Modern Kitchens: Efficient, Stylish, High-Tech Work Centers
Asked to think of a “modern kitchen” you might imagine lots of gleaming stainless steel, industrial design sensibility, and a kind of clean-room starkness or sterility. Well, think again.
Contemporary kitchen layouts and designs have evolved quite a bit over the years, always adjusting with the needs and desires of the families who use them. Today’s modern style kitchen stands as an exciting mix of cutting-edge technology with more traditional layouts that emphasize open communication and enjoyment.
By focusing on sleek and sophisticated materials, and making a smart use of color pops, modern kitchens are visually appealing while also emphasizing functionality and efficiency.
If you’re a new homeowner looking for house plans with modern kitchen designs, or simply thinking about making some possible renovations to your current home, a modern kitchen might be the perfect solution to all of your family’s needs.
What Makes a Modern Kitchen?
Today’s modern kitchens are characterized by some distinct stylistic features, as well as some very helpful and functional design elements. While the specific look can vary depending on the overall appearance of the home, many modern style kitchens focus on sleek designs that can skew towards a minimalist appearance. Think straight lines, cool tones, and sleek granite countertops over the more rustic fixtures of a country style home.
This modern kitchen – a successful stereotype of the Jetson-like modern kitchen – keeps all the cabinetry flush with smooth surfaces, while also utilizing white to make the space feel clean and open (courtesy Grech and Grech).
Modern kitchens are also used for more than just cooking. With the advent of the open floor plan, kitchens are now used for entertaining and casual family activities thanks to the seamless flow between areas. As such, you’re likely to find designated eating areas, work stations, or even laundry room access in a contemporary kitchen.
The Next Generation of Style
In terms of the overall look and feel, modern kitchens tend to feature very different styles (which is one of the reasons they’re so popular today), though they almost always maintain an aura of sophistication. It all comes down to the materials and fixtures used, as two homes can take the same elements and incorporate drastically different styles that still fit within the theme of a modern design.
For example, imagine two eat-in kitchens that feature a center island with a prep sink and bar seating. One might use poured concrete and granite, with an abundance of ironwork and a dark color palette, to evoke a faux industrial theme. Another could use a polymer material for the island in a striking geometric shape for a bright and futuristic feel. However, in both scenarios, the kitchens are still bright and open, and feature high-end modern appliances.
This kitchen has an island made of quartz surrounding cabinetry – its focal point – which allows for a high level of usefulness while being a striking design element. The sleek, spare design of the rest of the kitchen is functional while leaving no doubt of its modern aesthetic (courtesy HGTV).
Incorporating Space for Work and Play
Speaking of islands, this feature is incredibly popular in house plans with modern kitchens because it adds a tremendous amount of functionality to the space. Even smaller islands often include enough space for at least two seats, making it a prime location for casual lunches or conversational breakfasts. Larger islands with more traditional seating options are also dethroning the dining room as the preferred spot for eating dinner, as it means less effort moving from the stove to the table, and then to the sink for cleanup.
Two takes on a modern kitchen island: this compact work-surface / eating-bar island (top) has a wraparound overhang to provide seating for five while also providing a pre-meal prep area (courtesy HGTV); while this large center island in a 4-bedroom, 3-bath Prairie-style luxury home plan (bottom) offers seating for four at one end and storage at the other, plus an expansive horizontal surface for meal prep, homework for the kids, or just about any activity the family may come up with (House Plan #108-1791).
Many families also enjoy islands and similar dedicated sitting spaces because it allows for more areas where anyone can sit and relax, or be productive. A busy parent can now easily help his or her children with homework while preparing dinner, since both can easily take place in the same room. The space is also a great low-key office for anyone who telecommutes or someone who simply wants a place to pay bills that’s soothing and central to the rest of the home.
The Rise of the Smart Kitchen
It’s almost impossible to talk about modern kitchens without getting into the appliances, especially as the Internet of Things introduces a bevy of Wi-Fi-enabled toaster ovens and microwaves into our lives. Today’s appliances are significantly more advanced than those of the past, leveraging technology to make life easier in creative and often unexpected ways. Whether it’s adjusting an oven’s temperature through a smartphone app or a trash can that opens up with the wave of your hand, smart appliances are definitely a defining feature the modern kitchen.
Many homeowners opt for these higher-end appliances because of the Wi-Fi functionality available on supported models. Everything from slow cookers and coffee makers to the refrigerator can be controlled from an app, which means you can interact with your kitchen from the comfort of your bedroom or even while you’re still at work. Just like the sophisticated appearance and sleek designs, these elements help modern kitchens feel like your own private slice of the future.
This smart slow cooker allows you to control temperature through a smartphone app, so you can start and stop cooking while you’re away without having to worry about perfect timing.
Layouts that Encourage Efficiency
Contemporary kitchens aren’t just about cool gadgets and creative uses of color but also about enhancing efficiency throughout the area. Many modern kitchens seek to provide a classic kitchen triangle, a concept that dictates the optimal position of the sink, cooktop, and refrigerator. Older homes often feature odd placements of these items, such as a sink tucked away in a corner or a stove that feels miles away from the refrigerator, making it a hassle to cook in a timely or productive manner.
Many modern kitchens are designed with efficiency in mind, but that doesn’t mean keeping key locations cramped together. This kitchen features open space between elements while also maintaining usefulness: the range, stove, and refrigerator (refrigerator drawers at left) form a classic work triangle. Note the “library ladder” that slides on a track and provides access to high and out-of-the-way, hard-to-reach items.
Modern kitchen styles also take the concept of efficiency to the next level by taking entertaining and casual events into account as well. It’s a large part of why islands are such a popular and productive feature, as a well-placed island making food preparation a group activity. Tie this in with the layout of the kitchen in relation to the living room or dining room, and you’ve got a space that elevations function to an art form, encouraging a seamless flow between areas and activities without ever separating a host from the guests. It’s also why many homeowners opt for open floor plans.
The Real Benefits of a Modern Style Kitchen
Contemporary kitchens and modern homes can have a lot of amazing features that can translate into some serious benefits for homeowners. It’s a smart choice for families who want to spend more time together, as it makes cooking an activity for the whole family. Some modern kitchens with an open floor plan also allow for an uninterrupted line of sight into nearby rooms, which can be great for parents with younger children that they need to keep an eye on.
This minimalist transitional modern kitchen in a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Contemporary-style vacation home plan opens the entire space to the family. The family room, dining area, and kitchen work space are all in the same large room. Open shelving, base cabinets, and a pantry behind frosted-glass doors on the left provide storage, and the island makes it easy for family members to pitch in when preparing meals (House Plan #168-1001).
A sleek and stylish kitchen can also quickly become the showpiece of a home, especially for anyone who loves to entertain. Many modern kitchens also pair well in outdoor living homes, as the flow to outdoor dining areas and decks simply adds to the enjoyment for dinner parties or casual get-togethers.
When you add up all the benefits of modern kitchen style – plus incorporate smart appliances that are designed to make cooking easier and fun (like a range hood with a flat screen TV built-in, or a food scale that automatically adjusts the recipe when you’re short on an ingredient) – the kitchen quickly becomes the best place to hang out in the whole house!