A light-filled contemporary kitchen is the dream for many homeowners. This style combines modern design elements with lots of natural light streaming in to create a space that feels open, airy, and soothing. In this extensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know to design your own spectacular light-filled contemporary kitchen.
Elements of a Contemporary Light-Filled Kitchen
There are several key elements that combine to make a contemporary kitchen feel bright and airy. Understanding these components will help you design the perfect light-filled space.
Abundant Natural Light
The most critical factor in a light-filled kitchen is having plenty of natural light come into the space. Ideally, the kitchen should have multiple sources of sunlight.
- Large windows, preferably ones that stretch from countertops to ceiling, allow sunlight to flood the space throughout the day. Strategically place windows where they will maximize sunshine, such as adjacent to the sink or prep areas.
- Skylights, clerestory windows near the ceiling, or glass doors all help draw in natural light from above. Place these to balance out sunlight from side windows.
- Open floor plan with few visual barriers between the kitchen and other living spaces allows light to flow in from multiple access points.
- Light colors for walls, floors, countertops reflect and bounce natural light rather than absorbing it for a brighter space.
Minimal Upper Cabinets
Too many bulky overhead cabinets can make a kitchen feel dark and closed in. Limiting upper cabinets helps open up the space.
- Focus upper storage on just one feature wall, and use open shelves or glass cabinet doors on the other walls.
- Opt for a few scattered upper cabinets rather than cabinetry along the entire perimeter.
- Choose wall-mounted cabinets with a floating appearance so the space beneath feels more open.
- Vented range hoods that do not have a boxy design are less visually heavy than a large cabinet-style hood.
Clean Lines and Hidden Appliances
A streamlined, uncluttered look helps contemporary kitchens feel bright and spacious.
- Stick with cabinetry styles that have simple recessed panel doors and avoid ornate detailing.
- Use handle-less cabinets with touch latches for a sleek, built-in look.
- Opt for hidden appliance panels that conceal the fridge, oven, and other appliances behind cabinetry fronts for a tidy appearance.
- Install drawer microwave and dishwashers to avoid bulky appliance profiles on the counter.
- Choose kitchen island designs that have an open and airy base with minimal cabinetry or opt for a table-style island.
Light Reflective Surfaces
The materials you choose for floors, cabinets, and counters can help reflect natural light versus absorbing it.
- White or light gray cabinets paired with a neutral countertop material like quartz reflects the most light.
- Adding a glass tile backsplash provides additional reflective surface area.
- Lighter natural stone countertops like marble or quartzite bounce light well.
- Porcelain, laminate, or vinyl plank flooring in lighter wood tones or concrete/stone looks reflect light.
- Gloss or semi-gloss cabinet finishes amplify light better than matte.
Varied Lighting Solutions
Good overhead lighting and ample task lighting prevent the space from feeling dark once the sun goes down.
- LED recessed can lights provide bright ambient overhead illumination. Use dimmable bulbs with smart technology to control mood and brightness.
- Pendant lights over islands or dining areas deliver direct task lighting.
- Under cabinet lighting illuminates prep and cooking zones. Choose energy efficient LED strip lighting.
- Natural lighting can be supplemented long after dark with smart LED bulbs that mimic daylight color temperature.
Layouts for a Light Bright Kitchen
The floor plan and layout you choose for a contemporary kitchen can maximize bright openness. Here are some top layout options:
Open Concept Floor Plan
Knocking down walls between the kitchen and adjacent living areas automatically helps sunlight access the space from varied directions throughout the day. It also removes visual barriers to create a feeling of openness.
- For small homes, studio layouts with a combined kitchen and living area are ideal.
- In larger homes, open the kitchen up to dining rooms, family rooms, and living rooms.
- Try to align windows and glass doors in adjoining rooms to allow sightlines through multiple spaces, further expanding the feel of light.
