Style Spotlight: The Modern Kitchen 

With uncluttered simplicity, a Modern style kitchen can feel right at home in nearly any kind of house. See what makes Modern style a timeless and popular design option.


Is It Modern or Contemporary?

Many of us use the terms “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably when we describe a kitchen that has an open, streamlined, uncluttered appearance. Sometimes that’s accurate, but not always. Let’s try to explain:

  • Modern is a defined, period-specific style of art and architecture that began in the 1920s and lasted through the 1970s. In terms of interior design, Modern peaked in the 1950s-60s with Mid-Century Modern.
  • Contemporary is an evolving style that reflects what’s fashionable for the current times. Since many people look to replicate Modern design elements in their homes today, you’ll often find contemporary kitchens with Modern characteristics. But contemporary can have other style influences, like Scandinavian, Art Deco or even Farmhouse.

What Is Modern Kitchen Design? 

“Form follows function” is a motto that’s closely tied with Modernism. The thought is that the function of a space should drive the overall design, look and feel more than decorative choices.

Modern style kitchens put this concept into practice with a clean, minimalist look that emphasizes strong horizontal and vertical lines created by cabinets and countertops. Most Modern kitchen designs favor sharp angles, but simple, organic curves are not out of the question.

Materials Make It Modern

Modern design took shape during the post-war industrial era. As manufacturing capabilities got more sophisticated, designers and architects started using new building materials in homes.

Glass, metal, acrylic and polished concrete became signature materials – in part for their ability to impart a futuristic sheen to a room. Even the kind of wood cabinetmakers used changed. Modern wood kitchen cabinets made with veneered plywood became a more popular option than traditional milled lumber. You’ll continue to see these same elements in Modern homes built today.

Modern Color Schemes

Unless you’re a true purist trying to replicate a retro kitchen, you probably won’t choose exact color schemes from the Modern era. (Remember pastel pink laminate counters and turquoise refrigerators?) But there are a few color themes you can follow:

  • Modern colors tend to lean to the cooler side of the spectrum. In the KraftMaid® paint collection, this could be Dove White, Pebble Grey, Rainfall or English Green.
  • Color blocking ¬– large areas of contrasting colors next to each other – is a favorite technique of the Modern era. Often one of the colors is a brighter, bolder choice.
  • Wood is typically finished in a light or mid-tone stain to not entirely obscure the wood grain. As a starting point, check out our Ginger, Sunset or Baltic stains, or our Translucent Monument Grey specialty finish.

Building Blocks of Modern Kitchen Design

Combine these home design ideas to create your own Modern style kitchen:

  • Start with a smooth, slab door style for a minimalist cabinet look. If you prefer the look of a paneled door, consider a modern take on a Shaker door with oversized frame and a flat, recessed center panel.
  • Choose hardware with a sleek, simple shape in a silvery finish, like chrome, aluminum or stainless steel. (Tip: Using long pulls can help to accentuate the linear aspects of the design.)
  • No crown molding here. In fact, you’re more likely to see soffits above wall cabinets in a Modern kitchen.
  • Look into geometric tile patterns on backsplashes. As an example, glass subway tile set in stacked rows instead of a brick or offset pattern is a great look. Bonus points for using a contrasting grout to emphasize the grid pattern.
  • Commercial-grade appliances and fixtures can contribute to a Modern minimalist feel, as these designs symbolize the concept of form following function.

Get Inspired

Want more examples of Modern kitchen design ideas? Browse our inspiration gallery to see additional pictures of Modern kitchens, along with other room scenes that include Modern style elements, like minimalist cabinet designs.