Rent Free

11 Contemporary Kitchens That Live in My Head Rent-Free

Not only are they serving looks, these delicious spaces make me want to be a better cook
Contemporary kitchens with bold features like this scene inside Anthony Authie's loft bring a sense of playfulness to a...
Contemporary kitchens with bold features like this scene inside Anthony Authie's loft bring a sense of playfulness to a home.Photo: Yohann Fontaine

Before I begin, there’s something I need to get off my chest: I haven’t been using my kitchen to its full potential. I’m the type of person who appreciates contemporary kitchens that are curated, mostly because I don’t spend that much time using mine. My refrigerator serves as the ultimate gallery wall with nearly every inch of the surface covered in photographs, ticket stubs, handwritten notes, quirky magnets, and so much more. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was absolutely roasted by this list of kitchen decor icks—don’t ask which design crimes I’ve committed—but the way I see it, life isn’t worth living when you don’t have enough things to work toward.

Lately, kitchens have become my favorite spot in a home to critique. Too much modern farmhouse on the moodboard, extremely outdated fixtures, not enough counter space... You get the picture. Kitchens are the heart of the home, which makes it the perfect place to show a little personality. Let’s see some skirts underneath those sinks! Life is short, install a massive plate rack for your Hermès tableware collection. Whether you lean more traditional or modern, what point of view are you trying to communicate within this domain? There’s no better resource for interior inspiration than AD, so here are 11 of my favorite contemporary kitchens from our very own home tours. (If you want to go back even further, here are some highlights from the archive.)

Grandmillennial but make it tacky in London

I love every corner of Adwoa Aboah’s cheeky Victorian-era home in London, but the kitchen is an absolute showstopper with its “modern country vibe.” Obviously, it’s stylish with checkered tiles, marble countertops, and yellow-stained plywood, but what I appreciate most are the personal touches like Adwoa’s massive magnet collection taking up real estate on the refrigerator. (The Liquidish by RiRa is a great addition on the island as well; I have one in pink.) If all that makes Adwoa a “tacky granny” then I’m right there with her!

Jäll & Tofta founders Sina Gwosdzik and Jakob Dannenfeldt opted for a bright, colorful, and curvy kitchen for their Berlin apartment.

Photo: Anne Deppe

Bursting with bright and bold colors in Berlin

The best way to describe the kitchen of Sina Gwosdzik and Jakob Dannenfeldt is eye candy. As the founders of Jäll & Tofta, they’re certified experts on all things design so it’s not a shocker that the couple would go all out for their own home. I can’t stand naked counters or shelves so I practically squealed at the placement of so many iconic design staples including the MP0210 grinder and ES18 grinder by Ettore Sottsass for Alessi, a green Plissé electric kettle, a red Pao lamp from HAY, along with other fun pieces like a bunny cookie jar and a cabbage sugar bowl. Don’t sleep on the pair of vintage Kartell chairs by the custom corner bench—best seat in the house by far!

The most delightful part of Jamie Lenore McKillop’s kitchen is the hidden bar cabinet. “It’s just so bold and colorful,” she says.

Photo: Jamie Lenore McKillop

A pistachio green dream in Venice Beach

After a video of the hidden bar cabinet inside this pistachio green kitchen popped up on my Instagram feed this summer, I kicked my bar cart to the curb. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but Jamie Lenore McKillop certainly makes a strong case for bringing back the bar cabinet—in a dramatic shade no less. For me, that meant investing in an oak wood bar cabinet by Jake Arnold for Crate and Barrel to display my gorgeous glassware. (I’d like to believe that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen would approve.) The subtle pops of color throughout the space are soothing on the eyes, which I think is important because the last place you want to feel overwhelmed is in the kitchen.

Inside this Haussmannian apartment designed by Tonale, an elegant kitchen is grounded by its clean, minimal lines.

Photo: Élise Helm

A warm, wood-paneled knockout in Paris

When you envision a wood kitchen, does your head fill up with a bunch of log cabin–themed interiors? This is what used to happen to me, but then I saw this stunning Haussmannian apartment with a contemporary kitchen that contrasts grainy wood panels with polished concrete worktops. “Wood isn’t necessarily noble, but it’s a warm material that speaks to everyone,” Antoine Lachaux, architect and founder of Tonale, told us about this design choice. “These aren’t merely uniform surfaces; wood is a material that has many distinctive qualities.” Who knew that a kitchen scene could be so serene!

All of the wood wall panels seen inside the kitchen of Emily Adams Bode and Aaron Aujla’s apartment were built by Green River Project.

