While in vogue, modern kitchen ideas usually have a reputation for being cold and unwelcoming. That’s not exactly a good sales pitch for a 21st century kitchen.
In many modern houses, the kitchen has replaced the living room as the beating heart of the home. It’s no longer an uncommon sight for families to converge on the kitchen island to chat, dine, and have fun instead of the living room’s sofa. As a result, a feeling of warmth and openness in their kitchen has become highly desirable for homeowners.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of most, neither of these things is offered by modern designs.
Now here’s the good news: it’s not impossible to make a kitchen that follows a minimalistic, modern style to feel “like home”. Here are some ideas worth taking into consideration!
What Is the “Modern Kitchen”, Really?
Modernism, despite its name, has had a very long and rich history. The style can trace its roots all the way back to the 20th century. Its philosophy is simple enough. A modernist design will focus mostly on function rather than form (functionalism). It will also discard excessive ornamentation in favor of a more minimalistic look.
It is for this reason that most modernist designs feature flat, geometric surfaces. This is the most distinguishing factor of a modern design. Take a look at any modern kitchen and you will hardly be able to detect a single curve in the overall form. Everything from the cabinetry, the kitchen island, the appliance, to the window is angular and sleek.
The space will also look very “clean” due to the lack of flouncy decorations found in more traditional designs. As we said earlier, modern designs staunchly reject ornamentation.
Instead, it shows its beauty implicitly to viewers. It’s in the texture of the materials that make up the furniture and walls. The sharp, surgically accurate geometry of the different details in the kitchen. And, more importantly, the airy and clean atmosphere that it offers.
And of course, as modernist designers believe in minimalism, furniture is typically sparse and only the most essential of appliances are installed.
Resultantly, modern designs are extremely space-efficient. This makes even the smallest of spaces feel large and uncluttered (this is why you’ll often find kitchens of small studios and apartments following this style).
The simplicity that’s the hallmark of modernism is also reflected in its choice of colors.
As you can see in the three design samples above, modernist designers typically favor a monochromatic palette (composed of white, grey, and black). And if it’s not monochromatic, it’s often a natural, neutral color like the different tones of wood. Other than that, modern designs are usually devoid of chromatic colors.
Colors are used very sparingly to conform to the “zero ornamentation” epithet of modernism. This, of course, significantly restricts the combination of colors that can be used in the space. The lack of color may also feel quite stifling and impersonal.
Fortunately, you’re not obliged to conform to this rule. Many modern designs have broken it and expanded their color palettes.
In this sample from LEICHT New York, the walls of the minimalist kitchen are painted with a light teal shade. Immediately below, the base cabinets are given a very eye-pleasing lilac that fits in well with their teal backdrop. It creates a less monotonous and more homely space.
This design is just as legitimate as any of the more “mainstream” samples above. Only the presentation is different. So if you feel like diversifying the color palette, don’t hesitate!
Modernism clashes heavily with more traditionally rural styles in this respect. While traditional styles primarily use wood, marble, stone, and other natural materials, modernist designs use artificial materials like laminate and ceramic, too.
This doesn’t mean that modern kitchens don’t use natural materials altogether. If you look back at the samples above, it’s not hard to find a wooden or marble surface somewhere. It simply doesn’t focus as much on using just these anymore.
In simpler words: modern designs will use a blend of both natural and man-made materials.
A good example is this sample from Formica Group.
The floor is wooden and many details of the cabinets are, too. The countertops next to the cooking range are also cast from marble. However, in the mix is a kitchen island with a laminated top surface and stainless steel chairs.
Furniture — not decors — is how you can beautify your modern kitchen. It’s not difficult to find cabinets, tables, stools, and chairs with graceful, low-key aesthetics to add to your kitchen. They’re only a few keystrokes away online.
Most will prefer angular, futuristic furniture to complement their modern kitchens. The stools in this design from Doug Ashy Cabinet Design Center are a good example.
While you’re shopping for furniture, though, remember that its form shouldn’t impede its function. Modernism is all about functionalism first and foremost. There are many modern furniture pieces out there that look beautiful, yet are highly impractical.
14 Great Modern Kitchen Ideas
1. Incorporate a Rustic Charm
A good way to give your kitchen a warmer, more welcoming atmosphere is to give it a rustic feel. Country or farmhouse styles are famous for their cozy aesthetic. When successfully mixed together, the result of a cross between modern minimalism and country-style warmth can be stunning.
