The Elements of (Modernist) Style: The Flat Roof’s Lasting Impact On Contemporary Design

Bet you didn’t know that when German-American architect Mies Van Der Rohe famously said “Less is more,” he was talking about the roof of your house. Van Der Rohe was a pioneering voice in Modernist design and architecture, which we know and love today thanks to the resurgence of Midcentury Modern design encapsulated in TV shows like “Mad Men” and championed by mainstream retailers like West Elm.

The style as Van Der Rohe helped define it emphasized minimalism and functionality in every aspect of a building’s design—from the layout to the eventual furniture inside. The flat roof was a hallmark of the style, creating a pleasing parallelism with the horizontal lines of the windows, doors, and groundline beneath it.

Today, the flat roof isn’t just about aesthetics. When it comes to building your own home, opting for a flat roof is one of the most economical choices you can make. “The roof is a large factor when it comes to how much building your home will cost,” says Jennifer Smith Couti, who, with her husband, Pascal, owns Atlantic Custom Homes, Hudson Valley and Connecticut’s independent dealers of Lindal Cedar Homes.

“A flat roof is both beautiful and practical,” says Jennifer. “The more surface area your roof has, the more you’ll need to spend on building materials. A flat roof for your home is an easy way to reduce costs and stay within your desired budget.”

According to Pascal, when it comes to the weather, a flat roof can perform just as well as a pitched roof. And if the Smith Coutis’ clients raise any concerns about precipitation, they simply tell them to step back outside the office to see for themselves. “Like many commercial buildings designed for efficiency and durability, our office has a flat roof,” Pascal says. “With Lindal’s contemporary building technologies and efficient drainage, a flat roof on your home can easily support a heavy snow load like we see here in the Northeast.”

Whether supporting their clients’ budget requirements or designing based on individual style preferences, Atlantic Custom Homes offers many designs that feature a flat roof, including those in Lindal’s new Imagine Series. The series is inspired by the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, another visionary of the Modernist movement renowned for boundary-pushing works like Falling Water in Pennsylvania. With these new designs, Lindal is helping to bring the enduring principles of Wright’s Usonian homes to the forefront of design theory, technology, and construction.

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