. Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. © 2024 Triangle MLS, Inc. of North Carolina. Data last updated .