Designing a Modern Kitchen: Ideas, Concepts, and Tips

modern kitchen with unique lighting, white cabinets and kitchen island with marble countertop

The kitchen is the perfect central gathering place in the home. As the place to share and prepare, it should balance form and function effortlessly to meet your needs and wow your guests. If your kitchen is in need of a refresh, it’s best to add in a few modern kitchen design elements to your renovation plans. Not only are they timeless and easy to combine with new trends, but they also add a chic touch to your interior. Let’s go over the main features of modern kitchen design that are sure to delight your senses and create the look you desire!

Contemporary vs. modern kitchen design

As you browse home decor magazines and social media, you may notice that writers use the terms modern and contemporary interchangeably. They’re often confused with one another despite referring to very different concepts.

Modern design is an architectural style that emerged in the 1920s. It took off in several international art schools that sought to envision the world of tomorrow. At the start, it opposed the more dominant classical or rustic style and adhered to strict principles. On the other hand, contemporary style refers to current trends and not a specific historical movement. It is often inspired by both past and present trends, though. Just take a look at the latest kitchen trends to get a feel for what contemporary design looks like!

Now that we’ve clarified the two terms, let’s move on and talk about modern kitchen design!

1. Play with simple horizontal lines in the kitchen layout

To create natural flow, modern kitchens embrace simple lines and geometric shapes. Horizontal lines in particular are used a lot to draw the eye effortlessly from one detail to another. To leverage this kitchen design element, you’ll need to avoid visual clutter in the layout and furniture. Your kitchen designer will be able to recommend minimalist designs without too much embellishment that are soft and comforting to the eyes.

Beyond visual appeal, kitchen layouts have to be practical. To do this, you’ll need to optimize your kitchen triangle. The food prep space, the designated sink for washing produce, and the fridge should all be positioned in logical places to reduce the number of trips back and forth. In most cases, the size of your kitchen will limit your kitchen layout options.

  • For long and narrow kitchens, consider the one-wall kitchen layout. All of the elements, from cabinets to appliances, will be placed along one wall. If there’s a fair bit of space between the two walls, you can also go for a galley kitchen.
  • If you have a medium square kitchen, opt for an L-shaped kitchen layout with cold elements on one wall and hot elements on the other.
  • Spacious kitchens and U-shaped kitchen layouts are a match made in heaven! You can split up the workspace while keeping it ergonomic. You can even add a dining table to make it more inviting.

2. Build plenty of cabinets and storage

With ergonomics at the forefront, modern kitchen designs feature lots of cabinets and storage. The style’s minimalism dictates that any unnecessary items can be easily stored and hidden out of sight. In this regard, the pantry and large drawers are valuable storage allies. 

The cabinets themselves should be as practical as they are easy on the eyes. Preferably fronted by wide, flat panels, they will immediately add a touch of elegance to the space and complete the horizontality and linearity we’re trying to achieve. Forget about reliefs, elaborate handles, decorations, or last century engravings; focus on smooth, flat surfaces that capture the light.

Even more crucial than style is the choice of kitchen cabinet materials. While it’s not as much of a determining factor in modern kitchen design, it will impact the cost of your kitchen renovation as well as the amount of regular maintenance needed. While it may be tempting to opt for synthetic materials like melamine, laminate, or polymer, keep in mind that their pricier counterparts (wood, stainless steel, etc.) are more resistant, durable, and eco-friendly. That said, it ultimately comes down to your needs. If you want something on trend, go for thin, matte surfaces.

3. Consider a multipurpose island for a modern kitchen

Kitchen islands are a must-have in modern design. Not only do they give you the option to open the kitchen up to the living or dining room, but they also make your kitchen feel less cramped. From permanent fixtures to tables on wheels that you can stash when not in use, islands are incredibly versatile and can easily be adapted to your needs. 

Depending on your kitchen’s original layout and how you use it, it could house your baking sheets, your oven, and your sink, or be a convenient work surface. Add a few shelves on the side and some stools and you gain extra storage plus an additional gathering space! Whether you go with something removable or permanent, an island fits perfectly into modern kitchen design due to its adaptable materials and multiple layout possibilities.


4. Choose neutral but enveloping tones

Classic modern kitchen design uses monochromatic colour palettes as much as possible. Avoid using lots of different colours and instead opt for neutrals in large areas. For a bit of contrast, add light touches of more saturated colours on backsplashes, cupboards, or decorative items. 

To create that perfect modern kitchen style you’re going for, most surfaces should be in colours reminiscent of natural materials (e.g., wood, stone, charcoal). White will also help – it adds a lot of brightness to a space and can be paired with chrome or metallic finishes. When all of the colours go well together, it creates a bright and sophisticated look!

5. Add modern kitchen accessories with purpose

Modern kitchen design focuses on the details. Lately we’ve seen a shift towards sleek, delicate accessories, such as cabinet handles and brass faucets. As we ditch the unnecessary in favour of clean lines and simple surfaces, this lack of visual clutter is important. It helps the eye focus.

Small appliances also have a role to play in the aesthetic. If you go with a minimalist design, they’ll complement the overall kitchen style. On the other hand, if you go with a more industrial and unfinished look, they’ll add some cachet to your space.

