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The rise of contemporary kitchen design

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Contemporary is the here, the now, the modern. But when does contemporary become out-dated? For how long can contemporary stay contemporary? Everything in the home dates over time and styling interiors to transcend the fashion of the day is something most interior designers aspire to. In the world of kitchen design, forward thinking kitchen designers are attempting to create contemporary kitchens for the future with designs that stand the test of time.

But everything dates, doesn’t it? There’s no doubt interior designers today are much more focused on finding ways to balance interior trends with longevity. Trends nevertheless continue to inform our home-style choices, and that includes the kitchen.

Contemporary interior design has never been more popular, and the kitchen is the space in the home benefitting most. The contemporary kitchen is no longer confined to expensive loft apartments. Homeowners up and down the country are bringing sleek, modern design into investment worthy aspects of their properties. Investment in kitchen design has never been more important to homeowners and as a result the kitchen remodelling industry is booming.

A sought after feature in the home, the contemporary kitchen certainly adds value to most properties. So how did the contemporary kitchen become so popular and where does it go next?

The residential kitchen timeline: from Hoosier to today

The residential kitchen comes from humble beginnings. During the Middle Ages a peasant kitchen was essentially the whole home. Families had a single room with a fire for cooking in the centre. They lived, cooked and slept in the same space. At the other end of the spectrum, monarchs spent vast amounts on creating huge kitchens to prepare and cook for banquets on a grand scale. In Tudor times, Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court were the largest and most elaborate in Europe.

The Hoosier cabinet of the 1920s was a freestanding staple one-stop-shop for food items and kitchen implements, and boasted a small countertop. In America in the 1930s modular kitchen cabinets with continuous countertops were being manufactured. Iceboxes were being used to keep food cool. Plumbing fixtures, modernisation of appliances and the use of more modern materials led to a remarkable transformation in kitchen design over the next decade.

By the 1940s the modern era of kitchen design had truly arrived with coordinated finishes and fixtures representing much of what the modern kitchen is built on today. By the 1950s kitchens were no longer being relegated to the back of the home. Some post-war houses were being built with kitchens at the front of the property.

The famed labour-saving kitchen triangle was developed in 1950s kitchen designs. U-shaped kitchen cabinetry and countertops joined the cooker-fridge-sink work triangle. The 1950s gave way to the large-scale manufacture of efficient and aesthetically pleasing kitchens. Colourful wallpapers and painted cabinetry dominated and continued into the 1960s. The sixties also saw open plan kitchens incorporating dining become more popular.

In the 1970s women had better things to do than cook, and the kitchen, along with the rest of the home, lapsed into a brown pool of gaudy hues. Wood panelling, tan brown and mustard yellow décor dominated. Belonging to a carefree era, home design of the 1960s and the 1970s relaxed to celebrate mismatching. Kitchen design in the 1970s was in hindsight pretty frightening!

Celebrity cooking in the 1980s brought the attention back to the kitchen, which thankfully tuned its nose up at the brown gaudy kitchen specimens of the 1970s. Kitchens became brighter and better equipped like never before. By the nineties, attention on kitchen design was growing, as was kitchen size, with large well-equipped kitchens the desire of many.

The kitchens of today are an evolution of those that began in the 1950s. The 21st century has really seen the emphasis change, with kitchens much more a space to live in and not just for cooking. The modern day kitchen truly is the heart of the home.

Contemporary kitchen design today

The residential kitchen has definitely come of age. The rise of open-plan living and increased kitchen dimensions have had a huge hand in the design features we are seeing in homes today. The kitchen island has become a popular design choice in bigger kitchen spaces, creating more storage and worktop space. Bigger kitchens are allowing homeowners to opt for luxury features such as wine coolers and breakfast bars.

The days of laminate work surfaces are over. Marble, granite and quartz are the preferred choices for countertops in the kitchens of today. With kitchens taking centre stage in modern living, custom-built kitchens are no longer the reserve of the rich. Realising the added value contemporary kitchen designs bring to the home, many are making the investment to bring exclusivity and appeal to their homes.

Where next? Contemporary kitchen design for the future

The penchant for futuristic industrial kitchen designs continues to grow, but some design experts predict a move away from the industrial theme, which can feel overstated and cold. Innovative use of materials such as reclaimed wood to bring a quirky edge to kitchen designs looks set to stay. The handless cabinet designs streamlining today’s kitchen spaces are also a trend with potential for longevity.

The demand for contemporary design is outstripping that for the traditional, so the future for the contemporary kitchen is bright. German custom-built kitchens are making their way across the channel like never before. With the precision engineering you would expect from a German design, these are definitely kitchens to look out for. Quality cabinetry, personalised kitchen solutions and streamlined designs aren’t going away.