What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Kitchen Design in St. Louis?


Though people tend to use the terms interchangeably, modern and contemporary kitchen design are two very different animals.

To simplify, contemporary design is of the times. It could be anything that’s trendy during the period in which it’s built. Contemporary design changes every couple of years because it is just what’s happening right now.

Modern design, on the other hand, is a style unto itself. It doesn’t necessarily change with the times.

Features in modern kitchen design

Informed by German Bauhaus and Scandinavian aesthetics, modern design emerged from a very specific period of time in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

In a modern design approach, form and function are given equal weight. It favors straight lines and simplicity. It’s clean, sleek, and sparse. There are fewer natural textures, and most features look man-made and even futuristic. It’s characterized by a certain coldness. You will find a lot of straight lines and squared-off or geometric angles, and it’s always quite symmetrical and balanced.

The modern approach favors efficiency and maximum functionality. You might even call it utilitarian. For example, the work triangle and all necessary utilities will be optimally positioned for the greatest economy of movement.

Image by Tamsin Johnson

You won’t see too much in the way of organic material, including plants.

The hardware is minimal and, for the most part, built-in. There is little-to-no extraneous decoration. The embellishments that you will see in a modern design approach are functional and often have a dual purpose.

Monochromatic color schemes are the norm in modern design, but sometimes you will have contrasting hues of the same color or big blocks of contrasting colors.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the modern style evolved. Mid-century modern was the contemporary design approach of the day, softening the straight lines to curves while still maintaining a sleek, clean, futuristic vibe.

Features of contemporary kitchen design

Image credit: Nest

Contemporary design is not beholden to a specific time period. It is continually evolving to reflect what’s popular in the present.

Since contemporary design is “of the times,” it can have elements of modernism, minimalism, industrial, farmhouse, or traditional without putting too much focus on any one approach.

If all that seems a little ambiguous, there are a few more distinct features that are very common in contemporary design. Neutral palettes and clean lines form the backdrop. Plants and organic materials like hemp, cork, bamboo, and jute, and natural wood grain are common, albeit mixed with nickel, stainless steel, or chrome accents.

Contemporary kitchens: a fluid design approach

Traditionally-styled kitchens can be contemporary, just like Victorian or Art Deco were in their day. Art Deco is contemporary, even though it was the approach that ultimately defined the modern design aesthetic.

Currently, contemporary design borrows a lot from modern, although in these times, there is a softness to it that you won’t find in a purely modern kitchen.

We see a tendency to soften corners and lines with curves, add texture with a patterned backsplash, and create dimensional effects with LED lighting.

Natural wood is a must in today’s contemporary kitchen design. Even if the rest of the kitchen is sleek and modern, the warmth of the natural materials keeps it from being too sterile as it adds texture and depth. You’ll see a lot of wood accents on floors, hoods, and floating shelves these days as people seem to be craving warmth.

This doesn’t mean, however, that a kitchen with wood accents can’t be modern. Hardwood flooring or a wood-grain island can still be quite minimal. If the wood grain is straight, you’ll get a little bit of texture out of it without it taking away from the modern sleekness.

Contemporary farmhouse kitchen design

On the other side of the coin, farmhouse style is very contemporary these days. What differentiates it from your grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen, however, is that it often integrates some of today’s coolest features. High-tech appliances, an island, or eco-friendly quartz countertops would not have been available a few decades ago.

Traditional but still contemporary

Some of today’s contemporary kitchen designs are more traditionally styled. You’ll see textural features like raised-panel cabinetry, arches, crown molding, and more ornate details. You will also see plenty of natural stone countertops, built-in freezer drawers, wine fridges, and stainless steel appliances.

Via: The Kitchen Designer

Essentially, no matter what your style leanings might be, contemporary design allows you to have it all.

What’s your kitchen style? If you are thinking about remodeling your St. Louis kitchen, we would love to help. Reach out today to learn more.

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