This design has a good combination of both schools of design. The quartz countertop and minimalistic dark blue cabinets combine well with the wooden floor and roof.
The chairs by the kitchen island also reflect the mixed nature of the design. It is an excellent example of leveraging furniture to build an atmosphere.
They have an obviously modern design, but the modernistic look is tempered significantly with the use of wood. As such, the chairs contribute directly to the aesthetics of the kitchen (reconciling modern with country style).
2. Integrating Natural Elements
While modernism is all about man-made materials and geometrical details, adding a touch of nature to the space is becoming a very popular theme in modern kitchen designs. Of course, there are an infinite number of ways that you can do this.
Wood is a very popular material due to its natural beauty and versatility. Other than being used in furniture and ceiling or floor cladding, it can also be used to construct architectural details like roof beams.
It’s a solution that this design has pulled off very well.
The texture and color of the timber beams are in stark contrast to the pristine white ceiling. They give the kitchen more character by bringing a rustic, country edge to the space. However, they’re not just there for aesthetic purposes. Some of the beams are used to support lighting fixtures, which is in line with modernism’s philosophy of minimalistic functionality.
Second to wood is stone. All-natural and no less versatile, its sole issue is that, due to its distinctive look, it is a little more difficult to incorporate into a design.
One wall of this open-plan, minimalist kitchen is built entirely from rough stone.
The rough, slate grey stone wall creates a beautiful juxtaposition with the rest of the all-white kitchen. Its texture and color creates a unique feature that sets this kitchen apart from others. Best of all, it does all this without compromising the overall design’s clean, elegant look.
Functionally, the stone wall also serves as a backsplash for the stovetop. Natural stone, thanks to its hardiness and affordability, is quite a popular choice.
3. Embolden with Industrial Style
Contrary to the rustic style above, if you want a look that is bold and gritty, consider steering your kitchen design towards an industrial style.
As its name suggests, this style takes inspiration from factories and industrial spaces. That means the use of weathered wood, dark metal, exposed concrete, and brick.
The reddish, weathered bricks provide an excellent, organic contrast to the rest of the dark-themed kitchen in terms of both texture and color. This contrast forms the design’s center of interest, helping to make it less indistinct and impersonal.
As well as bricks, industrial designs also tend to make use of concrete. The easiest way to incorporate this material is to use it as flooring.
The exposed concrete floor and brick walls make this kitchen sample bold and gritty — exactly in line with the philosophy of an industrial design.
4. Be Creative with Lighting
As opposed to traditional designs, one of the best things about modern ones is the reduced emphasis on using only natural light. You have the choice to be creative with your lighting layout. Moreover, nothing is stopping you from experimenting with different kinds of bulbs, colors, and temperatures, either.
This liberty is especially useful in small apartments or spaces where natural light is lacking.
In this sample, light strips are placed on the underside of upper-wall cabinets.
Other than providing illumination for the countertop, it also achieves the effect of making the space feel larger. Spaces that aren’t well-lit will feel very cramped which is just about the last thing you would want for your small kitchen.
The designer has done a very good job of promoting brightness by choosing suitable tones. White marble back walls and cabinets provide a considerable boost in this department.
5. Highlight Details with Accent Lighting
Other than providing basic lighting, you can also use lights for aesthetic purposes. For example, you can arrange them so that exotic materials or notable architectural details are accentuated.
The wooden base cabinets are further highlighted using warm-colored light strips installed on the underside. It brings out the warmth of the dark wood tones. Plus, combined with the reflective floor, it makes the kitchen feel almost ethereal.
Another popular use of accent lighting is on the ceiling. By nestling LED strips to small alcoves at the top of the walls, the color of the walls and the ceiling can be emphasized. The effect is especially strong when the color of the light complements the color of its surrounding.
In this design, icy blue LED strips are chosen to complement an all-white design. It further pushes the sanitized, clean look of the kitchen.
6. Maximize Natural Lighting
While electric lighting is welcomed in a modern design, natural lighting is always better. It cuts down on electricity bills and, in moderation, is healthy. For most, natural sunlight is more aesthetically pleasing than electric, too.
