News Banner

Nailing the lingo of modern design is easy as. Learn how.

Nailing the lingo of modern design is easy as. Learn how.

Chippies, home builders and renovators who read our site or Easy Times know all too well that today’s customers do a stack of research before they even chat to you. Then, they expect you to be an expert on everything and up with the latest design lingo.  

So, what exactly is ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’ design?  

Welcome to our first style ‘cheat sheet’ for the ‘modern’ look. This is the first in a five - part series. So make sure you’re subscribed to the Easy Times monthly newsletter or following us on social media to find out all the info so you’ll be able to recommend some of the country’s trending looks without breaking a sweat (and book that job).  

The Modern look. It’s all about:  

  • simplicity  
  • clean lines  
  • confident shapes  
  • minimal ornamentation  
  • simple colour palettes, and  
  • a focus on form and function.  


With the help of James Hardie’s ambassador and architect, Joe Snell, we’re going to step you through 5 of the most popular modern and contemporary home looks in Australia today.  

The 5 modern looks made easy  

  • Mid-century modern
  • Modern coastal  
  • Boxed modern 
  • Mixed cladding look  
  • Scandi barn  



A design movement that was popular from the mid 1940s to the late 1960s and is undergoing a resurgence.  

A box-like form set in nature with pops of colour

A single storey home with axon™ cladding 400mm

Large protective overhangs prompt outdoor living areas



  • Buildings with simple silhouettes that integrate with their surroundings and feel connected to nature with large expanses of glass.   
  • Homes that showcase structural elements to reveal how the building was constructed. Go for exposed elements like steel beams and beautifully crafted cladding boards.  
  • For horizontal detail and breadth, Stria Cladding premium fibre cement boards are often used. 


Clients who love modern coastal don’t necessarily live on the coast. There are plenty of great modern coastal homes being built in big cities and country towns, especially Newcastle.  

Curved roof lines reflect coastal shapes

Skillion or shed roofs in combination

Deep shadow linea™ weatherboards for a relaxed vibe


For modern coastal, think:   

  • Clean lines for a seamless look. Consider selecting long weatherboards that can be buttressed.  
  • Skillion roofs with a single slope or curve-shaped roofing that mimics waves and dunes. These simple forms can become a strong design feature. 
  • James Hardie Linea Weatherboards cast shadow lines similar to timber boards. Plus they stand up to the Aussie elements.
  • James Hardie HardieDeck is quite commonly featured in modern coastal homes. Better yet, you can check out our whole decking range we have available at NHS, because a modern coastal home is bound to have a great looking deck



Today’s clients expect their designer homes to stand out from the streetscape. Forget the old repetitive facades and row after row of identical brickwork.  

A mix of brick, stone, timber and matrix™ cladding

Mix vertically oriented stria™ cladding with horizontal

Black axon™ cladding dramatically contrasts the red brickwork


The mixed materials look is about:   

  • More facade variety, thanks to clever approaches to materials and textures with mixed cladding materials. By selecting this look, you’ll also tick the boxes of many design covenants that specify facades with 3 or more materials.  

    Useful tip: Joe Snell recommends mixing brick with stone and timber or matrix cladding and vertically oriented cladding. He suggests starting with heavier materials like masonry and brick at the base and graduating to lighter profiles as you go up.   
  • Using texture and colour to accentuate the home’s form by highlighting (or hiding) specific build features.   


Products often used in Mixed Materials:

  • The larger, bevelled edge of Stria  Splayed boards create more dramatic lines. 
  • Axon cladding  can imitate vertical joint timber.  
  • Lightweight premium fibre cement products, in a range of profiles are ideal for 2nd floor additions and cantilevered extrusions. 



The box was foundational in the development of architecture for the modern age. It's driven by the ethos "form follows function" where ornamentation is absent and design is stripped back to it's bare bones keeping a pure form, such as homes designed as stacked boxes. 

Cantilevered boxes in matrix™ and axon™ cladding

Linea™ weatherboards give box modern homes a coastal feel

The big v house by darklight design with stria™ cladding



  • Flat roof lines: Roofs need a fall to direct rain to gutters. Gently sloping roofs and guttering are hidden behind parapet walls with contrasting capping to highlight the shape against the sky. 
  • Stacked boxes: Boxes, or cubic volumes, become interesting when arranged so that they're of different size or offset from each other. Allow some to project and some to sit back. 
  • Elevated forms: Allow boxes to float on stilts on sloping sites or put a big second storey box over a smaller ground box. 


Products often used:



The Scandinavian Barn look, also known as the Modern Farmhouse look, is inspired by Nordic simplicity.   

An innercity brisbane home using linea™ weatherboards

A rural home featuring axon™ cladding by darklight design in WA

A duplex combining the timber looks of linea™ and axon™


Modern Scandi Barn is all about:   

Paring back the original version of this look with its steeply pitched roofs, originally built to stop snow build up during cold winters. The modern Scandi Barn look often has a steep open gabled roof, no eaves, hidden guttering and a projecting fascia.  

  • Timber, and lots of it! Consider vertical joint timber cladding. Weatherboards made from smooth, uniform fibre cement can also work well to achieve clean lines.  
  • Although light, bright colours are associated with Scandi Barn, they have the potential for darker colours, too. Make use of simple forms highlighted by colour contrasts.  
  • This look that combines tradition with modernity is also well suited to Linea Weatherboards.



So you can accurately communicate about ‘modern designer looks’ with your clients here are some handy downloads.  


From Dr Google.  

Fancy digging even deeper into the history of modern home design? Why not Google visionaries such as Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto and their words, or read about institutions like the Bauhaus.    

Pinterest also has a whole lot of images of houses that fit into the different schools of Modern design and looks. Great for when you need a hand to get on the same page with the client.   


Call out to chippies, home builders and renovators.   

Share the look. Grow your Brand.  

So now you know a bit more about the modern looks, we’d love to share your ‘modern’ look jobs with our readers and followers on social media. This can be any existing jobs you think fit the bill, or any new and upcoming ones.

Tag NHS and James Hardie in your modern projects for the opportunity to be featured: 



NHS: @nhs.aust 

James Hardie: @jameshardieau 


James Hardie: @jameshardieau 

NHS hashtags
#nhstradie #newcastlebuilder

James Hardie recommended hashtags
#axoncladding #striacladding  #hardiegroovelining #weatherboard #panelcladding #rendercladding #vgroovepanel #cladding #fibrecement #newbuild #renovation #modernaddition #dreamhome #building #aussiearchitecture #scandibarn #moderncoastal #modernfarmhouse #midcenturymodern #boxmodern #mixedmaterialshome


>>> Read our next instalment of the Modern Series - Modern Coastal home design