By Amy Cutmore
Welcome to the world of contemporary kitchen design. Our modern kitchen ideas move beyond the pared-back boxy styles of old to explore the exciting range of materials and finishes now available for cabinetry, floors and walls.
Newer kitchen ideas focus on creating mood and recognise the time we spend in the space - so versatility, comfort, lighting and entertainment have become super important.
The old cliché of ‘hub of the home’ is truer than ever – all life happens here so even dedicated work stations are finding their way into modern kitchen layouts. Appliances are quieter while new technology is super-connected so dinner can take almost take care of itself.
And because we don’t want to spend all day looking at the nuts and bolts of our kitchen, modern solutions hide it all away behind tall cupboard doors, using clever storage systems to make the most of the full height of space.
Last year taught us a lot about how to live together at home so expect to see 2021 trends in kitchen design responding to easy-clean surfaces, more storage – go ahead and prioritise that walk-in pantry – and hydroponics that will bring the herb and salad garden indoors.
What should a modern kitchen look like?
A kitchen has to function well and a good designer will make that happen but, if you’re going to spend time here, surround yourself with things you love.
Night owls might like to immerse themselves in a rich dark scheme with plenty of texture and flexible lighting that creates mood.
If your kitchen is the family hub and office, create a series of zones and add whisper-quiet appliances and bright functional finishes with a hint of color to keep the energy flowing.
Modern kitchen ideas
From the most advanced of appliances to cutting edge cabinetry, we bring you the best modern kitchens ideas for design inspiration.
1. Extend a welcome
The kitchen extension is by far the most popular home improvement project and it’s no surprise. If we want to entertain in style and comfort, space is key.
Consider your needs for all scenarios from dinner with friends to lazy Sunday mornings and family multi-tasking throughout the week.
Our kitchen extension ideas offer all sorts of clever ways to stretch your space.
2. Go wild for tiles
Vibrant kitchen backsplash ideas and colorful tiles, in general, have become increasingly popular over the past few years. They are a great way of incorporating color into a kitchen, if you prefer keep core paint colors more neutral.
3. Merge old with new
If you're lucky enough to have original features like wooden beams, exposed brick or fireplaces, there's every reason to incorporate them into your modern kitchen. The mix of old and new adds interest to the room and gives your home its own unique twist.
4. Play hide and seek
The pantry and utility have long hit the top of the wish list for a country kitchen and it’s turned out to be a modern dream too.
It’s a practical set up for a sleek kitchen designed for entertaining as it keeps the service areas out of sight. But, when you have pantry ideas this good, you might not be so keen to hide them away.
5. Light it right
A well-designed lighting scheme will take your kitchen from day to night, providing different light levels in different areas to suit all tasks. You will need bright light where you cook and prep and softer ambient light over seating areas.
Consider how the light fittings look lit and unlit – whether you prefer a statement piece or something more discreet that is happy to blend during the day, coming into its own after hours.
Love the above style? See more of our L-shaped kitchen ideas.
6. Make it easy on the eye
Be playful in the design and detailing – it’s more restful for the eye. Flat-fronted doors don’t have to be uniform. Mix and match colors and tones, and break the gridlock with unusual insets.
Like what you see? Check out our kitchen cabinet ideas for the materials, styles, colors and trends to know.
7. Work around a table
A central kitchen table puts guests at the heart of your kitchen design. It’s a long-established layout that goes back to the farmhouse table, but you do need sufficient space.
Plan for good clearance all round and make sure there are clear pathways to any built-in appliances.
8. Have multiple seating areas
Where space allows, include a couple of different seating areas. Bar-stool seating is fine for breakfast or pre-dinner drinks with guests but it’s good to have a standard height table for meals and homework.
Built-in banquette seating can be space-efficient, allowing more people able to pile in at convivial gatherings – in this case it shares a beautiful backdrop from the relaxed lived space beyond.
9. Love your separates
The open plan layout isn’t for all cooks and not all homes have the space.
There are advantages to having a separate kitchen: you can cook in peace and make as much mess as you please, plus the double galley kitchen layout is still one of the most efficient – all the more so if you take storage the full height of the room.
10. Put value in surfaces
The smooth surfaces of the contemporary kitchen are easy to care for and a cinch to keep clean. Composite surfaces are super tough and naturally anti-bacterial which is a bonus and the are available in a wide range of colors as well as natural stone finishes.