For all these reasons, if you have the space and the wherewithal, let as much natural light into your kitchen as possible. The only way to do this, of course, is (literally) through windows.
Fortunately, glass is a very important material in modernist designs. That’s why there are designs like this one from Foursquare Builders.
The wall that leads out of the house is completely replaced by glass. This not only brings in a lot of natural light but also affords the inhabitants with a clear view outward, too.
You’re not limited to the side walls only, though. You can also take advantage of skylights to bring in sunlight from the top.
In this orientation, sunlight could be very harsh (especially during the middle of the day). So, motorized blinders are necessary to stave off sunburns.
7. Luxurious Warm Metal Accents
Modern kitchen designs regularly make use of metallic accents. Depending on the type of metal and the color tone, the atmosphere they provide will be different.
With warm-colored accents like brass and copper — when done properly — they can feel incredibly luxurious.
Warm-colored metals used to be all the rage in older, more traditional design styles like Victorian or Hollywood Regency, both of which focus on opulence and luxury. Over time, an association between these warm metallic tones and wealth was built.
Fortunately, if you want, there’s a trick that can help you distance your kitchen from older designs. Old designs favored a high-gloss finish. So, for your metallic details, use either a raw or imperfect finish.
In this design by Willum Long, the faucet and handles for the kitchen cabinets are finished in low-gloss bronze. There is just enough of the color to help the kitchen stand out, but it’s in no way tacky or excessive. This is what you should aim for if you plan to take the same approach with your kitchen.
8. Elegant Cool Metal Accents
While we’re on the topic, instead of using warm-tone metals, you can use cool-tone ones, instead. Cool-tone metals are those with light, silvery colors, such as stainless steel or aluminum.
Cool metals are used extensively in modern design because of how easy it is to use.
If you’re ever in doubt about which metal to choose when redesigning your kitchen, then pick silver. You can never go wrong with it. Silver naturally complements white — an important color in the palette of modern designs. Due to its light-reflecting property, adding silver will make your kitchen feel a lot more spacious.
In this design from Jennifer Gilmer, black/white monotones and metallic silver accents are used extensively to create a very sanitized, elegant space.
However, if you’re not a fan of this icy look, you can choose to mix silver with warmer tones like that of dark wood, instead.
In this sample, the coolness of the white island, cabinets, and metallic furniture are offset by the warmth of the timber ceiling and black wood floor. The space feels more welcoming and homely without sacrificing the modern edge and minimalistic layout.
In case you opt to add bold, vibrant colors to your kitchen, silver can contrast any tone without clashing. This is one more of the many reasons why it is so favored in modern interior design.
9. Leverage the Versatility of Tiles
If you want a diverse look to your kitchen, tiles are a great way to create it. They can be found printed with a variety of different colors, patterns, and finishes. So, unlike wood or stone, it’s a lot easier to incorporate them into a kitchen design.
Most modern kitchen designs use tiles to form a backsplash behind the cooktop. Tiles are a lot more durable than natural materials like wood or stone. They don’t soak up grease or moisture and are heat-resistant. As a result, so long as you clean them regularly, the tiles will look pristine for years before having to be replaced.
And in case they need to be replaced — they’re cheap, too!
There are so many different tiling arrangements out there that we could make an entire separate article about them. Here’s a few attractive samples to check out in the meantime!
In this design from AT6 Design Build, the backsplash is formed using white marble offset brick tiles. The offset brick layout (also called “staggered brick” or “running bond”) is very popular thanks to its clean, simple look. It also lends an industrial aesthetic to the kitchen.
If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, consider a herringbone tile layout like this backsplash in a kitchen designed by Greystone Interiors.
Beside the modern symmetrical layout of the tiles themselves, the pattern is highlighted further by the use of contrastingly colored grout.
10. Stand Out with a Brightly-Colored Kitchen
We have already discussed this one earlier in the article. The best way to make your kitchen stand out from the rest while also making it feel more homely is to use more colors in the design.
A great example for this idea is this design from Merzbau Design Collective, which features turquoise cabinetry.
The bright blue color is visually striking. So much so that the sight of the cabinets alone immediately sets this design apart from others that use a more limited palette. Additionally, it manages to do this without losing any of the natural elegance of the overall design. The turquoise doesn’t “pop” too much and or look out of place, either.
