There comes a time when every kitchen needs an upgrade – but when it arrives, why should you choose a modern kitchen design? After all, some people prefer a traditional kitchen style over stark and sleek, thinking ‘modern’ means your kitchen will look like something from a sci-fi movie.

This isn’t always the case, though. Modern design is much more than minimalism and shades of white and grey. There are many ways to create a modern look without ripping everything out and installing characterless new cupboards, and that’s what we’ll be exploring throughout this blog.

So, how do you take an outdated kitchen and bring it into the present day? As experts in kitchen makeovers, we’ve assembled everything you should know about modern kitchen design below.

What is modern kitchen design?

Traditional kitchen design is known for carved woodwork and industrial fittings, but modern design foregoes any fuss to offer a simpler alternative. Dating back to World War I, modern kitchen designs feature flat surfaces and geometric forms, aiming for minimal aesthetics and effective ergonomics. Common characteristics you’ll find in modern kitchen design include:

  • Straight lines and smooth surfaces
  • Optimal usage of storage space
  • Avoidance of visual obstacles and clutter
  • Emphasis on finishes and materials
  • Even distribution of kitchen units
  • Simple hardware and minimal ornamentation
  • Monochromatic colour schemes
  • Maximising space and natural light
  • Accent pieces and accessories
  • Balancing utility and refined elegance

Many people might assume that traditional kitchens are more suitable for period homes, while modern kitchens are only suitable for newer homes. This isn’t the case at all – though it can be difficult to incorporate modern kitchens into older homes without disrupting the continuity of their interior design, it’s not impossible. With the right approach, they’ll look good in any property type.

What’s the difference between modern kitchen design and contemporary kitchen design?

Though these terms are used interchangeably most of the time, they don’t actually mean the same thing. You might think that modern means futuristic, but ‘modern design’ is actually a historical movement from the mid-20th century – which is why it’s sometimes called ‘mid-century modern’.

While today we think of periods like the 1950s as retro, the mid-century modern design movement embraced the clean lines and pared-down simplicity that we still consider fresh and trendy in the 21st century. Modern kitchens are streamlined and uncluttered spaces with mostly plain décor.

Contemporary design, on the other hand, refers to what’s currently happening in the kitchen design world at the present moment. Rather than a specific movement with a definitive style, it changes with fluctuating fashion trends, drawing upon a variety of styles from different eras.

There’s certainly some overlap between modern and contemporary design, which is partly why the lines between the two are often blurred. Since minimalist living has been popular in recent years, elements of modern design can be found in most contemporary kitchens. However, contemporary design can include elements of traditional design movements, too, combining many styles at once.

white modern kitchen design

White modern kitchen design with handleless units and open shelves.

What are the benefits of modern kitchen design?

Of course, before you commit to a modern kitchen makeover, you might be wondering what the advantages would be. Here’s a quick rundown on why this type of kitchen is endlessly popular:

CUSTOMISATION – Remodelling a modern kitchen allows you to tailor the layout and look to suit your lifestyle needs. Even when working with a tight budget, you can create a bespoke design.

FUNCTIONALITY – From smart storage to integrated appliances, modern kitchens are far more practical for daily life than those of the past, utilising every inch of space to make tasks easier.

TECHNOLOGY – Kitchen appliances have come a long way since the middle of the 20th century, with cutting-edge appliances and fixtures available, which have advanced digital features built in.

EFFICIENCY – Thanks to the functional design and developing technologies, every process that happens in a modern kitchen is finely tuned to promote cost-effective work and minimise waste.

RESALE VALUE – Should you decide to sell your property in the future, a recently fitted modern kitchen is sure to appeal to potential buyers; not everyone is looking to invest in a fixer-upper!

Modern kitchens offer a longevity that’s hard to come by these days. To put it simply, modern kitchens are clean and tidy spaces that are unlikely to go out of style, promising long-term value.

modern kitchen wood

Modern kitchen design with natural wood elements and accent lighting.

How to achieve a modern kitchen style

A modern kitchen should be a pragmatic space that’s not only convenient but also comfortable to use. You don’t have to stick to shiny white and cold stainless steel if it doesn’t appeal to you. A great kitchen should meet your individual needs whilst fitting in with your overall property style.

Everyone’s needs are different, so you should put your own preferences first when you choose a modern kitchen design for your home. That said, there are several principles you should follow if you want to create a productive and visually pleasing kitchen – so here are 7 ways to achieve this.

1) Neutral shades and accent colours

It might sound boring at first, but neutral shades are key for modern kitchens. From the flooring to the paint on the walls and the finish of your cabinets, you should be creating a smooth blank slate. This will make any accent features truly pop, whether it’s an appliance, backsplash, or furniture.