Silestone and Dekton both report a trend for slimline 20mm worksurfaces. ‘Looking ahead, we’re expecting to see more earthy hues being used in the kitchen, with the introduction of dark brown or black surfaces in a textured finish,’ says Laura Davie, Marketing Manager for Cosentino UK.
The new Khalo by Dekton is inspired by Patagonia Granite – one of the world’s most sought-after stones due to its unique pattern and tones.
11. Go green
More than ever we are looking to connect with nature with more glass for garden views and calming shades of green for cabinetry is one of the growing trends.
Planting indoors is also possible where there is light – even if it is just a sunny windowsill. Planters filled with herbs provide a cook with the freshest flavours at his or her fingertips while hydroponics promise to be the future for indoor leaves.
There's plenty more gorgeous greenery with our green kitchen ideas.
12. Go dark
Dark shades and natural stone create a grown up kitchen with a luxe feel. The sheen of polished stone tends to reflect light so there will still be a natural play of light across the surface.
It looks smart by day and recedes by night, only coming to prominence when you choose to light it.
Our modern kitchen lighting ideas offer more ways to incorporate such contemporary fittings.
13. Clear the air
If the idea of island cooking appeals, choose a hob with built in down-draft extraction that tackles steam and cooking odours at source, before they can waft into the kitchen. The latest smart technology automatically responds to the volume of steam and this induction hob from Bosch also features flexible cooking zones and a PerfectCook sensor that precisely controls the temperature of liquids inside the pan for perfect results.
14. Connect your cooker
The latest Vivosceen Max ovens from Smeg have a super-sized screen to help view and select its automatic cooking functions. With more than 100 customisable recipes to choose from and the facility to store 64 of your own, it takes the hassle out of dinner. Connectivity to the SmegConnect smart App means you can start cooking before you get home too.
15. Embrace cafe culture
Whether it’s your get up and go or last course in entertaining, coffee has become a kitchen essential. ‘Coffee is now the most popular drink in the UK,’ says Neil Pooley, Category Manager for Kitchens at Miele, ‘and a built-in coffee machine can be a stylish addition to a bank of integrated appliances.’
Look for professional features such as programmable profiles and a full range of hot drink capabilities.
If you love this kitchen's minimalist, clutter-free aesthetic then be sure to check out our kitchen storage ideas.
16. Lower the volume
If the kitchen has become a home study area or is doubling up as an office, whisper quiet appliances are a must. ‘Check decibel levels before you buy to ensure you won’t need to talk over the noise of the extractor, and hide the washing machine and dishwasher out of sight in a utility area,’ suggests Daniel Bowler, Director of Eggersmann UK.
If you're a fan of the sleek, streamline design of the above kitchen, check out our kitchen cabinet ideas.
17. Celebrate cocktail hour
The joy of a bespoke kitchen is that your design will make the most of the space and truly reflect your lifestyle.
A kitchen bar area is a wonderful addition for entertainers. Line it with a luxe material for some old school glamor and add a wine fridge and chiller drawers for ice, beer and soft drinks to make it an all-round party station.
18. Tap into trends
Longevity is an important trend across home and fashion, and investing in quality cuts down on waste.
Perrin & Rowe has looked to the industrial past for its Armstrong Mixer tap. It employs the same production skills used to build locomotives for the Great Western Railway and is available as a single lever or bridge mixer in a choice of eight finishes, optional pulldown rinse and the choice of a knurled grip handle for an industrial look.
19. Incorporate a breakfast bar
Breakfast bars are a brilliant use of space, offering seating without the need for a clunky dining room table. Many kitchens are now designed so their islands incorporate a breakfast bar, either with an overhanging lip or with space for stools to be added.
Our breakfast bar ideas can help you plan a feature guests will be drawn to.
20. Create contrast with a kitchen island
If you want to inject a bit of color into your kitchen without going for anything too bold, why not make a statement with a standout island?
A trend that's cropping up more and more is having the kitchen island a different color to the rest of the room - which is perfect if you want it to be the social hub of the space.
This one uses a black island to contrast with the white cabinets and walls - but our modern kitchen island ideas can help with more inspiration.
21. Mix up materials
If you've got a stainless steel kitchen surface then mix things up with some wooden bar stools and use a different type of wood for the table, like in this contemporary kitchen.
Mix and matching materials will give texture to the space and bring it to life.
22. Embrace your space
If you have the floor space, why not opt for a full-on open plan design, creating a three-in-one space with a kitchen, dining room and a lounge. This is the ultimate set-up for entertaining, after all, and works well for larger families.