There are two “secrets” to this.
First is the kitchen’s ample natural lighting. Natural sunlight brightens up the cheerful, energetic color and makes it literally shine. This wouldn't be possible in a darker room with the turquoise losing a great deal of its aesthetic potential.
Second, as we mentioned earlier, modernism has an obsession with monotones and neutrals. As such, white and the neutral colors of the wood detailing remain the primary colors in the kitchen. Only the doors to the cabinets are painted in turquoise. This allows the design to have a splash of color while still retaining a modernist touch to the space.
These two aspects can be applied to other colors as well (with a few caveats, of course). It helps greatly that white can be blended with just about anything.
11. Consider an Eat-in Table
In the past, the kitchen and the dining room were two completely separate places. A lot has changed since then. As space becomes more limited and schedules become busier, the modern trend is to ditch a dining room completely. Instead, its function is merged with the kitchen with the addition of an eat-in table.
There are several ways to add an eat-in table.
This sample from D for Design integrates the eat-in table directly into the kitchen island as an extension. The two are clearly separated from one another by the difference in height and surface material.
One downside to this design is that it consumes quite a lot of space length-wise. It may not be possible if you have a smaller kitchen.
In that case, you can try separating the eat-in table from the island as a detached set. In this way, you can size the table and chair to fit the amount of space you have available.
12. Make Your Kitchen Island Multi-Purpose
Continuing on from our last idea with the dine-in table, a simpler alternative is to just use your kitchen island as your dining area. This is more affordable and can save you space.
But that’s not all that your kitchen island can do. It can also be used as a lounge area to host guests and hold family gatherings. With the addition of beverage shelves, it can be used as a bar. And last but not least, if you don’t like to work in your bedroom, the island can be used as a workspace, too.
It doesn’t take many modifications for your kitchen island to handle all of these functions. So, why not take the opportunity to make it multi-purpose?
For dining, all you really need to do is place stools around it. The stools will also turn the kitchen island into a mini socializing space, as well.
For entertainment, placing a television nearby or maybe a beverage/wine refrigerator like this design from Lang’s Kitchen & Bath will suffice.
Lastly, to convert your kitchen island into a working area, a few outlets built into the surface will make charging your devices easier. Discrete ones that can be stowed away like so will be an excellent addition to any modern kitchen island.
13. Stylize Your Kitchen Island
With the kitchen island being such an important feature of your kitchen, consider stylizing it!
Most modern kitchen island designs have sharp edges and rectangular form. If you’re up for it, you can break this norm and do something different for a change. One great way is to curve it up.
A curvy kitchen island like this can soften up the look of a rigid, geometric kitchen design.
Functionally, a curved island is easier to navigate around than your standard blocky, rectangular island. The sharp edges of the latter will cause you to unconsciously attempt to avoid it. By taking them out of the equation, your movement will be smoother and more effortless as a result.
14. Minimize Further with Discrete Storage Spaces
If you want to push your kitchen style towards minimalism, consider adding a discrete storage system. When they’re not in use, the storage cabinets and drawers should blend into their surrounding environment. The result will be a very clean, clutter-free space to suit your minimalist heart.
There are many excellent examples for this, but here’s one modern design from Leicht Westchester-Greenwich that’s incredibly eye-catching.
The incredibly spacious and streamlined design aside, the best part of this kitchen is the cabinetry. Thanks to their stealthy and monolithic design — blink and you could miss them entirely, mistaking them for a solid block of material.
This kitchen island is a good example. Underneath are several storage drawers that are cleverly hidden away thanks to their absence of handles; when they’re not in use, the drawers blend seamlessly into the island.
The flat panel upper-wall cabinets above the countertops are also designed in this manner. From the front, without any handle to mark their position, it is very easy to mistake them simply for aesthetic panels.
However, if they were to be lifted, the panels would swivel upwards on hinges to reveal storage space behind them.
It is an incredibly clever design that maintains the kitchen’s extraordinarily minimalistic look.
Of course, there’s more to designing a modern kitchen than just these 14 modern kitchen ideas. Nevertheless, they will point you in the right direction to achieving the kitchen of your dreams!
If you like any of these designs, save them and show them to your designer and contractor at your next meeting. They will be able to give you solutions as to how you can bring your favorite designs to life.