Basics of Contemporary Kitchen Design: Modernize Your Ideas

Updated April 27, 2021
Modern elegant kitchen

A kitchen design for a new build or renovation can give you an updated, refreshing contemporary style. This design is smart, user-friendly, and functional for the whole family.

Basics of Contemporary Kitchens

Kitchens with a modern or contemporary flair are usually minimalist in design and feature linear, geometric themes. The use of asymmetrical balance is also a trend in modern kitchen décor. Cabinets and molding are very simple and feature only modest embellishments.

Contemporary kitchens often use man-made materials developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as steel, plastic, linoleum, chrome, molded plywood, laminate, acrylic, concrete, and glass. Natural materials are brought in for many modern kitchen makeovers, especially when a less industrial feel is desired. Granite, slate, stone, and wood are the most commonly used natural materials which complement a modernly decorated kitchen. These natural materials also serve to warm up the color palette and create a more inviting kitchen.

Contemporary kitchen design is characterized by the following style elements:

  • Cabinets that are frameless and use large, simple hardware
  • Door styles which are basic slab or horizontal lift
  • Frosted glass panels or door inserts
  • Geometric angles and lines
  • Laminate surfaces in clean white or bold colors
  • Lighting that is abundant and adjustable, such as track lighting
  • Metal components including stainless steel, copper, or chrome
  • Sweeping curves in countertops or cabinetry
  • Woods with a delicate grain like maple, birch, or ash

Cabinet Choices

Contemporary kitchen cabinets are distinguishable because of the emphasis on rectangle and square shapes. The cabinet frame is typically hidden by slab-front doors. These are flat doors without any type of recessed panels or ornamentations. This design presents clean, sleek lines. The hardware is usually equally sleek door pulls. Some designs offer a combination of door pulls for lower drawers and knobs for cabinets.

Contemporary cabinets often reach to the ceiling for maximum storage capabilities. Some kitchen designs stagger the cabinet height for the upper cabinet designs to breakup the visual of large walls of cabinets. Some other popular features include:

  • Deep drawers for pots and pans
  • Sections of upper cabinets with glass doors
  • Section of open shelving to break up cabinet space

Countertops and Backsplashes

Stone countertops are an intricate part of contemporary kitchen designs. Granite and marble remain favorites, butt quartz and recycled glass have gained popularity. Wood butcher block countertops offer a good contrast in a contemporary rustic kitchen style.

Laminate countertops have vastly improved over the decades. Technology allows for a wide choice of colors and designs with seamless edgings for engineered stone designs and more.

Backsplashes are just as creative when using any of these materials as well as decorative tiles. You can use glass mosaic tiles, tumbled stone, slate, and various ceramic tiles to create stunning backsplashes.

Islands and Breakfast Bars

Islands and breakfast bars remain cherished features for a contemporary kitchen. If your kitchen is large enough to accommodate an island, you can use it for a color statement by painting it a different color than your cabinets. A breakfast bar can be part of the island design or part of the kitchen cabinet that separates the kitchen area from the family room and/or dining room.

kitchen with island and breakfast bar

Color Choices

You aren't limited to a specific color palette for your contemporary kitchen design. Subtle colors are popular contemporary choices that give your kitchen a fresh state-of-the-art look. However, if bold and bright are more to your taste, then certainly a contemporary kitchen design can easily accommodate any color you prefer.

You may paint your kitchen cabinets or if you prefer, a dark stain provides a fresh contemporary style. You may prefer the two-tone cabinet colors, such as gray for the island and white for the cabinets, or one color for the bottom cabinets and another color for the upper cabinets.

Flooring Options

There are seemingly endless flooring options. Wood and tile remain good choices. Vinyl plank flooring and other patterns are very popular selections and make floor maintenance a cinch. With the popular open-concept for contemporary homes, you want to keep design continuity between the living, dining, and kitchen areas.

Lighting for Different Tasks

The lighting for a contemporary kitchen is usually a mix of types of lighting. Recessed ceiling lights are a must for ambient lighting. Under cabinet lighting makes for great task lighting, as do pendant lighting fixtures that are commonly used above islands and breakfast bars. Overhead lighting fixtures can be flush to the ceiling or more prominent semi-flush. A formal kitchen design may feature a chandelier or mini-chandeliers.

Modern Kitchen Lighting

Stainless Steel Appliances

By far, stainless steel appliances are hot ticket items for contemporary kitchens. Commercial kitchen appliances are often found in luxury homes. Gas stoves and ranges are popular, as are glass tops for electric induction types. Built in small appliance stations can be an added luxury for your kitchen design.

Technology Is Prominent

Technological advances provide smart appliances that can even be set via your smart phone. Many stoves offer a convection oven option. Induction cooktops are another possible choice. Programmable and state-of-the-art refrigerators, dishwashers, and stoves make your kitchen design exciting and convenient.

Design Your Ideal Contemporary Kitchen

A contemporary kitchen design has specific features that make it easy to identify the style. However, you can design your kitchen to reflect your personal style with the many choices available.

Basics of Contemporary Kitchen Design: Modernize Your Ideas