21 NYC Kitchen Design Ideas

by | Last updated Feb 6, 2021 | Apartment Renovations, Houses, Interior Design

In this post, we will review 21 Kitchen Design Ideas from our projects in NYC. As an architect, I see that the kitchen design is the most important room in the home for many people. The kitchen is often the most expensive space in the home and the one that gets the most attention during design.


Open Kitchen Design

If there is any Kitchen Design Idea that I think is critical for a modern home, it would be having an open kitchen. An open kitchen can be fully open as part of an open plan living space or it can be partially open. Either way, an open kitchen is standard for modern homes. It used to be the case that all NYC apartments and homes had small kitchens enclosed in a small uncomfortable room with little to no thought put on kitchen design. Today, we make larger kitchens and open them up to the living space. Today kitchen design is a focal point and feature not just a utilitarian space.


Open Kitchen Design Ideas

Open Kitchen Design in a Tribeca Loft we renovated with our client Bahar Kural Development


Advantages to an open kitchen:

  • Visual connection throughout the space without barriers.
  • Makes the home feel larger due to less walls.
  • Has social value allowing more interaction when entertaining or on normal days.
  • Kitchen can be a design feature, therefore greater emphasis on kitchen design is necessary.
  • Increases the flexibility of the space for example a kitchen counter can double as bar seating.

Below is a before and after photo of an apartment that we renovated in NYC on the upper west side. We opened some of the walls to have a partially open kitchen. It completely altered the space.


Kitchen Island

If you are going to have an open kitchen, you should consider a kitchen island if you have the space. A kitchen island or peninsula can be a great addition to a kitchen. One of the best features is the bar stool seating provided at the counter. Additionally, it creates more work space at the counter and storage below.

Open Kitchen With Island

Open Kitchen With Island


Kitchen Peninsula

If you do not have the room for an island you can build a peninsula attached on one side.

Open Kitchen with Peninsula

Open Kitchen with Peninsula


Waterfall Kitchen Countertop

A kitchen countertop waterfall is where the countertop material is installed on the side of a cabinet and meets at a corner with the matching top countertop creating a continuous effect. If the corners are miter cut with quality craftsmanship, the countertop can appear seamless.

This photo shows a kitchen island with a waterfall in an apartment we renovated in Brooklyn, New York.

Waterfall Kitchen Countertop

Waterfall Kitchen Countertop


Below is a close up photo of the kitchen countertop waterfall showing the miter corner.

Modern Kitchen Miter Cut Counter Waterfall Detail

Modern Kitchen Miter Cut Counter Waterfall Detail


Kitchen Bar Stool Seating

Bar stool seating in the kitchen is a great idea for convenience and optimization of your space. Whether you have a kitchen island or peninsula, you can have stools at the counter. Here are a few countertop details and options to consider for stool seating:

  • A typical countertop height is 36″
  • You can elevate the countertop to 42″ for more bar style seating.
  • The countertop can overhang for comfort, typically 8″ – 14″
  • Adjustable height stools can be a good option
  • Stools can come with or without backs

Below is a picture of stool seating at a kitchen island with a typical 36″ countertop height. The countertop was 3 feet deep to allow for a 12″ overhang, as typical base cabinets are 24″ deep.

Kitchen Counter Seating

Kitchen Counter Seating


Kitchen Backsplash Design Ideas

The kitchen backsplash design has a lot of great opportunities. This can provide a sense of contrast or pop of color. When selecting a kitchen backsplash, I would start with considering if you want the backsplash to blend in or stand out. Under cabinet lighting will accent the backsplash, therefore deciding whether or not to install under cabinet lights is a critical decision for kitchen design and backsplash selection.

This photo below of one of our kitchens shows a shiny black subway tile backsplash. Subway tile is a very common material, but we went with a shiny black to have a little visual pop in the backsplash while blending in with the dark wood cabinets.


Kitchen Backsplash Design with Black Subway Tile

Kitchen Backsplash Design with Shiny Black Subway Tile


The photo below is from a townhouse we renovated in Brooklyn. The townhouse incorporated old and new elements. This backsplash created continuity with the old and new feel, having texture and color against the white cabinets.

Kitchen Backsplash Tile

Kitchen Backsplash Tile


Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is a great way to get extra light for your countertops, while providing an accent feature to the kitchen design. We always recommend hard wired LED undercabinet lights.

Under Cabinet Lighting

Under Cabinet Lighting


Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting

Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting


Panel Ready Kitchen Appliances

Panel ready kitchen appliances are made to be installed with cabinet doors as the face of the appliance. This can make a more continuous minimalist look in the kitchen.

Below is a picture from a modern minimal kitchen from an apartment that we renovated in downtown Manhattan. In this apartment, the owner wanted the cabinet doors, appliances, and surrounding walls to blend in so he had the walls painted to match the cabinet doors and appliance panels.

Panel Ready Kitchen Appliances

Panel Ready Kitchen Appliances with Modern European Cabinets


Exposed Brick

A very New York interior design feature is exposed brick. So many buildings have brick walls that people in townhouses, lofts, and prewar apartments expose the brick for its texture, feel, and cover. In fact, people often will purchase reclaimed brick face and add it to walls like tiles to achieve the exposed brick look.

