Triangle Modernist Debunks Modernist Houses Myths

Founder/director George Smart counters “flat-roof” prejudice. 

The Strickland-Ferris House by Frank Harmon, FAIA

May 12, 2011 (Durham, NC) – George Smart of Durham, NC, has spent the past four years working to document, preserve, and promote Modernist residential design through his award-winning website Triangle Modernist Modernist residential design typically features open plans, extensive use of glass to blur the line between outdoors and indoors, flat or low-pitched roofs, and aesthetic geometric forms.

The son of a Raleigh architect, Smart believes Modernist houses are “sculpture for living.” He is disturbed by the number of Modernist houses being destroyed in the wake of rising land values.

“The key,” said Smart, “is keeping these houses occupied and in the hands of appreciative owners, but there are several myths about Modernist houses that keep buyers away.”

Smart recently noted five primary myths about Modernist houses.

Myth #1: Modernist houses leak. 

Reality: “Mid-century modern architecture often exceeded what materials science could support, creating houses with all sorts of problems, usually involving water and buckets,” Smart said. “By the time those problems were resolved, the word on the street was ‘don’t buy a flat-roofed house.’ Today, materials science is so advanced that you can build anything with confidence. Keep in mind that most of America’s office buildings have flat roofs.  Like the brontosaurus, leaks in new construction are virtually extinct.”

Myth #2: Modernist houses are hard to sell. 

The Smart-Stell House by Tonic Design

Reality: “This is true for any house larger than 3000 square feet or $600,000 in the current economy,” Smart said. “However, if a Modernist house is small, well-designed, kept in good condition, and features up-to-date kitchen and bathrooms, it should resell comparably to traditional homes.  We do our best to publicize these houses to readers looking for Modernist houses.”

Myth #3: Modernist houses lower surrounding property values.

Reality: “Translated: This means your neighbors don’t share your design tastes,” Smart said. “Unless the house is falling down or you plan to paint it purple, your Modernist house will, if anything, raise property values.”

Myth #4: Modernist houses are cold and sterile. 

The Crowder House by Thomas Crowder, AIA

Reality: “Modernist houses, like ice cream, come in many different flavors,” Smart said. “Some Modernist houses can feel intimidating, almost clinical. Others are warm and inviting. The use of color and texture and different building materials, especially woods, tend to warm up even the coolest geometries.”

Myth #5: Modernist houses are expensive, and getting an architect just pumps up the cost even more. 

Reality: “Any contractor can build a nice house, but getting an architect often means getting a house you’ll dearly love,” Smart said. “Architects are trained to efficiently use 3D volumes, not just 2D square footage, in ways that can make a 2400-square-foot house live like a 3000-square-foot house. That can result in significant cost-savings, or more money for furnishings. And through green, sustainable design features, architects can reduce your gas, electric, and water costs.”

Triangle Modernist features the largest archive of Modernist houses in America, including profiles of their architects. It also offers an exclusive, free listing of Modernist houses for sale or rent throughout North Carolina. For more information, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism.  TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “livable works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at TMH also has an active community on Facebook.

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