The typical mental image of a modern kitchen tends to be gleaming white units as far as the eye can see, but that’s only one of many possible design choices. Another popular choice is to contrast black and white elements in a monochrome kitchen – or you can soften it with greys and creams.

When it comes to the countertops, natural wood always looks beautiful against white cupboards, while a pale marble or granite effect worktop would really stand out against dark cabinets. The statement features you choose should be subtle and sophisticated, and not too visually distracting.

However, if you feel that this route is playing it too safe and would prefer something more daring, you could choose one bold colour to pair with a neutral one in a balanced monochrome design. As long as the overall palette and colour distribution is consistent, the room shouldn’t look too busy.

For those sticking to the muted colour scheme for the majority of the kitchen, you can still establish splashes of brighter colour through appliances, furnishings, accessories, or artwork on the walls.

2) Hidden storage solutions

To maintain the uncluttered lines of a modern kitchen, you’ll need to optimise your storage. You should already be making effective use of every shelf and drawer, with inserts to keep everything organised. Aside from necessary appliances, your equipment should be out of sight, not crowding every flat surface. This helps to make the room feel more spacious and creates a calm atmosphere.

On top of your standard kitchen units, you should try to make innovative choices when it comes to storage. A star feature of forward-thinking modern kitchens is pull-out storage mechanisms. These allow you to hide your kitchen items while still being able to access them easily, whether it’s spices in a slide-out larder, pots and pans on a swing-out shelf, or crockery on a corner carousel.

Though it may seem antithetical to the idea of an immaculate modern kitchen, open shelving is an alternative option. Rather than tucking things away where you can forget about them, select your favourite bits and pieces and arrange them artfully to form a curated display. Cookbooks, mugs, decorative china or earthenware, glass jars of pasta or coffee, vases or planters – the list goes on.

Similarly, you can make use of vertical space by hanging items from S-hooks on pegboards, racks, or rails. While your utensils and/or pots and pans will be on display this way, they’ll be within easy reach of the cooker, freeing up some space in your drawers and cupboards for other equipment. Another option is a magnetic knife rack on the wall, rather than a knife block out on the counter.

modern kitchen lighting

Modern kitchen design with contrasting colours and statement lighting.

3) Smart multi-purpose appliances

A modern kitchen isn’t complete without up-to-date appliances. Digitalisation across all areas of life has made day-to-day activities easier than ever, with convenient features that can do most of the work for you. For example, a smart fridge can monitor its contents and let you know when food is past its use-by date or you need to order more groceries, helping you to cut down on food waste.

Most smart appliances can connect to a smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allowing you to control them remotely through an app. Imagine being able to start and stop the dishwasher from another room, or boil the kettle and preheat the oven just in time for you to get home from work?

Even when you don’t control them directly, smart appliances often have energy-efficient systems and safety settings that allow them to switch themselves off when they’re not being used. Most also allow you to programme activities on a timer, ideal for fast-paced and busy modern lives.

While things like this help to streamline the functionality of the kitchen, the appearance of the appliances matters, too. Modern appliances tend to come in stainless steel or aluminium models, with painted or coated colours available – though the standard versions are simply black and white.

It’s best to choose appliances that are as understated as possible, such as a neat induction hob rather than a prominent gas hob. You can also choose to hide appliances behind specially fitted doors, or use them as a statement feature by choosing an bold colour or style. If you take the latter route, remember that you’ll still need to co-ordinate your appliances with the rest of the kitchen.

4) Clean lines and smooth surfaces

Thanks to the advanced technology of soft-closing drawers and soft-closing door hinges, the latest version of a modern kitchen doesn’t need handles at all. One such type of handleless kitchen uses hidden J-shaped grooves instead of handles, ensuring uniformly flat frontages. If you do have handles, be sure to choose minimalist modern handles that won’t protrude too much.

To sustain the seamless look of modern kitchen units, you should opt for integrated appliances. Bulky appliances sticking out disrupts the visual flow of the room, when they should sit flush with your cabinetry. In addition to matching panels and plinths, you can also buy appliance doors in the same finish as your kitchen cabinet doors, disguising them completely in a smooth run of units.

To keep this theme going, why not disguise electrical outlets? Instead of allowing visible sockets to disrupt your design when nothing is plugged in, incorporate pop-up power points wherever you need them. Pop-up sockets can be set into the worktop either vertically or horizontally, so you can pull them out when you’re actually using them and hide them again when you’re done. Another option is to set your outlets into the wall and cover them with a barely noticeable hinged flap.

5) Mixed industrial materials

Traditional kitchens are normally made from natural or painted wood. Modern kitchens reflect the changing times by incorporating more industrial and human-made materials. Metals like stainless steel are a firm favourite, as are concrete and polished stone. Synthetic veneers and laminates can replicate the appearance of a range of finishes at a fraction of the cost of the original materials.

