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.
There is more focus on creating mood and recognition of the time we spend here 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.
See more: Kitchen ideas – decor ideas for open-plan, galley, U-shaped and L-shaped kitchens
What should a modern kitchen look like?
Not entirely like a kitchen. 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, creating 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.
See more: Kitchen extension ideas – clever ways to stretch your space
2. 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 your pantry looks this good, you might not be so keen to hide it away.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 is still one of the most efficient layouts – all the more so if you take storage the full height of the room.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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 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.
16. 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.
What kitchen styles are on trend in 2021?
Kitchen trends 2021 are very much led by the need for our kitchens 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-coloured 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 are popular kitchen colors for 2021?
The sombre mood of 2020/21 has channeled a feel for nature with a lovely slew of olive greens, emeralds and shades of mint. Pink makes a happy companion and in stronger shades than you might first consider. The greys that have dominated for so long have blossomed into blues and very dark natural finishes. You can park the ‘battleship’ – a considered color feels that bit more homely.
What’s the latest technology in appliances?
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.