L-Shaped Kitchen Footprint
An L-shaped kitchen layout positions the sink and cooking hubs along perpendicular walls with an open corner. This allows multiple walls for windows to usher in natural light.
- Place upper cabinetry only on one leg of the L to keep the other side open and sun-filled.
- Use the open corner area for furniture like a rounded breakfast table that does not impede light flow.
- Glass cabinet doors along the sink and stove give a lighter and more open look than solid doors.
Work Triangle with Views
The classic work triangle layout creates an efficient link between sink, stove, and fridge while also allowing for optimal window placement.
- Position the sink in front of a large window overlooking a beautiful backyard or garden view to pull in natural light.
- Set the stove and fridge along the other two walls, aided by supplementary windows, to complete the work zone.
- A triangular island can be centrally positioned to further distribute light.
Single Wall Efficiency
Concentrating all essential kitchen functions along one well-lit wall keeps a small space orderly and luminous.
- Place windows prominently in the center of the work area or at the beginning and end of the run.
- Opt for minimal upper cabinetry, open shelves, or glass front cabinets along the single work wall.
- Use the opposing wall for furniture, like a pellet stove, rather than more closed cabinetry.
Window Types and Placement
Strategic window positioning and proper window selection are imperative to maximize natural light access for a contemporary kitchen.
- Above the sink: Frames beautiful backyard views while illuminating tasks.
- Adjacent to stove/prep areas: Provides ample task lighting.
- Near dining table: Sunlight exposure while eating is uplifting.
- Aligning sightlines: Allow light to penetrate from front windows through to backyard windows.
- Floor to ceiling: Offer unobstructed sunlight from counter height up through the top of the space.
- Wide casement: Unfold wide allowing ample illumination. Group in threes for balance.
- Double hung: Stacked windows that glide open vertically without compromising outdoor views when closed.
- Transom: Horizontal windows above doors or other windows to enhance bright openness.
- Clerestory: High wall mounted windows near the ceiling that acquire optimal daylight exposure.
- Skylights/Roof windows: Draw sunlight directly from above; integrate solar tubes to spread light.
- Glass doors: Sliding or French doors spanning from floor to door header supply abundant light.
- Double or triple insulated glazing resists heat loss while still allowing light to stream in.
- Strategically sized overhangs, awnings, or exterior solar shades help block excessive summer sun when desired.
- Low-E coatings keep harmful UV rays out while letting visible light through.
Lighting Design Enhances Sunlight
While ample windows allow access to natural light, a well-conceived lighting scheme works hand in hand to create the perfect luminous ambiance.
Layered Lighting Plan
Combining multiple lighting types creates synergy.
- Ambient: Ceiling recessed cans or surface mounted LEDs supply overall illumination.
- Task: Under cabinet lighting provides direct functionality.
- Accent: Pendant lights add style while focusing light purposefully over counters or dining zones.
- Decorative: Light fixtures as stand alone sculptural elements.
Smarts for Automation
Smart technology allows limitless lighting control.
- Dimmer switches, smart bulbs, and advanced control panels make adjustments effortless.
- Programmable and app controlled lighting automatically responds to environmental conditions.
- Automated dynamic daylight harvesting changes interior brightness based on outdoor light availability.
- Motion sensors activate pathway lighting for safe navigation then power down when not needed.
LED for Efficiency
- LED lights use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs with no compromise in brightness.
- LEDs give off negligible heat, allowing recessed installation without insulation issues.
- LED options range from warm 2700K light to brisk 5000K mimicking daylight.
- Minimal light degradation means LEDs last for years without replacement.
The finish and undertones of fixtures contribute to aesthetic illumination.
- Brushed nickel, oil rubbed bronze, and matte black exude contemporary style.
- Metal finishes like polished chrome, brass, and copper add warmth and sheen.
- Painted or powder coated fixtures allow color matching to your décor.
- Internal reflectors and diffuser panels distribute glare-free light in a wider spread.