For example, if you wanted to include warm tones of wood in your kitchen, solid wood can get expensive. Modern alternatives like MDF (medium density fibreboard) and MFC (melamine faced chipboard) enable homeowners at all budget levels to achieve an upmarket look without sacrificing durability. We offer lots of complete units and replacement doors like this at Kitchen Warehouse.

When it comes to engineered materials, acrylic gloss kitchens and lacquered high gloss kitchens are among the most popular choices for affordable modern kitchens. This is because reflective surfaces are better at bouncing light around the room. This can make even small kitchens feel big and bright. Metallic and mirror finishes won’t appeal to everyone, but they aren’t the only options.

Handleless matt kitchen units make for a softer version of a stereotypical modern kitchen, as do matt textured units, which give more depth to otherwise plain slab doors with imitation stone or wood-effect surfaces. You could even bridge the gap between traditional and modern with a handleless painted wood kitchen or simplified Shaker painted kitchen in a contemporary colour.

modern kitchen natural light

Monochrome modern kitchen design with natural wood accents.

6) Natural and feature lighting

The reason that modern kitchens tend to feature pale tones and reflective finishes is to make the most of the room’s lighting. A functional and beautiful kitchen shouldn’t be a dark, dingy, and disorganised room. It should be bright and clean with a refreshingly open and airy atmosphere.

To achieve this, a modern kitchen should enhance natural light levels as much as possible. This could be through the kitchen windows or French doors to the garden. Modern kitchen design also works well with open-plan layouts, because the light can spread through the entire living space.

Of course, every kitchen also needs sufficient artificial lighting for when the sun goes down. Don’t think you have to go with basic LED strip lights on the ceiling to stay within the modern theme. This kind of harsh lighting doesn’t work very well for glossy kitchens, in any case. The best thing to do, regardless of your modern kitchen finish, is to try out task lighting and feature lighting.

Task lighting could be spotlights or downlights above a food preparation or cooking area, creating functional working zones. Also known as accent lighting, feature lighting helps to highlight focal points around the kitchen. For example, open shelves, a patterned splashback, or a dining area.

In addition to practical lighting that lets you cook and clean safely, a modern kitchen should also have ambient lighting. Sometimes known as mood lighting, this softer type creates a comfortable ambience in the room. Examples include under-cabinet lighting, plinth lights, and dimmer switches.

Last but not least is accent lighting, which turns the light fixture into a decorative feature in itself. Many contemporary light fixtures look like works of modern art, bringing further sophistication to your kitchen. A popular accent lighting choice is to hang an odd number of pendant lights. Whether it’s over a kitchen island or above a dining table, it can become a conversation-starting showpiece.

7) Open-plan kitchen layout

We touched upon the topic earlier, but open-plan kitchens are a staple of many modern homes. These floorplans divide one whole living space into separate zones. One half is typically a kitchen and dining area, with a lounge area in the other. These multifunctional spaces are more sociable. They allow multiple people to cook, dine, and relax at once while enjoying each other’s company.

Open-plan homes tend to use furniture placement to subtly divide the zones. For modern kitchens, this usually means separating the kitchen from the main living area with an island or breakfast bar. This should ideally have some form of seating for casual dining. You can chat while you prepare and eat food, or watch TV from across the room as you cook. Multi-tasking has never been easier!

The issue with open-plan kitchens is that they need to be in careful proportion to the rest of the living space – both in scale and style. The design, colour scheme, size, and layout can make or break the practicality and attractiveness of an open-plan modern kitchen. You must ensure that there is a visual balance throughout, especially if you opt for open shelving to display décor.

reasons to choose modern kitchen design

Colourful modern kitchen design with open shelving.

Ready to design the modern kitchen of your dreams?

There you have it. A selection of our best advice on modern kitchen design to help you achieve the style you’ve been dreaming of. With a new modern kitchen, your home can be a more pleasant place to live, your everyday life can become more efficient, and your property value can increase.

You’ll be enjoying your luxury modern kitchen for years to come. If you ever decide to sell, it’s likely to be much easier to attract buyers with this marketing point. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment. Even if a modern kitchen fit-out isn’t on the cards financially, you can still recreate the look on a budget. All you have to do is replace the doors and drawer fronts instead of the units.

Browse the Kitchen Warehouse online store today to find the perfect modern kitchen units for your home. We also have a kitchen showroom in Yorkshire if you would prefer to view our modern kitchens in person. Got any questions about the products we stock or the information on our blog? Contact our team by calling 01765 640 000 or email us at


This blog was updated on 26/04/2022.