The Best Modern Kitchen Ideas for People Without a Movie Budget

Update your space with the best modern kitchen ideas for appliances, amenities, and more.

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Image: Sophy Ziss

We all wish we could live in Nancy Meyers’ kitchen ... But we’re real people, you know? We have jobs and budgets and can’t just pour money into a contractor to create an idyllic, open-plan, two-oven-and-kitchen-island-having paradise. But what we can do is look stuff up on the internet. Creating the cooking area of one’s dreams can take time, love, and effort, not to mention a crisp vision and the potential for bickering. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of buying back issues of Architectural Digest or Googling the set director’s cell phone number for It’s Complicated, you can just read this list of simple yet effective solutions for maximizing your space in a modernist style.

Best Modern Countertop: Anything That Looks Like Marble

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Image: Sophy Ziss
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Sleek, streamlined, and organized: These are the tenets of a modern kitchen. Whereas a shabby-chic approach offers a rustic, cozy feel, and an exposed-appliance-industrialist vibe has a real “single man with disposable income” energy, a modern kitchen is clean and minimalist. Its matching appliances and muted color schemes allow the space to speak for itself. For an instant visual boost: Marble countertops. Oh, that’s not an option? What about Formica Laminate Sheeting in 180fx Calacatta Marble? Not only is it a leading name in laminates, but it’s designed to be DIY and elevates your existing surfaces in a snap. Plus, this finish offers real stone-like etching details. No one will know the difference, except for your wallet (and maybe one Saturday afternoon).

Best Modern Cabinets: Open Shelving, Of Course

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I’ve gone for this look a few times with repurposed furniture (cough, cough, bookshelves), and I genuinely love it. It makes it easy to reach for whatever you need, and you’re kind of forced to keep everything organized and dust-free. One cost-effective option is to simply remove the doors from the cabinets you already have. Another is to grab the Latitude Run Maizah 39" Iron Standard Baker’s Rack from Wayfair. Sturdy, space-saving, and versatile, this piece offers clean lines with an effortlessly modern aesthetic. It’s pretty spacious, too, leaving room for appliances and accouterments.

Best Modern Appliance: A Stainless Steel Fridge

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Look, if you’re asking me, an essential component of a modern kitchen is a fridge that you can’t totally be sure is a fridge just from looking at it. But a realistic component of being a human person who uses a kitchen is a fridge that’s accessible. That means no SubZero nonsense and nothing that looks like a cabinet. So I’m recommending the Bespoke 4-Door French Door Refrigerator from Samsung to split the difference. It’s a fully customizable model, so you still get to feel like a rich person, but you can also tailor it to your family’s specific food/drink/design needs. (A matte finish would be particularly cool.) Its easy utility and surprising depth make it easy to fill and keep organized. You’ll see later that organization is paramount for modernity. How else will your renovated space go viral on TikTok?

Best Modern Lighting: Recessed Lighting

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Chandeliers? Too bougie. Pendant lighting? Passé. To update your kitchen’s aesthetic, you want the seamless appearance of recessed lighting. You can put what you save on lighting towards a true showstopper like a new hood, which tends to be very expensive and therefore do not belong on this list. But something like this 12-pack of Hykolity 6-inch LED Recessed Lights should do the trick. They don’t require additional housing or junction boxes, which is great and makes them even easier to install than you’d think. They’re also designed with multiple lighting temperatures that can be adjusted via touch and dim (ooh, mood lighting) without any bothersome buzzing.

Best Modern Quick Fix: Organization

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Depending on how long you’ve been on the internet, you may recall the video about company coming over. While satirizing his mom (and mothers in general), comedian Chris Fleming makes a pretty compelling argument. In a pinch? Just hide everything. And then clean what you can see. I personally love a good pack of stainless steel wipes, or perhaps even Goo Gone for the stuff I really can’t get rid of. Then put stuff neatly in plastic tubs like this versatile 8-Pack of Utopia Kitchen Organizers and call it a day. OrganizationTok will eat it up.