NYC Kitchen Inspiration: 5 Ways to Define ‘Modern’ in NYC Kitchens

Each week, we aim to translate insight from NYC homeowners and contractors into information you can use to make better decisions about improving your home. This week: a look at a few of our favorite modern and contemporary kitchens by Sweeten experts and the defining elements that work so well in these inspiring spaces.


Before we can sit back and enjoy a good old photo tour, we need to cover a few minorly technical notes. While it can be interesting to debate the merits of using the terms “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably (art and architectural history buffs might insist on using “modern” to refer specifically to styles that emerged in the first half of the 20th century), we’re not overly concerned here about terminology. This round-up is meant to show how simple elements can come together to make a kitchen functional and beautiful. If you are planning a kitchen renovation and are inspired by what you see, it’s probably because you are drawn to a few unifying pieces that are visible throughout many of these spaces, so let’s focus on those:

SLEEK LINES: perhaps the most obvious signifier of a modern kitchen, clean-lined design is achieved in all of these homes via a combination of flat-fronted cabinetry and minimal (or concealed) hardware. Foregoing framing, decorative details, and ornamentation makes these spaces extra strong on horizontal lines and material contrast.

OPEN SHELVING: floating shelf cameo appearances throughout these photos show that the concepts of cabinetry and storage can be distilled down to their simplest functions, making everyday dishware easily accessible and a seamless part of a room’s decor.

RAW MATERIALS and ENGINEERED COMPOSITES versus COLOR BLOCKING: the rule for selecting materials and colors for a modern kitchen is that there is no rule. Natural stones, raw woods, highly pressurized composites, and futuristic gloss can all have a place in the modern kitchen. Some of these photos clearly show how minimalist designs can highlight natural or adventurous materials, while a handful of these photos suggest that minimal lines can contrast with statement colors to create a room bursting with light and visual energy.

STYLE INFLUENCES: many of these kitchens draw inspiration from a particular era or design sensibility. Most common in NYC’s modern kitchens? Mid-century modern themes, Scandinavian simplicity, and exposed metal or wood features that signify an industrial style.

With that primer in mind, read on for a play by play of common modern kitchen design elements by Sweeten experts.


Open shelving and custom cabinetry in Midtown West by Sweeten Expert Sarah


Butcher block and scandi-inspired composition in Clinton Hill by Sweeten Expert Kris


IKEA mod and color-blocking in Fort Greene by Sweeten Expert Santiago


Mid-century modern in Clinton Hill by Sweeten Expert Kris


Linear hardware pulls and color-blocked cabinets in Williamsburg by Sweeten Expert Jon


Faux wood finish porcelain tiles and rift-cut wood cabinetry in Hells Kitchen by Sweeten Expert Sandy


Industrial Brooklyn kitchen by Sweeten Experts Lauren and Adam


Horizontal lines and natural materials in a Tribeca loft kitchen by Sweeten Expert Thomas


Futuristic kitchen by Sweeten Expert Marcel

Ready for spring renovation season? Prep with our guide to IKEA and custom cabinetry and get up to speed on cost with our basic kitchen gut and luxe kitchen upgrade pricing guides.

  • Julie

    Hi – On the link “Guide to IKEA & custom cabinetry”, the first photo is of some modern wood grain shaker cabinet fronts. For the life of me, I have not been able to track who this cabinet comes from. Can you advise? Much appreciated.

  • Kerry @ Sweeten

    Hi Julie – thanks for asking! The cabinets in that particular post were custom made by Sweeten Experts Valeria and Eduard (cited in that blog post). If you are interested in a similar look and live in the New York City area, you can post your renovation project on and note that you are interested in a project like that. Depending on the specifics of your project, we can introduce you to contractors that are the best fit for your project’s budget, location, scope, and style. Hope that helps!