Kitchen Cabinets – Modern VS Traditional


Some may say that kitchen cabinets act as the foundation of the kitchen, as without them, the whole kitchen would look empty and incomplete, and nothing would feel in place.

That’s why kitchen cabinets are a necessity in any kitchen, not only because they store food, baking ingredients, cleaning products and general tools, but also because they make the whole kitchen come together and look ‘finished’.

Now, when it comes to interior design, there are hundreds of different designs and styles that you can apply, but these generally fall into 2 categories: modern and traditional.

Most people maintain one of these themes throughout their whole house, while others prefer to have a mix across the house. Generally, however, each room maintains the same category, whether it’s a traditional look or a more modern, contemporary design.

Let us look into kitchen cabinets in particular, discussing the differences between modern kitchen cabinets and more traditional styles. We’ll explore different types of materials, colours and how other aspects of the kitchen can work and match with the cabinets to complete the overall design.

Traditional kitchen cabinets

What makes a kitchen cabinet appear ‘traditional’?

Traditional kitchens are generally darker than modern styles, and traditional kitchen cabinets are perhaps more ‘thicker’ and bulkier. In interior design, the term used to describe this sort of traditional look is ‘Old World Style’.

Interior design that follows the Old Word Style tends to be more textured than contemporary styles, and it’s often more rustic, showing off its wear and tear to make it feel more homely and more ‘comfortable’.

Traditional kitchen cabinets are made from different types of wood, and are often carved to have designs or added texture to them. Many traditional kitchen cabinets have fronts that open out like a door, with doorknobs or handles. Some of these have glass fronts, while others are just plain.

Traditional Kitchen Cabinets

Where are you likely to find a traditionally designed kitchen, with ‘Old Word Style’ kitchen cabinets?

If you have a traditional kitchen cabinet, your entire house is likely to be in keeping with this theme, and so it’s probable that all your rooms have a similar ‘Old Word Style’ design.

Typically, these houses are old-fashioned and have been around for decades, if not centuries, hence why they look traditional: because they always have been.

In particular, country houses, farm houses and cottages are often very traditional with ‘Old Word Style’ interior design, which is what gives them their rustic, cosy feel. The colours used are generally darker, with signs of use and wear and tear, but that’s what makes them appealing.

While some houses are traditional because they’re older, many interior designers have given newly built houses a more ‘traditional’ look as some find it more attractive, and more homely, and here is where you’re also likely to find traditional kitchen cabinets.

Traditional Kitchen Cabinets

What colors are generally used in traditional kitchen cabinets?

As mentioned before, rooms and furniture that are in keeping of an ‘Old Word Style’ design are usually much darker. Like a lot of old-fashioned furniture, traditional cabinets often use woody colours such as browns.

There are different shades that can be used in these traditional, wooden kitchen cabinets, ranging in lightness and darkness. In addition, the signs of wear also vary, with some being more worn down with more wood-grain than others, depending on personal taste and how rustic you want your cabinets to appear.

A lot of Old Word Style furniture has a matte finish, but some use redder colours with more of a polished finish, which are more intense than the matte brown.

traditional kitchen cabinets colors

How can other features of the kitchen match and reflect this traditional design?

As the kitchen cabinets act as the foundation to the rest of the kitchen, it’d be ideal that the other features of the room compliment them as well. The overall house may be fitted with arched doorways and windows, wooden floorboards, stone walls and fireplaces, and the ceilings are often lined with wooden beams.


In terms of the kitchen décor, traditional kitchens often have stone floors and large counters. It’s often equipped with natural materials, and the appliances are often bigger, bulkier and have more of a rustic feel, making the whole room feel somewhat smaller and cosier.

Modern kitchen cabinets

What makes a kitchen cabinet appear ‘modern’?

Unlike traditional kitchen cabinets, modern ones are often sleeker and more compact. As opposed to being made from natural materials such as wood, they are often made from a combination of ingredients. While some still use wood, but they’re also made from laminate materials, glass or metal.

Furthermore, modern kitchen cabinets are less bulky, and instead of the cabinet ‘door’ system seen in the traditional styles, contemporary cabinets usually have a slicker style, such as a sliding drawer.

Modern kitchen cabinets

Where are you likely to find a contemporarily designed kitchen, with modern kitchen cabinets?

Contemporary interior designs are becoming increasingly popular as technology develops and interior design grows. As you can imagine, the majority of places that would be likely to have a contemporary design are newer, modern homes that have been built recently.

These are often more expensive and can typically be found in cities, where lots of large apartments follow a contemporary design, but also in houses built in a perhaps more wealthier locations.

As the popularity for modern architecture grows, many home owners are also transforming their perhaps more traditional houses to make them look more contemporary and spacious.

best modern kitchen cabinets

What colours are generally used in modern kitchen cabinets?

In contrast to the darker, woodier, colours found in traditional and old-fashioned homes, the majority of modern homes are much lighter in colour, with whites, greys, metallic colours (silvers, golds, bronze and rose gold etc.) and even a combination of a light, neutral shade and brighter colours.

This choice arguably seems more varied than traditional colours which tend to be predominantly brown shades. Designers of modern homes can choose to stick to a plainer style which connotes simplicity, or they can go for a more artistic and perhaps more eye-catching styles by incorporating bright colours, whether it’s lots of different colours or a specific colour scheme.

metallic modern kitchen cabinets

How can other features of the kitchen match and reflect this modern, contemporary design?

As discussed earlier in the article, the darkness and ‘bulkiness’ of traditional, old-fashioned furniture makes room seem smaller and perhaps more cosy and homely.

Modern interior design, however, aims to do the opposite; it’s supposed to be minimalistic, and this along with the light, natural colours creates the illusion that the rooms are bigger than they actually are.

Of course, this isn’t completely an illusion, because most modern homes are more spacious, and the furniture is generally smaller or at least more compact.

Furniture tends to be spread out more, and everything is aligned in a ‘tidy’ patterned manor so that it has more order. For example, large granite counters and central glass dining tables are popular in modern kitchens, as are tiled walls and hard, solid floors.

minimalist modern kitchen cabinets

Conclusion: Which is better?

In conclusion, both traditional and modern kitchen cabinets can look effective in different ways, and it generally depends on the style of your house, and in particular, your kitchen.

If your house is older and more traditional with darker furniture and a more rustic look, then you might be advised to pick a more traditional kitchen cabinet made from wood with a matte finish.

Alternatively, if your kitchen is more modern with lighter, natural colours – even if there are brighter colours, too – then you may wish to opt for a slicker cabinet, made from laminate materials, glass or metal, or a combination.