Our open plan kitchen ideas has plenty for you to get stuck into.
23. Make a statement by mismatching
A kitchen is likely to be the room in the house that you're spending most of your time in, so there's every reason to go all out with the decoration.
When it comes to kitchen color ideas, why not go for an unconventional scheme such as blue and pink, or something even brighter like a turquoise?
Don't forget to play with tiles, as well as wallpaper and paint mural options, to really make the room pop.
24. Get creative with windows
Whether it's with an impressive skylight or floor to ceiling double doors, there are so many ways to bring a little more light into your kitchen.
And, remember, a lighter space is a brighter space - so this clever design trick will make a room look bigger to the eye.
If you're a fan of this style, be sure to see our other galley kitchen ideas.
25. Play with industrial accents
An industrial edge is fast-becoming the hallmark of a modern kitchen, as it's a trend that's been evolving over the past few years.
Whether it's through cabinet handles, light fittings or a portable trolley-style island, there are a number of ways to incorporate these urban touches.
Also there's no reason you can't have color alongside these industrial flourishes, the above kitchen is a great example of how playful pops of color work well with an industrial style light fitting and tap.
What kitchen styles are on trend in 2021?
If you're wondering what 2021's kitchen trends are, they are very much led by the need for the spaces to feel warm, welcoming and above all practical.
Wood is back and is classically rich and elegant – think walnut paired with metal, texture or boldly-veined stone and hints of leather with the feel of an Art Deco bar or sumptuous home library.
In the brighter spectrum, we are seeing pared-back simplicity in plywood with candy-colored doors. It’s a playful look with cubby hole storage that is functional but treads the style-line well to feel more Scandi than schoolhouse.
Open storage and glass doors are here to stay so prepare to tidy and to curate display.
What should a modern kitchen have?
Now down to the functional requirements. What should a modern kitchen have? At the minimum, it should contain the following things:
1. A pantry – this is a must-have for modern kitchens, where wall-to-wall cabinetry is less important than a streamlined look where the majority of the storage is hidden away.
2. Space for dining – while many of us have opted for open-plan living over the past few years, the pandemic made us rethink kitchen layouts, meaning that modern kitchens are often part of a broken-plan layout or separated entirely from living spaces. That means dining space is important in a modern kitchen, whether at a roomy kitchen island, with banquette seating around a generous table or at a breakfast bar.
3. State of the art appliances – two ovens, a combi microwave/convection oven, a gas or induction hob (depending on preference) and a fridge freezer built for modern living. Dishwashers in drawers with the quietest of running cycles. Smart appliances? See more on those below.
4. A double sink and a draining board notched into the kitchen worksurface material – or a ceramic or Corian-moulded sink and draining board in one.
5. A kitchen island – these are perfect for sociable cooking, for snacking, and for children to work at while adults cook. If you have the space, plan one in.
6. The best backsplashes – think natural materials or incredibly durable, good-looking composites that can mimic the look of natural materials but that are just about maintenance-free.
7. A well-planned kitchen lighting scheme – with separate circuits to control under-cabinet lighting, lighting over the island and worksurfaces, and the lighting over the dining area. Controllability is all.
- Working with limited space? Be sure to check out our small kitchen ideas
What’s the latest technology in appliances?
If you're unsure about the latest technology in appliances, the thing to remember is that it's all about connectivity.
Smart appliances have been sitting on the horizon for some time, focusing on great results for all cooking abilities. Ovens with pre-programmed cooking functions ensure success and most allow you to add your own recipes too. Look for interactive control screens and interior cameras that let you keep an eye on the cake from your smartphone.
Cooktops with integrated extraction give more flexibility on where you can place the hob, while separate extractors can also talk to compatible hobs, removing steam automatically.
Samsung’s Family Hub smart refrigerator streams music and tv and also has an interior camera so you can check the milk from the supermarket. Reducing food waste is top of the refrigeration agenda.
‘Look for appliances with an effective fan to circulate the cool air, separate fridge and freezer air circuits and give better control,’ explains Richard Treffler, Manager for Refrigeration at Miele. He also recommends models with drawers that control humidity, to help keep food fresh, reduce waste and save money – ‘at Miele we call this PerfectFresh Pro,’ he adds.
Smart technology is popular across smaller countertop gadgets from coffee machines to toasters. With these connected gadgets, you can get Alexa on to breakfast while you’re in the shower.
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