The Beauty, Comfort and Functionality of Today’s Contemporary Kitchen

Posted on | March 21, 2017 | No Comments

When we think of contemporary kitchens, do you envision crisp, white, light-filled spaces that are simple and streamlined? The fact is, creating a contemporary kitchen is a complex art – one which Mary Liebhold of The Kitchen Specialist has truly mastered. A veteran of her craft, Mary is a Durham kitchen designer who has been designing exceptional kitchens of all styles for decades. Her ability, however, to streamline function and add depth, detail and interest to contemporary spaces has made her a sought after expert on this style of kitchen. Mary filled North Carolina Design in on the layered details of today’s contemporary kitchens.

Images Courtesy of The Kitchen Specialist ©

Contemporary kitchens have clean lines,” Mary says. “They’re more linear in general. They tend to have minimal moulding and trim – you won’t see three piece crown moulding or curved corners. That doesn’t mean they can’t be detailed and nuanced. When it comes to cabinets, for example, contemporary doesn’t always mean a flat slab – it could just mean an elegantly detailed flat panel”

Mary notes that contemporary design has evolved along with technology. “We’re not bound by natural materials anymore. We can create an innovative look with glass, leather, porcelain, or laminate. Laminate isn’t bound by nature; you can have very linear grains with horizontal or vertical lines. You can have a beautiful high-gloss laminate that adds elegance and shine. There are a lot of possibilities – laminate has dramatically improved in terms of quality, style, pattern, and color. This is not your mother’s Formica.”

Contemporary kitchens by nature tend to emphasize the functionality of the workspace. However, a shift in lifestyles has changed the focus of homeowners. “We live in the kitchen space now,” Mary reflects. “We have gone back to a communal way of preparing meals – you have family helping, friends helping. The kitchen has become a place to gather and be together. So, rather than being a utilitarian space that we try to make more comfortable, it’s a comfortable living space that just happens to be functional.”

A focus on livability, combined with a preference for open kitchens that flow into other spaces, drives today’s contemporary kitchen designs. “The kitchen has more of a furniture feel,” Mary explains. “You’re also looking at the living area and the kitchen area as a whole. So you’re thinking about tying together furniture, accessories and artwork. You’re balancing a kitchen island with a living room sofa. You’re choosing a color palette that refers to colors in the house – just maybe in a deeper shade or a lighter shade.”

A bolder use of color is gaining popularity in contemporary kitchens. “Honestly, there is no limit on what you can do with color, as long as you keep things balanced. A lot of people play it safer than they need to. But, happily, people are becoming more adventurous with color. They’ll add in color with artwork, or dishes, or they’ll use a bold color on the wall. Or they’ll add color just to the island, but that color will complement a chair in a different room.”

The variety of materials, colors and selections used in contemporary kitchens dispels some existing perceptions about their potential. “Contemporary doesn’t have to mean boring,” Mary affirms. “Also, some people see clean lines as sterile, but they can actually be very soothing. A cleaner, simpler space can give you breathing room. You’re free to add artwork, without fear of making the space too busy. You can make the view out the window a focus of the room and use nature to add color to the space.”

“There’s also a sense of livability. There’s a high priority on function, streamlining, and minimizing unused or unnecessary gadgets. Having a streamlined space, where things are placed exactly where you need them, can give you a real sense of calm and comfort. And you aren’t in any way sacrificing style. Done well, a contemporary kitchen can be a cozy space with a great deal of interest and beauty.”

Mary Liebhold is the founder of The Kitchen Specialist, and has been the principal designer for more than 25 years. Recently,  Leigh and Mehul Patel became the new owners of the Durham kitchen boutique. Along with Mary, Leigh and Mehul, the entire team of talented designers at The Kitchen Specialist continues to delight the culinary sensibilities of homeowners across North Carolina.

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