Kitchen Cabinetry for Light and Sightlines
Cabinet selection plays a big role in maintaining a light filled presence. Avoid boxy static cabinets that block natural light infiltration and sightlines.
Glass Front Cabinetry
Glass doors maintain views while neatly storing wares behind a transparent surface.
- Frosted, etched, or stained glass diffuses contents softly.
- For displaying valued dish collections, opt for clear glass doors.
- Good for corner cabinet visibility and overhead cabinets with great views.
- Shelves and hardware should coordinate aesthetically with door style.
- Add interior lighting to illuminate contents.
Open air shelving keeps everything in sight without obstructing light flow.
- Great near windows above counters or as support for decorator plates.
- Use durable solid wood shelves with natural oil finish or powder-coated steel.
- Closed cabinets below keep kitchen clutter concealed.
- Limit everyday dish storage if concerned about dusting.
Mix of Open and Closed
The right balance creates a lighter look with some concealed storage.
- Close off lower cabinets for containment and appliances.
- Open just a few upper shelves for plants, cookbooks, or barware.
- Multi-height staggered cabinetry maintains visibility and accessibility.
Lighting Inside Cabinets
Illuminated interiors light up contents and brighten overall ambiance.
- Battery powered LED puck lights attach with magnets or adhesives.
- Low voltage slim LED tape lighting adds a dramatic glow.
- Touch sensitive switches provide convenient control.
- Automatic interior lighting senses when doors open.
Countertop Materials for Light
Countertops cover expansive surface area so material reflectivity is significant.
Engineered stone withstands serious wear while bouncing light beautifully.
- Brighter solid white options excel at illumination.
- Agglomerate patterns with white stone flakes maintain reflectivity.
- Matte finishes diffuse light softly versus strong sheen.
This classic natural stone adds elegant luminosity.
- Carrara’s white gray patterning sustains light.
- Statuario’s bright white veining maximizes reflectivity.
- Honed finishing provides matte glow versus polished gloss.
Quartzite combines the durability of quartz with marble’s soft light diffusion.
- Prized for its luminous shimmering surface.
- Lighter tones like snowy coastal or rocky mountain contain less shadowing.
- Radiance enhances the subtle depth and random patterns.
The industrial trend utilizes concrete’s innate brightening qualities.
- Light gray and white mixes heighten light-filled appeal.
- Glass or stone aggregates boost surface shine and diffusion.
- Matte finishing softens potentially stark reflection.
Wood shows wear but gives warmth balanced by light bounce.
- Maple offers creamy blonde toning with faint graining.
- Beech is whitewashed for approachable clean elegance.
- Finish with mineral oil or white pigmented hardwax for sheen.
Flooring for Visually Lighter Kitchens
Flooring greatly impacts the mood and light ambiance of kitchen spaces.
Wood Look Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tile offers wood’s aesthetic appeal without damage susceptibility.
- Convincing matte finishes mimic weathered oak but offer light reflectivity.
- Lighter planked styles enhance illumination versus dark hues.
- Easier maintenance than real wood.
Vinyl Plank Flooring
Economical and indestructible, vinyl tiles realistically emulate wood lightness.
- Rigid core planks provide durability with less subfloor interference.
- Convincing appearance of painted, bleached, or washed oak looks bright.
- Grouted installation exaggerates the lines between planks.
Natural White Oak
Genuine full oak planks offer unmatchable beauty and light reflection.
- Wide plank white oak has dramatic appeal with light tinting.
- Varied graining inhibits uniform reflection for added warmth.
- Must be refinished periodically to maintain glow.
Polished Concrete Floor
The sleek industrial aesthetic benefits naturally from concrete’s light qualities.
- Salt and pepper aggregate blends or white mixes heighten brightness.
- Power grinding and polishing creates sheen for reflectivity.
- Dyeing concrete or epoxy coatings can adjust light absorption.
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Durable, affordable, and easy to clean sheet vinyl suits contemporary spaces.
