Contemporary Kitchen Design

Today more than ever great contemporary home kitchens seamlessly integrate form and function. Clean, linear themes, geometric shapes, man-made materials such as molded plywood, stainless steel and glass characterize the look of a modern kitchen. Here are some ideas to help get you started when planning your new or remodeled contemporary kitchen!

Basics of a Contemporary Kitchen

Start with a minimalist approach, deciding on the basic theme and design elements you will use to create your own unique contemporary kitchen design. Choose the elements you want to incorporate, deciding on geometric patterns that will be repeated, straight lines or curves that carry throughout the space, and the materials you will use for cabinetry, appliances, flooring, etc.

Often an asymmetrical balance will be used in the modern kitchen décor. Cabinets and trim should be understated and not adorned with too many embellishments. While modern designs often make use of manufactured materials and finishes such as steel, plastic, linoleum, chrome, molded plywood, laminate, acrylic, concrete, and glass, you can also soften and warm the modern kitchen design aesthetic with natural materials such as granite, slate, stone, and wood.

The mix of natural and man-made materials is a very personal choice and depends on how “industrial” a look you wish to achieve versus a more natural kitchen space that may be more appropriate in the home.

The Elements of Contemporary Kitchen Design

You have an abundant variety of design elements available when planning a contemporary kitchen. Typical contemporary kitchen design elements include:

  • Frameless cabinets with simple hardware and European hinges.
  • Translucent or frosted glass panels or cabinet door inserts.
  • Bold, geometric angles and lines.
  • Man-made surfaces in either monochromatic or vibrant colors.
  • Strong overall ambient lighting and adjustable task lighting, such as track or recessed down lights.
  • Use of metallic finishes such as stainless steel, copper, or chrome.
  • Countertops and cabinetry can incorporate sweeping curves.
  • Soften the feel of your modern kitchen with natural, grainy woods with such as maple, cherry, birch, or ash.

Contemporary Kitchen Inspiration

Today’s contemporary kitchen designs often emphasize universal design principles and eco-friendly materials. Universal design focuses on user-friendly function and utility, making for a kitchen that serves the daily needs of the household, while also providing a comfortable, inviting space in which to entertain guests. Universal design principles call for a kitchen space that is flexible, intuitive to use, prevents accidents, and helps ease food preparation and clean up.

Follow these universal design ideas when planning your contemporary kitchen:

  • Plan ahead for plenty of storage, using conveniences such as pullout shelves, sliding drawers, or spinning lazy susans to maximize space and keep your kitchen well-organized.
  • Select easy-to-clean surfaces such as an electric glass cooktops, smooth countertop surfaces and stainless steel appliances.
  • Consider installing two sinks; a large primary sink and a secondary sink for washing vegetables, serving beverages, etc. Select single-lever faucets that make it easy to control flow and water temperature.
  • Select functional, modern-style cabinet and drawer pulls such as stainless pulls on cabinet doors and stainless steel bars on drawers.
  • Install under-cabinet task lighting to make food preparation easier.

The Eco-Friendly Contemporary Kitchen

The trend in contemporary interior design is toward more ecologically-conscious materials that emphasize energy efficiency and recycled materials. The kitchen space is one of the most energy-dependent spaces in your homes, so you can really make a difference and help alleviate energy use by applying green design principles.

Green design applications in the contemporary kitchen can include:

  • Install Energy Star® appliances, induction cooking technology and surfaces that will be easy to clean and maintain.
  • Choose cabinet and flooring materials such as reclaimed wood, rapidly renewable sources like bamboo or sustainable hardwoods.
  • Use materials and paints that have low-VOC emissions.
  • Plan ahead for efficient recycling of paper, plastic, metal, glass and organic kitchen waste materials!

