Explore The Warm Side Of Modernism With Celeste Robbins


Wood chair with cream cushions atop a cream rug, set against a wall of windows

Photography: Roger Davies

Modernism can get a bad rap. It’s often construed as cold and unapproachable, but architect Celeste Robbins has taken it upon herself to dispel this perception. Her contemporary residential projects exude a comforting, inviting spirit, as seen in her book, The Meaningful Modern Home: Soulful Architecture and Interiors. Read on for Robbins’ take on local architecture and the warm side of modernism.

Tell us your thoughts on the state of residential architecture in Chicago. Chicagoans are increasingly seeking a sense of serenity for their primary residences that was once associated only with vacation homes, and architects are answering the call. While other states may be pulling homeowners to escape winter, we are designing dwellings that celebrate Lake Michigan, Midwestern summers and leisure in our own backyards.

Many shy away from modern design thinking it’s too cold and sterile. How do you inject projects with warmth? For me, modern principles are warm when done well. Modernism relies on proportion and balance instead of symmetry. This flexibility allows a home to be sculpted in a way that authentically reflects those residing within. For example, some walls may be left simple to allow light and shadow to dance, while others celebrate craft and materiality. I also strive to create a strong connection to the landscape by using large expanses of glass that bring in the beauty of the outdoors. Modernism is not an alienating style for only those who get it. Instead, it welcomes artistry, nature and each person’s vision of home.