Modern vs. Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between a modern kitchen and contemporary kitchen cabinets?

Modern vs. contemporary causes constant critical dialogue in the fields of fine arts and design. In the vernacular of everyday language, we tend to associate both words with the present tense, but in terms of fine arts and design distinctions, it's better to think of modern in terms of the past and contemporary in terms of the present. When it comes to kitchens, many people wonder, “What’s the difference between modern vs. contemporary kitchens?

Contemporary design reflects trends that are popular right now and showcases avant-garde and emerging talents and themes. It’s important to note that contemporary design can feature trends that are also popular in the modern design viewpoint, so it is possible to have two kitchens—one modern and one contemporary—that actually have similar design features. However, because of the trending nature of contemporary design, your contemporary kitchen might look very different from a classically modern kitchen.

Characteristics of Modern Kitchen Design

Modern art concerns itself with representing eras, often separated by decades, and is associated with the historical period from the 1960s to the past decade. Modern furniture design reflects the early 1900s to the 1950s. Modern kitchen design is all about simple, unadorned elegance. Natural touches feature throughout, like living plants and textiles inspired by nature. Unadorned windows that let natural light into a clutter-free, open-concept area is a modern design theme. No unnecessary frills or ornamentation. Modern kitchen design is highly functional and practical and demonstrates respect for clean lines and organization.


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Characteristics of Contemporary Kitchen Design

Contemporary kitchen design is characterized by fluidity, changeability, and all that is new and emerging. Contemporary designs are eclectic by nature in the sense that they celebrate trends that are happening in the now—new designs, lesser-known designers, and even fads are part of the celebration of the “new” that delineates contemporary vs. modern design.

Contemporary design is hard to put into a box because it is living. It’s constantly changing and adapting to popular design choices. Today’s contemporary kitchen might find appliances built into cabinets, but in 30 years a contemporary kitchen could celebrate appliances as a visual centerpiece. While we have you, are you interested in learning more about how Mod Cabinetry can help you with your modern or contemporary look? "10 Modern Kitchen Design Ideas People Love" will give you some ideas to get started.


Modern Kitchens

Kitchens decorated in modern design share similar aesthetics, even though many people include personal touches to make their modern kitchens feel truly their own. Modern kitchens tend to share some of the following features:

  • Sleek, sharp lines to produce prominent forms
  • Industrial accents
  • Muted colors
  • Modern appliances
  • Modern countertops
  • Recessed lighting
  • Minimalist accessories

In modern kitchens, you’ll see a respect for the negative space—the space that could host an extra chair or a few standing guests. The modern kitchen is an environment designed to make it easier for activities to take place and for people to gather comfortably and by design. Get ideas and inspiration on how to style your modern kitchen on our article, "Modern Kitchen Ideas" in The Modernist

Contemporary Kitchens

Contemporary kitchens do not necessarily share a set of features. What they share is the spirit of adventure and the celebration of all things new, trending, and emerging in kitchen design. You might see a bolder pop of color in a contemporary kitchen, a color that is trending, of course. Contemporary design is eclectic and combines features to create a sense of newness and cutting-edge energy.  A trend on frameless cabinets can be seen in the contemporary kitchen, allowing for a slightly less formal look and feel - "Flat Panel Kitchen Cabinets - The Best of Modern Style" will give you a good insight into this. Overall, smooth, sleek, and chic are still the goals, and minimalist accessories are still the go-to in the contemporary kitchen.

The Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Trend

To appreciate the popularity of the mid-century modern kitchen design, one must take a moment to imagine the post-war, 1950s vibe of renewed faith in domestic security. Luxury items were available again, and minds and hearts were turned from a focus on survival to a focus on the comforts of home.

The mid-century modern kitchen offers some of the following features:

  • Graphic patterns
  • Use of color, including bold features
  • Simple design
  • Use of wood and wood tones
  • Organic and geometric shapes
  • Opposing materials and textures
  • Natural elements such as plants, fruit bowls, etc.
  • Large continuous countertop and/or kitchen islands

The overall effect of the mid-century modern style is to give a sense of optimism in the kitchen and create a style that can be coordinated to match the style of any other room easily. It offers an emotional reward, but it is also a highly practical kitchen that respects multipurpose furniture and makes great use of space. While we have you, are you interested in learning more about how Mod Cabinetry can help you with your modern or contemporary look? Check out our article, "Gray Kitchen Cabinets: The New Style". Gray will go well with most kitchen designs whether you ’re going for modern or contemporary.

Browse Mod Cabinetry

Looking for specialized design assistance and the best in modern cabinetry for your dream home? Mod Cabinetry has experts in high-end modern design to help you design the layout using state-of-the-art rendering and panoramic software, which helps give you a realistic perspective of how your kitchen will look and pricing!


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Discover the wide variety of cabinet options at Mod Cabinetry.


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