What does the phrase "modern kitchen" bring to mind? For me, it's generally conjured a picture of the glossy, slab doored styles of kitchens that were a pervasive presence in homes some 20 years ago.
'Modern, to me, has typically meant flat panel cabinetry,' kitchen designer Gabrielle Fabbri agrees. 'Sleek and clean with a high gloss finish.' However, it's a style of kitchen that has, in general, fallen out of favor with the most design-conscious. Even when gloss is used in a kitchen, it recalls a more classic use of this finish — painted; grand and opulent over sleek and futuristic.
For most designers, this high-gloss kitchen cabinet of yesteryear is anything but modern. Things are changing, and designers are finding this style of cabinet outdated, with a newer take on what we'd call "modern" taking its place. 'The industry is seeing some exciting things happening in modern cabinetry right now,' Gabrielle explains.
So what is the most modern kitchen cabinet today? I asked designers what they think — and they came to a surprising consensus.
What's replacing high gloss, flat cabinet doors?
'We are currently witnessing a notable trend favoring wood tones and the use of mixed materials in modern kitchen design,' interior designer Ania Dunlop, founder of Home for Zen tells me. 'The era of ubiquitous white Shaker kitchen cabinets is evolving as clients increasingly seek kitchens that seamlessly integrate with the overall aesthetic of their homes rather than standing as isolated white boxes. In response, we are adopting a design approach that incorporates warm wood cabinetry, complemented by a painted island for a touch of contrast.'
Wood is a timeless, classic choice you might think, but it's the material that cropped up most often with the designers I asked, however, as Ania explains, the modern wood kitchen is a very different approach from the old pine cabinets we used to see so much of.
2024's interpretation combines wood with other equally modern materials that elevate its natural beauty. 'To add visual interest, we are introducing elements like fluted glass with sleek black metal frames, contributing to both the modern and timeless feel of the space,' Ania says.
What type of wooden kitchen is most on trend?
The most popular wood kitchens appear to be light, blonde varieties with plenty of character. White oak is a particular cabinet trend we see in modern spaces — a perfect partner for white marble and quartz kitchen countertops for a light and airy scheme.
However, even within the wood kitchen trend, thing are evolving.
'White oak has certainly had its moment of glory; however, as kitchen trends evolve, we're seeing a shift towards darker wood tones, which bring a unique and contemporary feel,' interior designer Valerie Lush, founder of Viola House Design explains. 'Dark chestnut or maple, for instance, are becoming increasingly popular.'
The sound of a "dark" wood kitchen may alarm you — after all, plenty of us are still inheriting the outdated mahogany kitchen cabinets that were once so popular when we buy fixer-upper homes. 'The key is to move away from traditional, heavy looks associated with these woods,' Valerie explains. 'Instead, by applying darker stains and using them as accents, rather than going for an all-wood look, these darker woods can bring a modern and fresh vibe to the kitchen space. The contrast they offer, especially when paired with lighter elements, can create a dynamic and stylish aesthetic.'
What else is in a modern kitchen in 2024
The great thing about wood is that its naturally timeless, and doesn't chip in the same way painted finishes do, part of its attraction for those who want a kitchen that doesn't need constant upkeep. It's an idea that's echoed in other "modern" kitchen choices, according to interior designer Ania.
"The demand for low-maintenance living has prompted the use of carefree kitchen countertop materials, ensuring that the kitchen not only looks stylish but is also practical and functional for everyday use,' she says. 'This shift in design philosophy reflects a desire for kitchens to be cohesive parts of the home's overall design narrative, embracing a more eclectic and personalized approach.'
In terms of other materials and finishes, Gabrielle still sees some of the sleekness of the old "modern" kitchen filtering into how we wood cabinets today. 'There's a big call back to metal cabinet doors and integrated clean handles, for example,' she explains. 'And modern can also lend itself to beautiful stone islands but think of more organic shapes rather than the waterfall edge we've seen in the past few years.'
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Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.
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