Of course, no modern kitchen would be complete without updated features. The kitchens of tomorrow combine form and function, meaning that even everyday accessories are durable and serve more than one purpose. Sinks expand to make room for a colander or cutting board, hidden compost bins cut down on landfill waste… Take it one step further and you can have a smart kitchen with the latest tech. Lighting, appliances, and even garbage cans can be controlled by your phone!

6. Add enough light in the kitchen design

Lighting is another integral part of any successful home design, even more so when it comes to the kitchen. There’s nothing more depressing than cooking in a bleak atmosphere, especially if you have to squint while chopping vegetables. 

Modern lighting styles emphasize clarity, geometric shapes, and elegance. The goal is to imitate natural light to make the space brighter and warmer. A good place to start is architectural lighting, which accentuates features like arches, beams, and staircases. For example, you could install LEDs on your kitchen island to create shadows or add them to existing chandeliers to enhance your lighting.

For a modern and sophisticated kitchen, choose ceiling lighting options that showcase circles, squares, and rectangles. Curves are also in, so don’t shy away from pendant lights with arched designs. Be sure to pick the same style of lighting throughout your home to create subtle flow and continuity. Let geometric shapes lead you effortlessly from room to room and let the eye hover on small details like a table lamp with the same aesthetic.

7. Pick the right furniture

Once you’ve decided on the layout and colour palette, it’s time to pick out furniture that suits your modern kitchen design. Basically, you’re looking for pieces that match the selected style. For I- or L-shaped kitchens, avoid overcrowding the space with bulky furniture. Got a U-shaped kitchen with an island? Grab a few metal bar stools or a bench for some stylish seating.

No matter the style, you’re aiming for simplicity. Go for warm, natural, or neutral hues and angular furniture with lots of horizontal lines to lead the eye. If you have a dining room that opens into the kitchen, choose a hardwood table and chair set and pair it with a geometric light. This will create balance and flow between the spaces.

8. Highlight existing architectural details

Modernity doesn’t always equal cold and new. If your home has some unique architectural features, keep them whenever possible! A solid wood beam or original parquet floors will fit quite well into a modern design and add cachet to your kitchen. Picture the contrast between modern cabinetry, stone or marble countertops, and beautiful woodwork on the floor or ceiling. One of the benefits of modern design, updating the look of today, is that you can combine materials and styles from other eras to create an authentic vintage look. Use a few modern or vintage mirrors to reflect (literally) architectural elements and diffuse light to enhance them even more.

9. Get inspired by other styles for a one-of-a-kind kitchen

Even though there’s a clear difference between modern and contemporary styles, it’s important to note how they can be combined. Contemporary kitchen design can easily blend modern and rustic, maximalist and minimalist, and even industrial and chic. Adding retro elements or vintage décor to a refined design will give your kitchen its own unique character.

Play with proportions to highlight original elements in the contemporary space or breathe new life into vintage furniture by adding pops of colour. Mixing materials is trendy right now: wood blends with marble or sandstone, brick with slate, and ceramic with metal. The golden rule to follow when mixing styles is to simply pick a dominant style and guideline. In this way, you ensure that the second style is introduced as an accent and blends in effortlessly with the rest. Basically, have some fun with it!

10. Customize your modern kitchen design

Lastly, the most important aspect of modern kitchen design is to infuse your personality into the space. You could have a kitchen right out of a magazine, but chances are you won’t be comfortable in it if it doesn’t suit you. Vacation souvenirs, prints by your favourite artist, and photos of you and the kids will all help to customize your kitchen in your image. You could also add splashes of your go-to colours or an original kitchen backsplash. And why not include local artisanal wares like embroidered tea towels, handmade rugs, or even unique decorative items? Go for it! After all, you’ll likely spend most of your waking hours in the kitchen.

What does a kitchen renovation cost?

Style choices don’t factor much in kitchen renovation cost. It varies mainly depending on materials selected and room size. Getting ready for a major renovation requires developing a solid budget, shopping for materials ahead of time, and choosing the right kitchen contractor. You can also rely on our complete guide to kitchen remodelling to learn all the hidden details involved in a kitchen renovation! Then read up on mistakes to avoid during your project to prevent unexpected costs from running up your final bill.

It’s cheaper if you don’t make any mistakes along the way.

Examples of modern kitchens renovated by our contractors – with price included

Find inspiration for your new contemporary kitchen by browsing through real renovation projects completed by our contractors. You will also find the cost of each project clearly displayed. The slideshow above offers you an overview of past projects. Take a look at the rest of our projects in every category and discover even more kitchen ideas in a variety of styles among a selection of more than 50 renovated kitchens. Who knows, you may decide to mix and match styles!

A dream kitchen at your fingertips

So, have you fallen in love with modern kitchen design yet? The ideas introduced here are just an overview of the many possibilities this style has to offer and can easily be adapted to trends, eras, or personal preferences. Contact one of our expert Renovation Advisors now for more information and to create your flawless modern kitchen. They will recommend a kitchen contractor vetted through our 53-point verification process. Thanks to our expertise, all of your kitchen renovation projects are just a click away from becoming reality!

Paola Ouédraogo is a doctoral student in literature at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her work has been published in several scientific journals, such as FéminÉtudes and Postures, as well as the contemporary art magazine Esse arts + opinion. Passionate about art, literature, and design, she is curious to learn and develop new skills. This is why she also collaborates with RénoAssistance to analyze renovation trends.