Style Spotlight: The Contemporary Kitchen 

Clean, uncluttered and trend-forward, contemporary kitchens are the epitome of cool. This style guide will help you identify some hallmark contemporary design characteristics. Keep these ideas in mind as you plan your project. 


What Is Contemporary Style? 

Contemporary style reflects design influences of the present day. Since those influences evolve over time, so does contemporary kitchen design. Today, you can spot a contemporary kitchen by its minimalist, streamlined and airy appearance, along with the presence of cutting-edge materials and technology. 

Is It Contemporary or Modern?

Many people use contemporary and modern interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Modern is a defined, historical style that peaked in the 1950s and ‘60s. Contemporary style shares many traits with modern design, but draws on other styles and eras, including industrial, Art Deco and Scandinavian. Contemporary design interprets, blends and distills those style influences into a look that reflects life in today’s world.

Less Is More

In a word, a contemporary kitchen is uncluttered.

  • An uncomplicated layout, like a galley or L-shaped kitchen with an island, helps to set the scene for simplicity.
  • The smooth, flat surfaces of slab doors make them the most popular choice to give contemporary kitchens their signature streamlined look.
  • Minimalist cabinetry hardware keeps the look clean. (Hint: Use long bar pulls to accentuate the horizontal lines of your design – another telltale contemporary design element.)
  • Built-in appliances with integrated, touchpad controls add another layer of sleekness.
  • No purely decorative accessories here.

Keep Colors Crisp

While purists might say a monochromatic palette of cool neutrals best reflects contemporary design, color can play a bigger role in your contemporary kitchen. Here are some contemporary kitchen color ideas:

  • Contemporary design currently favors whites and grey tones. KraftMaid® colors that fit the bill include Dove White, Greyloft and Cannon Grey.
  • Pairing white with wood is an emerging kitchen trend used to warm up the space. Choose a natural finish paint or light stain, like Baltic or Barley, to showcase the woodgrain character without detracting from the light, airy feeling you want.
  • Create visual interest using high contrast to define form and shape. (In this contemporary kitchen, a light-tone waterfall counter over cherry cabinets establishes a sleek and simple focal point for the cooking zone.)
  • A pop of color – something as small as a bowl of lemons or a window shelf of bright green herbs – brings freshness and life to the space.

Make It Shine

To achieve that polished contemporary look, favor reflective surfaces and materials, such as:

  • High-gloss foil doors
  • Frosted glass door inserts
  • Chrome or bright metallic fixtures
  • Polished concrete floors
  • Glass tile backsplash

Note that texture isn’t entirely out of the question. It’s ok to mix in materials that offer both gloss and dimension: think wood-grain foil cabinet finishes and sculpted tile.

A Connected Kitchen

There’s no other style that embraces technology like contemporary design. Celebrate it in your next kitchen by using smart lighting (schemes and colors), built-in LED screens and Wi-Fi enabled appliances.

Get Inspired

Want more contemporary kitchen design ideas? Browse our kitchen picture gallery to explore additional room scenes and product options.