A Recipe for Contemporary Design: Part 2

Last week, I laid out some key questions to ask as you begin working with a client who’s drawn to Contemporary cabinetry looks. Now for the fun part – let’s see what that looks like in a Medallion kitchen!

Formulating the perfect recipe

I wanted to give you a relatable example of a kitchen design in a “before and after” manner as it moves from a Transitional to a Contemporary design style. You probably recall this kitchen where we talked about Balancing the Yin and Yang” in your design:


This Transitional design features Park Place Flat Panel in Sea Salt with accents in Earl Grey and Silver Appaloosa. As you can see, the room as a canvas is open and somewhat generic, which is essential for Contemporary design. In other words, there are no particular architectural details that define the home or the room’s style. Potentially, the window, baseboard and doorway moldings could be simplified, but that is relative to the level of Contemporary you have control over.

Measures and Substitutions

We took this design and applied a Contemporary filter, so to speak. The general layout remains unchanged, including the placement of appliances and center island with sink. Now let’s look at the key elements we incorporated to give this design a Contemporary look!

First, on style and finish, we selected Bella and retained the white paint. Silver Appaloosa was replaced by a quarter-sawn oak StoneyBrooke finish. The Earl Grey element dropped off and the Prairie Mullions were exchanged for Brava in white matte with a brushed stainless frame. You will also notice that we brought in metal doors at the far end of the refrigerator wall, giving us 2 styles and 4 finishes/materials.6.18_Collage 8

Using horizontal and vertical rectangles and a consistent horizon line are essential elements of Contemporary design. In fact, horizontal doors speak to European design and are the preference in Contemporary designs. With the 10 ft ceiling height in the room, we were able to replicate a trending look of “over and under” stacked wall cabinets. The upper lift-and-stay cabinets are 21” deep with the counter wall ending the run at the same depth. The lower section of wall cabinets are standard depth and include the Brava white glass doors and tab pulls. Glass is a practical material from a maintenance standpoint and a super sleek fit for Contemporary designs.

The seating area maintains the original L-shape outside corner placement but is raised slightly and uses 2” box columns and 2” thick counters for a waterfall design in the StoneyBrooke accent finish. We continued the StoneyBrooke finish on the open shelving to the right, which complements the horizontal lines throughout the design; another prominent element in Contemporary kitchens.CONTEMP KITCHEN VIEW5

Notice the consistency of door sizes in the overall design, and within each section. This is yet another important element for balance within any design, but especially so in Contemporary design.

For the room’s feature, we chose the Curved Hood in the StoneyBrooke finish with stainless steel accent, complementing the appliances and metal doors. Brushed or polished silver metals are the go-to for Contemporary, with black being a close runner up.

For the sink area, we included a 24” full-height double waste bin/compost and a paneled dishwasher front to maintain a streamlined design.

Building Blocks

Looking up, you may have spotted a slight adjustment we made to the architecture of the room. It’s a ceiling canopy that stretches from the hood wall to the end of the island. This serves as a solution to accommodate the height of the hood and draws your eye towards the focal point.  There is a 1” recess above the canopy with a light ribbon that gives the canopy a floating effect. Additional accent lighting is carried throughout the room above the cabinets, below the Brava wall cabinets and within the toe kick space. Low-voltage LED lighting is a perfect inclusion for all styles, but it just happens to give Contemporary designs extra-dimensional interest and an edgy tech flair!

Looking a bit closer, you will see repeated use of both horizontal and vertical doors/drawer fronts as mentioned earlier. I personally think that having all of one type is a bit blah, so I like to go this route to add visual interest. Plus it gives the client a variety of adjustable spaces to store kitchen appliances, dishes, cookware, and utensils.


Above, the base full-height doors are all 24” wide and the drawer base cabinets are also equal widths. I used the Base with 3 Drawers so I could include a few standard top drawers. The extra tall bottom drawers visually balance the upper section of wall cabinets. Notice the extended height between the countertop and bottom of the wall cabinets; this design element is synonymous with contemporary design.


For the cooking wall, we used a variety of 2 Drawer base cabinets. Remember to consider in-drawer options like dividers, or the bin system to maximize organization. Left and right of the cooktop are popular pull-outs that store utensils, spices, oils and all of a chef’s needed ingredients. For the flush-inset installation of the double ovens, we are using tall panels, a wall cabinet, and a single drawer base. As noted, the single drawer base will require a factory installed flush finished top. The left tall panel requires a field installed ¼” panel to create a flush interior side. The right tall panel would be installed with the flush finished side facing towards the ovens.

The bottom line:

Contemporary design is clean, sleek and simple, but many homes and regions across the U.S. do not fit the prescribed mold of this design style. But if the general footprint of the home is open and is light on ornate or traditional details, through the use of color, texture, natural woods, and mixed materials, you can create a soft Contemporary feel, and incorporate notes of Classic or Modern style to make the design a fit in almost any home.

Leave a Reply