Contemporary Kitchen Themes and Styles

As with modern music, within today’s modern kitchen design realm, you have many “sub-genres” from which to select. Here’s a rundown on some of the more popular contemporary kitchen designs:

  • Contemporary Curves – While modern kitchens often incorporate linear design elements, curves can also be used; a curved island, window wall, arches over doorways or other “curvatures” can make excellent design repeats.
  • Contemporary Contrast – You can create contrasts by mixing materials; for instance by using a natural stone flooring material and stainless steel appliances, natural wood cabinets with frosted glass inserts or black appliances with granite countertops.
  • Chic Contemporary – Modern design often de-emphasizes the space itself, turning the focus instead on art within the space. While we may not think of a refrigerator or kitchen range as art, you can make almost any element in your kitchen a centerpiece; it could be an artful backsplash, a picture window over the sink, a large piece of modern art on the wall in the nook …. really anything you want to make the focal point!
  • Casual Contemporary Casual – Many homeowners want a modern kitchen but may be afraid of making it too industrial for the home. You can soften your contemporary kitchen design by adding glass pendant lights over the island, going with natural wood cabinets instead of laminate; basically your contemporary kitchen doesn’t have to follow the pure modern design aesthetic!
  • Retro Contemporary Kitchen – Modern is now retro! You can buy bar stools and kitchen appliances inspired by the modern designers such as Eames, Wright and others and give your kitchen the retro contemporary look. Glass, chrome and laminate surfaces will characterize the retro look.
  • Contemporary Clean Lines – Contemporary style is best recognized by sleek, uncluttered lines and smooth surfaces. Stainless steel, glass and concrete exemplify the types of materials that modern designs often incorporate, but you can also mix hardwoods and natural stone. If the lines follow modern design principles, your kitchen will still feel contemporary.
  • Contemporary and Earthy – You can blend the clean lines of modern design with warmer, softer elements to give you contemporary kitchen a more down-to-earth feeling. Materials such as exotic woods or bamboo, etched copper, natural stone, and stainless steel can be mixed to give you kitchen an earthy contemporary look.
  • Black and White and Contemporary – For a bold look, you might want to consider an all black and white color scheme to achieve an ultra-modern looking kitchen. Add small accents of color to draw the eye to specific elements in your back and white design or mix warm wood tones to subtly temper the high contrast.
  • Traditional Contemporary – If you have a historic Victorian or other period-style home in need of a kitchen update and want to keep it in the proper style without sacrificing the form and function of a contemporary kitchen, try slate countertops and flooring with wood cabinetry. Keep the lines simple and forego too many embellishments to keep it modern and consider transitions that separate your modern kitchen from adjoining spaces that may follow a more formal, traditional style of design.

Contemporary Kitchen Elements and Materials

Once you have the basic style in mind for your contemporary kitchen, you’ll want to select specific elements and materials to incorporate. Remember that uncluttered and clean is what you want to achieve. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Contemporary Kitchen Island – An island in your contemporary kitchen is the essence of the modern design rule that “form follows function’. If space allows, incorporating an island will not only add storage and countertop space, but with the addition of bar stools it helps make the kitchen a more inviting place to entertain and will often be the focal point of a modern kitchen.
  • Contemporary Backsplash – If you choose an overhead range hood and vent system, the backsplash can make a great focal point. Use something like glass or ceramic tile with a geometric pattern to accent your contemporary kitchen. Many styles of range hood are available these days that look like modern sculptures, with clean modern straight- or curved-lined designs and finishes such as stainless steel or copper.
  • Contemporary Cabinets – From white laminate to maple, you can choose almost any material for cabinetry. The lines and absence of embellishments are what will set your contemporary kitchen apart from more traditional designs. Frameless frames and plain pulls, often metal, predominate.
  • Contemporary Kitchen Countertops – Choose something different and unique; stainless steel or concrete might give your kitchen a super-contemporary look. Or you can stick with slate or granite for a less industrial look. You could even choose glass for a bar countertop on one side of a kitchen island.
  • Contemporary Windows – Translucent glass blocks are one way to bring natural light into a contemporary kitchen space; especially if the window has an undesirable view! Try to select window coverings with clean lines; shades or blinds without curtains for instance. The more natural light you can bring into the kitchen the better.
  • Contemporary Stainless Steel – Stainless steel appliances, fixtures, and hardware are always popular in the contemporary kitchen, lending the look of a restaurant kitchen. Stainless steel is easy to maintain and the highly reflective surfaces brighten the space.

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