Seven Ideas for Designing a Contemporary Kitchen

Sleek defines the contemporary style. Forget fussiness and clutter — in the heart of the home, contemporary kitchen design drives a lifestyle of getting things done. It’s all about keeping lines clean, making space available, and prioritizing beauty and functionality. Confused about how to actually make that happen in your kitchen? Keep reading as we take you through the major elements of contemporary kitchen design one step at a time.

1. Cabinetry and Hardware

Kitchen wall space is usually devoted to cabinetry and the concealed storage it provides, so it has a huge role to play in establishing a particular style. With its focus on clean fronts like slab doors, for example, contemporary cabinetry gives a seamless, modular feel that is smooth and united. The punch comes from strong color values—the deepest browns or palest creams of natural woodgrain, the black or white gloss of durable enamel, and the solid shade of a warm signature color. Cabinetry hardware like door handles and drawer pulls are simple or streamlined while hinges are often hidden from view. It’s a look with clean lines and surfaces that are easy to keep clean.

2. Fixtures

Faucets are the major fixtures of the kitchen, serving as the centerpiece of the food prep area and the kitchen’s principal water source. Contemporary kitchen faucets tend to be sleek, softened with gently flared curves, but free of distractions from multiple handles or separate sprayers.

A perfect example is the Elkay Avado 2 in 1 faucet with filtration. It has one arched spout with a concealed-design pull-down triple-setting spray head and a single three-function lever handle. As for that little something extra—the Avado has a water filtration system built right in. A simple nudge of the handle will give you cold water, hot water or filtered water, and the sprayer will dispense a stream of water, a powerful spray or filtered water. The Elkay Avado comes in three finishes—chrome, lustrous steel and matte black—perfect for contributing to the contrast and shine that set off today’s contemporary kitchens.

Related: Shop the Elkay Avado 2 in 1 faucet with filtration

3. Countertops and Backsplashes

Large surfaces, like countertops and backsplashes, are great opportunities to add shine, texture, color, distinctive finishes and patterns.

  • If the cabinetry is dark, opt for a light countertop and a pop of color on a backsplash or wall.
  • If the cabinetry is light or white, you can add contrast with darker countertops and backsplashes, or play with a monochrome look, only glossier or more textured, for example.
  • If you want a super glossy counter, then consider a backsplash that will really set it off with texture or warm up the space, for example. The goal is to make sure these two surfaces complement, not compete with each other.

The great thing about contemporary style is you have flexibility when it comes to color, pattern and texture choices. Contemporary materials include everything from stone like marble and soapstone to solid-surface composites or even wood for countertops. The choices are endless—from patterned tiles of ceramic or porcelain to brick or even wood—for a backsplash or wall space that warms the color palette, builds texture or pattern, and makes an impression.

4. Appliances

Built-ins, counter installations, drawer appliances and cabinetry facades are all important to the contemporary style. When planning for appliances in our kitchens, we want them in placements where they’ll be most useful to us, but we also want the end result to be attractive and seamless. Manufacturers are listening, and smart technology is made to make life easier. Most appliances are programmable with apps that link to your phone or other electronics.

  • Modern dishwashers are quieter than ever before and come loaded with customizable options, right down to the color of the light inside.
  • Many ovens cook for you, and the double oven remains a favorite for home cooks everywhere; once you’ve had one, you won’t be able to imagine a kitchen without it.

Contemporary appliances deliver aesthetics that are sleek and stylish, easy to keep clean, and easily fit into a contemporary kitchen.

5. Flooring

The materials and pattern of your flooring have the power to quiet a busy space or liven up a static one. You can choose to introduce contrast by going very light or very dark or introduce warmth by incorporating wood grain flooring products, for example.

Natural materials — or products that use, emulate or recycle natural materials — are more popular than ever, many featuring new technology that makes them waterproof yet beautiful, durable and affordable. Floors are also a natural place to introduce patterns like a striking herringbone wood floor or a classically elegant encaustic-look tile creation with which you’ll simply fall in love. Natural stone tiles like travertine or marble are classics. Don’t forget you can always switch it up a bit with an area rug or runner especially designed for kitchens.

6. Lighting

Lights are an easy and affordable way to showcase contemporary style. Find a chandelier with an industrial flavor to light up a dining area, or arrange a collection of colorful pendant lights above an island.

A fresh trend is to play with under-counter or toe kick strip lighting in colored LEDs for a fun glow. Even above-the-sink lighting offers an opportunity to install something more distinctive than the standard fluorescent hidden behind a valance. A neat pendant or drop light can bring a sink area right up to date. The real statement is having a kitchen that is well-lit when you need it to be, yet offers softer lighting options when you’re ready to power down.

Related: Shop Kitchen Lighting

7. Seating

Contemporary kitchens are workspaces, but they’re also living spaces. Seating can serve functions beyond just a place to sit. It can contribute important elements of contemporary style—and comfort too. Bar stools along an island can feature distinctive metal frames while upholstered seats can pop with flashes of color. A bench in natural wood grain can add warmth. Whether you opt for a sleek waterfall island with seating, incorporate a slick new dining table or explore an open-layout banquette, seating areas are yet another place to let your sense of contemporary style shine.

The beauty of contemporary style is that it meshes so well with so many other styles. It gives you plenty of leeway to update a little or a lot. Remodel, and see how easy it is to put together a whole new look. Update your kitchen in phases, and enjoy each new addition as your workspace evolves. If you’re starting from scratch with new construction, opportunities for customization and smart choices have never been greater.

If you’re ready to kick off your next home renovation project, stop by your nearest Coburn’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom, or explore our website. Our kitchen design specialists can show you how to polish your look and take your culinary space to the next level in contemporary kitchen design.