Friday, March 16, 2012

Kitchen Workbook: 6 Elements of a Contemporary Kitchen

Are you having trouble choosing the correct kitchen components?

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Kitchen Workbook: 6 Elements of a Contemporary Kitchen

As discussed in our story on modern kitchens, it can be hard to distinguish between modern and contemporary. "Contemporary" typically means of the moment or current, the design of right now. Contemporary kitchens can be modern as well, but they can also have elements of other styles. When I think of what makes a kitchen contemporary, it most often includes cutting-edge design and technology and use of new trends and materials.

1. Cutting-edge appliances. There's been a technology race in almost every industry since we put a man on the moon, from spaceships to cars to appliances. Engineers are looking for better performance, lighter materials, durability and advanced features. Gone are the pink ovens of the 1950s and the avocado or harvest-gold appliances of the 1970s. Now it's all about sleek, stylish and high-functioning electronics in the world of appliances: built-in coffee makers, high-performance hoods, induction cooktops and more.

Appliances aren't just getting more high function, they're getting sleeker as well.

2. Old materials used in a new way. Contemporary design is often know to push the boundaries of what we know. Sure, everyone knows concrete sidewalks and glass windows, but what about concrete or glass countertops in kitchens? New and improved products are added to the marketplace every day. From concrete to glass to solid-surface materials like quartz, which tries to achieve the look of natural stone without the maintenance concerns, there are more options for homeowners than ever before.

Concrete countertops have gone from the standard gray, beige and putty to a wide array of colors, inlays and patterns. They're also more lightweight and more durable, and have better stains than ever before. What I love about concrete is that it can be modern and really warm and earthy at the same time. It works as well in a purist modern kitchen as it does in a warm craftsman one.

3. Extensive options for backsplashes. In a pure modern kitchen you might see a full-height marble or concrete backsplash with little ornamentation, but in contemporary kitchens there's often a lot of pattern. Glass tiles are a favorite, as are mosaic, stone and ceramic. Contemporary kitchens often exude personality and let homeowners really express themselves through the use of different materials, and the backsplash is a great place to do that.

Whether you run the tile horizontally or vertically, whether you prefer rectangular, square or round, there is a tile out there for every personality.

We're seeing a lot of small rectangular mosaic tiles these days, as well as large, oversize tile like the ribbed modern ceramic shown in this kitchen.

The ceramic tiles in this kitchen are really unusual, as is the full rectangular wall they're run across. The frame created around the range top and hood makes this tile application more than just your standard backsplash.

4. Updated accents and accessories. From aluminum appliances and hidden outlets to new options in glass-front doors and under-cabinet lighting, today's contemporary kitchen takes advantage of every new gadget, convenience and product available.

Pop-up hidden outlets are a great solution for islands.

New and improved storage solutions are seen throughout most cabinet lines.

Dramatic decorative and functional lighting solutions.

5. A mix of materials, shapes and scale. One of the biggest telltale signs of a contemporary kitchen is the use of multiple, layered materials with lots of pattern and texture. Modern kitchens tend to be more restrained and lack ornamentation. Here we have various types of wood and stone, shifting planes of countertops, round lights contrasting the rectilinear elements and even some pattern in the fabric on the chairs.

The shape of the dropped ceiling and the way it plays off the shaped raised island, plus the mix of cabinet finishes and multiple countertop materials, place this space firmly in the contemporary stylebook.

This contemporary kitchen features all the shapes available: an angular roofline and windows, a curved hood and countertop, wall cabinets with shifting heights and sizes that enhance the squares and rectangles. In addition to the various shape-related elements, there are multiple layers of materials, such as natural and painted wood tones, stone tile, glass countertops and metal. This sort of layered mixing is a signature element of contemporary kitchens.

Mixing materials, such as the wood, metal and stone here, can make a kitchen look modern, luxe and classic all at the same time.

6. Bar stools and decorative lighting. When a modern kitchen is more adorned with texture and pattern, it goes contemporary. The glass tile, concrete countertops, whimsical lighting and bar stools add another layer.

Contemporary can be soft, earthy and eclectic as well. The funky modern light fixture in the foreground contrasts with the different tile materials on the island and backsplash and the muted countertop surface.