McModerns thrive on simplicity and minimalism.

McModerns thrive on simplicity and minimalism. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate

Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate

BOULDER – Throughout America’s suburbs, the oft-ridiculed McMansion has been an architectural mainstay for the past 40 or so years. With their sprawling square footage, mismatched architectural styles and vinyl-meets-foam construction, McMansions are quickly built, easily identified and regularly mocked.

Within the past decade, there’s been a slow-yet-seismic shift in our suburban architectural trends. The McMansions have fallen out of fashion – perhaps, let’s face it, because they’re falling apart – and a new kid on the block has emerged: the McModern.

Before you unfriend me, hear me out. While McMansions and McModerns share a few of the same traits – mass-produced design, streamlined construction, approachable asking price – they’re dissimilar in more respects; perhaps they’re derivative of the same genus, but they’re not the same species.

Concentrated in bi-coastal liberal enclaves, tech hotbeds and millennial-centric cities (think NPR-listening, Warby Parker-wearing, Apple Watch-glancing multi-taskers), the architectural philosophy behind McModerns isn’t “more is better.” Unlike McMansions, which cherry-pick from an indulgent hodgepodge of architectural styles, McModerns borrow their style from a smaller pool: modernist architects of the early 20th century like Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Charles Eames, Philip Johnson and others.

McModerns thrive on simplicity and minimalism, lacking the McMansion’s gaudy ornamentation and slapdash patterns, opting instead for simple, coplanar forms and smooth visual lines rooted in American Modernist style. The results? Ample natural light, an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines and a clean aesthetic.

It’s true, McModerns are not usually designed by individual architects like their luxury, high-brow counterparts – but it begs the question, “does it matter?” And therein lies the key differentiator between McMansions and McModerns: a McMansion is not a replica of a more expensive, more exclusive original; it’s a mishmash of styles and stands alone as its own architectural statement. McModerns, on the other hand, are inspired by a specific, established and celebrated genre of architecture, and offer the modern day family affordable access to an otherwise unaffordable home.

By Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate. Sean McIllwain is the current president of Historic Boulder and the founding broker at Mod Boulder Real Estate. Call 720.252.6051, e-mail [email protected] or visit