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Flat-front doors and shiny, high-gloss surfaces are the hallmarks of contemporary kitchen cabinets, but that doesn’t mean they lack the warmth and character of popular Shaker or beadboard options. Plus, the style has a lot of pros. First of all, no fussy grooves mean they’re easier to paint over if you’re in the mood for a DIY and you can clean them in a flash. They grab your attention without hardware, but they’re also an excellent showcase for funky knobs and drawer pulls if you decide to add them. A touch of brass, some clever color-blocking, and super-functional configurations make these modern spaces the perfect fit for the 21st-century chef. 

The Metals

No cafeteria vibes here. In Katie and Brandon Conovitz’s Brooklyn home, a sea of oyster white marble mutes the reflective sheen of the stainless steel doors, refrigerator, and countertop. Both materials have a polished quality to them, but together they lend an unexpected edge.

Another metal on our radar: unlacquered brass. The surface radiates in Liz Gardner’s kitchen against the milky-tinged stone, proving the trendy material isn’t just for lighting and hardware. 

The Humble Surface 

Plywood might not be known for its looks, but its cost-effectiveness, hardiness, and natural hue have made it a go-to pick for contemporary kitchen design. The key to making the material stand out is texture. In the case of Native Design Workshop’s Peekaboo house, that came in the form of a peninsula clad in recycled blackbutt wood. 

The same rings true for practical linoleum. A graphic backsplash, like the tumbling bricks pattern in this Copenhagen kitchen, gives the plain surface a high-end spin. 

The Color-Blocked Crew

Pick a palette that speaks to you and infuse it into your cabinetry. For Sophia Cook, images of yellow and orange leaves falling in her yard in the autumn inspired her to go with a combination of marigold and citrine cupboards, coupled with a few plain plywood door panels. To make sure the two moments were cohesive, snippets of yellow can be seen peeking out of the open handles of the simple wood fronts. 

Don’t just stop at one color. No fancy ornamentation means you can have fun with the flat panels. This Reform-designed space features green, blue, peach, and brown—and to top it all off, Viola marble countertops. 

The Function-First Layout

Choosing contemporary cabinets for your room isn’t just a discussion of style—it also involves prioritizing your needs. How you use the space should inform what your cabinets look like. Tall utility cupboards (typically measuring up to 8 feet in height) and appliance garages like the ones in these spaces are on the rise for this very reason. The hardworking nooks can hold oddly shaped appliances and cleaning supplies. Kitchens are going to start looking a whole lot different from now on. 

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