Photo: Victoria Hely-Hutchinson

A Cape Cod–inspired abode in NYC’s Chinatown

Inside the eclectic apartment of Emily Adams Bode and Aaron Aujla in downtown Manhattan, you can expect to find nearly every surface “entirely clad in African mahogany and coffee-stained Douglas fir.” The handcrafted space is essentially a magnum opus for the creative couple’s passion for historical narratives, including the wood kitchen which references the fashion designer’s New England roots—specifically Emily’s family home in Cape Cod. “I know how much Emily longs for New England,” Aaron previously told AD. “We imagined that house, coming back to American ready-made materials but with a European sensibility.”

This Pauline Borgia–designed kitchen in Paris is defined by soft tones.

Photo: Oracle

Stainless steel realness in a Paris pied-à-terre

There is nothing sexier than a stainless steel kitchen and that’s a fact. I live for a metallic moment! Everyone is well aware of my wandering eye for chrome, but in one of the many kitchens of my fantasies every inch is covered in stainless steel. Weirdly, it’s the one area where industrial minimalism works for me and doesn’t feel sterile. I really love how a pastel palette softens the stainless steel features and waxed concrete floors in the kitchen of this curvaceous 550-square-foot apartment in Paris designed by architect Pauline Borgia. Utilizing a sensual interplay of volumes and materials really does wonders!

The kitchen inside a Berlin altbau features an assortment of playful patterns.

Photo: Thomas Wiuf Schwartz

Master clashing and color blocking by way of Berlin

When you only have 97 square feet to work with, why not dare to mix things up? As Yulia Yushchik has so masterfully demonstrated, Italian marble counters, color-blocked cabinets using IKEA bases and Reform MATCH by Muller Van Severen fronts, and checkerboard tiled floors from the Netherlands make an unexpectedly satisfying pairing for a kitchen renovation with a $20,000 budget. The vibe of this tiny apartment in a Berlin altbau is playful but restrained with contemporary classics woven throughout like a Vitsoe 606 Universal Shelving System by Dieter Rams. Trust your instincts and you too could be cooking in a multicolored fantasy.

Inside the kitchen of this house in Portugal, patchwork curtains hide the storage space underneath an antique table.

Photo: Miguel Flores-Vianna

Patchwork skirts and hand-painted pottery works in Portugal

I’m a firm believer in organized chaos, but when it comes to maintaining a kitchen, it must be pristine. Those of us living in rentals are not always blessed with built-in storage that aligns with our aesthetic, but what if I told you that there’s a good hack for that? From the Spanish tiles that clad the walls to the hand-painted pottery on the shelves, there are so many unique details in this Portuguese kitchen, but the patchwork curtains concealing storage space underneath an antique table is what grabbed my attention.

A charming breakfast nook in the Wisconsin home of Everthine Antiques founder Megan Dorsey.

Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki

A Black ephemera–filled breakfast nook in Wisconsin

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day and 100% deserves its own nook. If you disagree, please review Megan Dorsey’s home in Racine, Wisconsin, and then circle back. The breakfast nook inside the kitchen was the feature that ultimately sold Megan on the house, which she proceeded to decorate with Black ephemera—the nook features handmade yo-yo pillows, Jamaican art prints, and a Milton A. Fletcher piece. It’s giving me so many design ideas that I’m keeping locked in the back of my head alongside images from the homes of Malene Barnett, Kai Avent-deLeon, Alyse Archer-Coité, and Elaine Welteroth.

The dreamy kitchen inside this Frances Merrill–designed cottage in Massachusetts is easy on the eyes with pops of color.

Photo: Laure Joliet; Styling: Mieke ten Have

A quirky cottage by the seaside in Massachusetts

When I unravel all the layers of my personal style, coastal isn’t usually part of that equation. While I don’t identify as a coastal grandmother, I do have a soft spot for New England—nothing comes between me and a lobster roll from Maine! AD100 designer Frances Merrill is a genius and her subtle transformation of a Cape Ann house built in 1912 should be a case study on whimsical decorating. From the red 1953 Chambers stove and lilac countertop to the blue trim around the windows, the kitchen is a room with a strong POV. (There are plenty of florals, plaids, and quilted motifs thrown in the mix too.) I also love how Frances paired vintage furniture like an antique inlaid-wood dining table with newer versions of old classics like a yellow set of Bruno Rey chairs. 10/10, no notes.

As far as English kitchens are concerned, nobody does it better than Sienna Miller.

Photo: Simon Upton

Cottagecore romance in the English countryside

Could anyone resist the charm of #cottagecore aesthetics while residing in the countryside? Sienna Miller certainly didn’t once she finished restoring her 16th-century cottage in Buckinghamshire. The kitchen, which opens to an enchanting garden, is full of character with cabinets made from old school desks, Hungarian striped linen curtains, and a classic farmhouse table and chairs. (When working on the renovation project, Gaby Dellal recruited suppliers, craftsmen, and dealers across the UK, the U.S., and Turkey.) Lily Allen also reminds us that the simplicity of a plain English kitchen is hard to top and I completely agree. Don’t mind me adding a bunch of things from Salter House and Matilda Goad to my cart…