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The contemporary kitchen borrows high functionality and streamlined surfaces from the modernist design movement, but its style often incorporates traditional ideas as well for a sleek but livable feel.
"Clean and simple is the underlying philosophy for contemporary design, " says designer Cameron Austin of Beth Haley Design in Nashville, Tenn. "My approach differs from client to client, but I really love using simple white cabinetry with clean lines and then adding texture and warmth with things like interesting tiles or a dark hardwood floor."
Unlike the term "modern, " which refers to an actual historical design movement and has a strict interpretation of what elements can and can't be included, "contemporary" simply means "in the now." Popular contemporary retailers such as Pottery Barn, West Elm and Crate & Barrel carry items that usually sport clean lines but are inspired by a host of design styles: Danish modern, Arts and Crafts, traditional, '50s ranch and modern industrial, for example.
Steel and White
Use tile to create a focal point, like the glass mosiac backsplash in this kitchen. Design by Beth Haley.
Stainless steel and white appliances make the easiest transition to a contemporary look, Austin says, because they balance so nicely with warm wood tones. "We're steering away from black appliances now, " Austin says.
The list of details a contemporary kitchen can accommodate is endless; funky touches are welcome, and you're practically unlimited in color choices. But the one thing that can wreck a contemporary look is clutter, whether visual (too many colors or textures) or physical (countertops covered in knickknacks). Stick to the 60-30-10 rule for colors: Sixty percent of the kitchen should be one dominant color, 30 percent a secondary color and 10 percent an accent color. Store gadgets in drawers or in sleek containers; relegate cooking ingredients to the pantry.
Getting the Look
To transition into a contemporary kitchen, use stainless-steel appliances to balance warm wood tones. Design by Ammie Kim.