- Stone and wood plank patterns reflect light convincingly.
- Seamless installation supports clean aesthetic lines.
- Cushioned backing adds comfort underfoot.
Magnify Brightness with Mirrors and Metallics
Mirrors and metallic finishes strategically multiply incoming sunlight.
Floor to ceiling mirror tiles behind sinks and stoves emit dazzling illumination.
- Tempered glass ensures shatterproof safety.
- Alternative muted mirrored backsplashes illuminate softly.
- Coordinate size and orientation of mirrors to amplify views and light distribution.
Brushed metals, chrome, nickel and stainless steel finishes bounce light dramatically.
- Mix metal cabinet hardware, pendant lights, and barstools for integrated sheen.
- Incorporate metal tile inlays as decorative backsplash accents.
- Let bold vent hoods and prep sinks shine like beacons.
Glass tabletops, mirrored furnishings and acrylic chairs scatter light playfully.
- Clear acrylic barstools are nearly invisible while refracting light.
- A glass console table behind a transparent sofa intensifies brightness.
- Mirrored cabinets multiply display lighting indefinitely.
Accessorize and Style for Airy Brightness
Even small décor choices can enhance the light bright ambiance.
Sheer Window Treatments
Privacy and glare reduction without light blockage.
- White or neutral solid sheer panels softly filter incoming light.
- Lightweight linen or polyester blend window curtains gently diffuse sunlight along edges.
- For contemporary style, opt for sleek roller shades in translucent materials.
Glass Lampshades and Light Fixtures
Table lamps and hanging fixtures with transparent glass or acrylic lampshades emit soft ambient lighting without shadowing.
Strategically placed greenery naturally brightens spaces through color and life energy.
- Lush trailing ivy, ferns or philodendrons grown in hanging planters.
- Succulents and cacti requiring ample sunshine.
- Herb gardens set in front of windows.
Light Color Palette
Use white, beige, and pale color schemes to maximize light enhancement. Then add pops of color through appliances, stools, décor, and dishware.
Balance Light with Shadow and Contrast
Prevent a washed out appearance by providing deliberate visual contrast through materiality.
Wood Element Inclusion
The richness of wood graining and cabinetry adds therapy of natural shadowing and depth. Walnut islands or window seats are ideal.
Combine glass cabinets with solid wood doors. Mix glossy and matte surfaces. Vary porcelain, metal, and stone textures.
Boldly Colored Rangehoods
Make the necessary rangehood a focal point by selecting colors like crimson red or deep blue-green.
Opt for visible metal hardware like handles and knobs in black, bronze, or iron for eye-catching outline shadows.
Frequently Asked Questions About Designing a Light-Filled Contemporary Kitchen
- How do you achieve the light and bright contemporary look on a budget?
Use light color schemes, economical floor materials like vinyl plank, open up existing walls, add glass cabinet doors, and opt for less ornate transitional style fixtures for a contemporary look without the price tag.
- What window treatments work best for light-filled kitchens?
Sheer curtains, solar shades, or translucent roller shades allow light to stream through while providing a soft sense of privacy and UV protection.
- What about lighting above islands and dining tables?
Linear LED pendant lighting works beautifully above these spaces to distribute task lighting. Choose varied heights and finishes for groups of 3-5 pendants.
- How do you clean and care for a light and bright kitchen?
Use microfiber cloths and cleaners that help reduce streaks. Routinely dust decorative open shelves. Keep surfaces clutter-free to maintain the soothing tidy aesthetic.
- Should you choose cool or warm light temperatures for contemporary kitchen lighting?
Aim for universal white light temperatures in the 3000K-5000K range. You can always add drama with accent lighting if desired, but the overall scheme should remain bright and neutral.
The right combination of ample windows, minimal visual obstructions, reflective finishes, diverse lighting solutions, and accessorizing allows you to curate a spectacular light-filled contemporary kitchen. Aim for openness, brightness, and simplicity in both design and