What is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Kitchen Styles?

Contemporary kitchen and Modern kitchen are terms that are often used interchangeably. While this is not a problem in everyday speech, confusion can arise if you are talking to architects or interior designers. At Smith & Smith, we are aware that ‘modern’, for many, has come to mean contemporary. We use the terms interchangeably on our website as most of our visitors do, too.

If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of design speak, capital M Modern refers very specifically to the period of the early to mid-20th-century. This style celebrated mass-produced building materials, clean lines and a new, previously inconceivable, type of design. Glass, steel and concrete could be produced in larger quantities and sizes and with the machine-produced precision that was previously unavailable. Designers began to realise they could push the boundaries in a way that was unable to be explored before. It was quite a departure from the styles before the industrial revolution and still sends ripples into the designs we enjoy today.

A Modern kitchen harks back to that early to mid-20th-century era.

Contemporary kitchens are kitchens that are very ‘now’. Contemporary design moves with the times. It grows and evolves as we do and takes inspiration from new technologies as well as earlier styles. We often refer to these kitchens on our website as lowercase m modern kitchens.

What Defines a Contemporary Kitchen at this Point in Time?

At this point in time, contemporary kitchens play with texture, colour, symmetry and asymmetry. Clean lines and a pared-back silhouette are common elements. Function and form are of equal importance in contemporary kitchens with ergonomics, increased storage and ease of movement around the kitchen placed at the top of the list.

Clean Lines


Modern Scandi style kitchen with clean lines and a U shaped layout with an island bench. A lack of overhead cabinets maintains a feeling of spaciousness. J grip door profiles on the white cabinets provide integrated handles that don’t interrupt the sleek lines.

Clean lines keep the vista of the kitchen uncluttered and contribute to an overall impression of tidiness and harmony. Serving ware and vases can be added for that pop of colour or nod to a fleeting but pleasing design trend. The symmetry of door heights and banks of cupboards or drawers create the effect of clean lines. No-fuss door profiles such as a flat ‘slab’ style or V groove doors for a painted finish or flat laminate doors.

Handle Choices

Handles with a simple profile or recessed lip-pulls also contribute to an uncluttered look. If handles are not your thing, consider a J groove door which has an integrated ‘handle’ or grip area to open. Push to open doors and drawers allow for the least encumbrance. Manual options involve a spring-loaded magnetic catch. Electric options require only the lightest touch and are perfect for those with arthritis and other conditions.



This G shaped minimalist kitchen hides a wealth of functionality behind closed doors.

There are so many options for colour in contemporary kitchens. Minimalist kitchens often feature one colour only where other looks incorporate two or even three.


The layout of your kitchen will be largely dictated by the space you have available. Contemporary kitchens can be designed to fill all manner of spaces. Kitchen layouts are generally described as L shaped, U shaped, G shaped or galley-style (two benches or banks of cabinets in parallel). Your designer will direct you regarding which layout to choose in order to maximise storage and access.


This L shaped V groove kitchen with island features three door colours but maintains unity and simplicity.

Ready to design your new kitchen? Contact our showrooms today to schedule an appointment with a designer on 9755 4888 or online here.

More Kitchen Styles

This post is part of a series regarding kitchen styles. Not interested in a modern kitchen? Why not have a look at the styles below to find out what suits you best.

Hamptons Style Kitchens

French Provincial Style Kitchens

Industrial Style Kitchens