Modern and Mid Century Kitchen Cabinets: Differences and Similarities

Modern and mid century modern, these two styles of architecture sound similar. However, they are two distinct styles and belong to different time periods. As the name suggests, the mid century modern design became popular around the mid-twentieth century (around 1920s-1950s to be precise). The term ‘modern architecture’ is extensively used nowadays to denote this era, while what we really perceive as modern today, is denoted by the term ‘contemporary’ today.

Although the basic idea behind both of these styles is the same, i.e. superior functionality, they sure do share a number of differences as well.


Both the styles are devoid of ornamentation, however, the contemporary design is even more so. Inspired by the industrial revolution, postmodern or contemporary kitchen cabinets display a stark and clean look with lots of horizontal lines, even horizontal hardware fittings.

On the other hand, mid century modern kitchen cabinets allow room for slopes and arches for better cohesion with the rest of the room or the outdoor.

Cabinet style

Sliding doors are the signature style of mid century modern cabinets. Frameless cabinets are equally common in this era. Sleek, smooth and flat designs primarily dominate the mid century style.

While Contemporary styles too feature similar looks, the main difference between the two rests in the building material. While we see wood and wood veneer as the predominant material in the mid century modern cabinets, with occasional use of glass, the contemporary styles allow more diversity by using different types of materials such as fiberglass, stone, etc. If you have a limited kitchen space and are looking for modern kitchen cabinets for sale, then opting for frameless cabinets will be a smart move for you.

Texture and finish

When seen superficially, both the mid century cabinets and contemporary modern cabinets look almost similar in their smooth finish and sharp appearance. However, again, mid century modern cabinets display a lot more variety in texture and finish than contemporary modern cabinets. Wood grains, backsplash, or pop of colors are evident in the mid century modern style, while, although there are a considerable range of variety seen in the materials, the contemporary modern cabinets do not possess the kind of variety in texture that’s found in midcentury modern cabinets.


Mid century modern style of cabinets are seen in playful and vibrant colors such as burnt orange, lime green, powder blue and shades of brown. In the kitchen too, colorful wallpapers with bold and bright prints were common.

However, in contemporary style, we see warm neutrals dominating the scene. Monochrome wall paint teamed with gray, white, or black cabinets are the look opted for in case of postmodern or contemporary style kitchen. Having said that, in the past two-three years, two-toned cabinets, or an occasional pop of colors in the pool of whites and greys are making a promising comeback.

The kitchen layout

The kitchen layouts of the respective era play an important role in cabinet styles because the functionality of the cabinets varies depending on the layouts.

For example, in mid century style, open kitchen is more popular. In this era, people preferred to have a built-in dining area in the kitchen itself. As a result, they used to have large cabinets in more numbers to contain not only the kitchen stuff, but also the cutlery items.

But in contemporary style, people prefer breakfast bars instead of a full-fledged dining room. So, the need for large and numerous numbers of cabinets are also reduced.


Like the color schemes, the lighting schemes too are a lot more playful and vibrant when it comes to mid century modern kitchen. Pendant lighting of different colors are signature element of this time. We can see a lot of colors in these pendant lights such as different shades of orange, blue, red, and green. Nelson bubble lamps are also very popular in mid century style.

When it comes to postmodern and contemporary style, under cabinet lighting is very popular. Apart from this, daylights and monochrome fluorescent lights are also used extensively in order to bring out the minimalistic approach that is prevalent in contemporary style.


Again, the approach of mid century modern style is more peppy and funky in terms of accessories. In the mid century kitchen cabinets people used to have various kinds of elements like ceramic pots and jugs as well as plastic was hugely used by that time. Various kind of plastic materials like chairs, utensils and various kind of product made of wood could be seen in the kitchen. Mid century modern kitchen is the perfect place to have funky element as it mentions.

Consistent and decent design is being seen in modern kitchen. People are using consistent chairs and matching lighting as well as they are used to in using stainless steel products like glass and all. Basically simple but decent products are seen in modern kitchen cabinet.


So, although these two styles of kitchen cabinets apparently look similar, they have their fair share of differences too. The decision of choosing one for your home and kitchen ultimately depends on your taste, because, in terms of functionality, they are almost the same. For the best and most high-quality products in both categories, you should check out the website of a reputed kitchen cabinet manufacturer such as Cabinet DIY.

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