New Trends in Modern Kitchens

Updating your kitchen won’t necessarily make it modern.

Modern is a specific style referring to early to mid-twentieth century design trends and techniques that arose out of the industrial revolution. It’s important to distinguish between contemporary and modern when discussing modern kitchens trends. Some key differences between the two:


  • Simple
  • Little to no embellishment
  • Sleek design
  • Horizontal layout and patterns
  • Dictated by the period/style itself


  • High tech
  • Sustainable
  • Progressive design
  • Depth created by layers and texture
  • Dictated by lifestyle

Contemporary generally refers to what’s trendy in design styles now, while Modern refers to an established period in design. But modern styles are making a big comeback in design right now, so the latest kitchen trends blend both contemporary and modern styles.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Norris.

A colorful, two-toned kitchen combines the best of contemporary and modern design within a relatively small space.

A lot of new kitchen trends rise out of a demand for design solutions to meet the current needs of our lifestyles, making contemporary an ever-changing but very up-to-date style. Hot kitchen trends in 2012 include:

  • High-efficiency stainless steel appliances
  • Renewable and repurposed materials
  • Designing homes around the kitchen as the new family room
  • Integrating a plethora of gadgets and high-tech solutions that make cooking healthy food more fun and less of a chore

The modern period was characterized by the retro, space-age look, and that’s why a lot of modern design elements actually make us feel like we’ve traveled back in time. I’ve tried to stick to classic modern styles in the examples below, but keep in mind that many of today’s modern kitchens incorporate contemporary elements for practical purposes. Do you prefer the sleek and simple look of modern design? The horizontal nature of modern design is celebrated in the kitchen where there are endless ways to incorporate sleek and elongating elements.

Image courtesy of 2Go Custom Kitchens.

The cabinets, hardware, floorboards, island, and layout of this kitchen all reinforce the horizontal plane of the room. Modern kitchens often integrate natural materials that follow suit, like the grain of the wood around the island base.

Image courtesy of Ainslie-Davis Construction.

The pattern in this magnanimous ceiling sets the stage for the horizontal layout of the modern kitchen design below.

Image courtesy of SB Architects.

Even a side shot of a modern kitchen has a linear look.

The linear layout of a modern kitchen is no space saver. Smaller kitchens sometimes have a hard time creating horizontal overtones, but can focus on other elements to help construct that sleek look.


The long cabinet pulls, glass tiles, and floorboards all help create a modern look in this smaller kitchen by Case Design.


Little to no décor or embellishment is a hallmark of modern design. The floor in this Mal Corboy Design is all the decoration this modern kitchen needs. The natural grain of the long floorboards and different colors of stain soften and warm up the otherwise cold, hard look. The sleek, wrapped countertop, frameless cabinets, and no-back bar stools all keep with the minimalist look.

Image courtesy of Tracy Stone.

Frameless cabinets are characteristic of a modern kitchen because they really lend a lot to the sleek, minimalist look. The flat-paneled doors of the cabinets and drawers create a level surface void of the depth and texture that mark many other design styles. The raised ceiling in this design is reminiscent of the pop-up campers that grew out of the modern era, and helps open up the elongated, single-floor layout of most modern homes.


A simple design doesn’t have to lack color. Modern designs often incorporate bright, bold colors, but stick to the minimalist approach by introducing only one color in each room. The turquoise cabinetry is balanced out with so much white that it doesn’t overpower the room. The two colors, along with the sleek finish, work together to keep the room clean and crisp in this kitchen design by Alterstudio.

Image courtesy of

A modern design doesn’t demand a lot of color, but matching furniture and accents keep with the simple theme and do a lot to brighten up the room.


Industrial materials are another component of modern design because they reflect the times that the era grew out of and tend to lack ornamentation. In this kitchen by Elad Gonen and Zeev Beech, the bare concrete walls lend an industrial look while the white concrete countertops and floors, open shelves, and no pulls on the cabinetry keep the design extremely minimalist.


While a lot of wood is used in modern designs for the lengthy look of the grain, other natural materials are often absent from modern spaces. Stone tiles with busy patterns and lots of veins are too much for many modern kitchens. But in this kitchen by See Construction, a marble countertop accents the sleek look and becomes the perfect embellishment for the room.


Rift-cut wood lends a busy look that leans toward contemporary, but it’s used a lot in modern design for the horizontal layout of the wood. The panels are fabricated by stacking sheets of wood that are then compressed together; sheets are sawed off the stacks and cut into frameless cabinet fronts and surrounds like the ones pictured here. When combined with the long floorboards, elongated cabinet pulls, and wrapped marble slab countertop, this Chelsea Atelier Architect kitchen screams modern.


A similar look is created in this kitchen by Croma Design by using stacked stone tiles in the backsplash wall. The thick tile edges become narrow faces that reinforce the horizontal nature of the room, while the vertical stacking is more organized than the staggered layout of many tile designs.

As we’ve seen in the above examples, no modern kitchen in 2012 can ignore the pragmatic approach of contemporary design, making the best current kitchen designs a perfect marriage of both modern and contemporary.

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