Below is an exposed brick fireplace off the open kitchen in a 100 year old townhouse we renovated.


Exposed Brick interior design

Exposed Brick interior design


Wall Oven Instead of Range

Some people prefer a wall oven and a cooktop over a range. The range is a stand alone oven with burners on top but alternatively they can be installed as two pieces. One major advantage to a wall oven is that it can be installed high off the floor making it unnecessary to bend over to use the oven.

Below is a picture from one of our apartment renovations in NYC with a wall oven and cooktop.

Wall Oven

Wall Oven


Energy Star Appliances

Sustainable design is essential in a modern home. One very simple way to be a little more sustainable is to purchase Energy Star rated appliances. If you would like to learn more about sustainability, we have another post on Sustainable Home Design.


Kitchen Gadgets

There are many kitchen gadgets you can use to make a very cool modern kitchen.

Below is a video of a retractable kitchen hood.


Porcelain Kitchen Floors

There is a real trend to use Porcelain Kitchen Floor Tiles. Porcelain has many advantages it is durable and does not absorb. Additionally, it comes in so many different designs, colors, and textures.

Below is a porcelain floor meeting a wood floor at an open kitchen / dining / living connection.

Porcelain Kitchen Floor Tile

Porcelain Kitchen Floor Tile in a Brooklyn Apartment Renovation we did.



I cannot emphasize the importance of contrast in a kitchen. Kitchens with some color contrast or textural contrast look much more modern and have greater character than a simple all white monotone kitchen. Of course, it is your kitchen, but personally, I think the all white kitchen is a bit out of date and boring. I highly recommend adding some contrast into your kitchen.

Design Ideas for Kitchen Contrast:

  • Kitchen Appliances can create contrast in their color and material
  • The backsplash can be a feature that adds contrast
  • Under cabinet lighting will accentuate a contrasting backsplash
  • The counter top and cabinets can be the same color or they can be very different.
  • Flooring can be a way to create contrast and add character to a kitchen
  • Alternative materials

Below is a photo of a kitchen that we renovated for a client who purchased an apartment in NYC by a well known interior designer famous for making everything all white. When my client purchased the apartment, he said he did not want to feel like he was living in a hospital. There is a great deal of contrast in this apartment between material textures and color. The cabinets and walls are grey to match but the under cabinet lighting and backsplash pop. The floor and surrounding wall color and textures bring a great deal of personal character to the space.

White Subway Tile Backsplash & Gold Kitchen Faucet

White Subway Tile Backsplash & Gold Kitchen Faucet


Second Row of Wall Cabinets

One great thing about NYC apartments and homes is that they often have high ceilings. Townhouses, lofts, and many modern buildings have ceilings higher then the standard 8 foot minimum. If you have the luxury of a high ceiling then a second row of wall cabinets can drastically increase your kitchen storage. The higher cabinets can be for items you do not use very often, as these will be less convenient cabinets.


2 rows of Shaker Kitchen Wall Cabinets

2 rows of Shaker Kitchen Wall Cabinets


Keep It Simple

Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go. Below is a simple modern white kitchen. When in doubt go white, but a white kitchen is not for everyone. Simplicity can really make a kitchen feel modern.


Kitchen Design Ideas

Simple Modern Kitchen Design in a Tribeca Loft we renovated with our client Bahar Kural Development


Small Custom Cabinets & Cabinet Accessories

In NYC, every inch counts. If you are building custom cabinets, you will be surprised how useful small narrow cabinets can be.

Cabinet Accessories and Organization

There are countless accessories and inserts for kitchen cabinets to consider. Everything from blind cabinet pullouts to utensil organizers. Look at some options and make the cabinet interiors more functional.


Build a Pantry

A pantry is a great addition to a kitchen if you have the space.


Pendant Lighting

Not everyone likes pendant lighting, but a good pendant light can really add lighting to your surfaces but also be a cool design feature. People often like to have pendant lights over kitchen islands or tables. Plan out your furniture layout simultaneously with your lighting layout.

Pendant Kitchen Lighting

Pendant Kitchen Lighting


Alternative Finishes

You may be open to alternative finishes. I highly recommend being open minded when planning the interior design of your kitchen.

We have another post if you want to read about interior concrete finishes.

White Kitchen with Gold Faucet

White Kitchen with Gold Faucet



After you finish your kitchen, you need to personalize your home. You should take time to settle in and think through furnishings and decorating. Personal touches are what really make a space great.


Bonus Tip: Accessibility

If you are in a multi family building in NYC with an elevator or on the ground floor of a walk up building, your kitchen is supposed to be wheelchair accessible. When you renovate a kitchen and file for permits, the DOB will review the plans for ADA accessibility. You can read another post we wrote to learn more about Apartment Renovation Laws in NYC.


NYC Kitchen Design Ideas and Pictures

In this article, we discussed some ideas for NYC kitchen designs. Although most of these apply anywhere, these are all our actual projects in NYC. Any reference to Building Codes is based on NYC Codes. All New York kitchen design pictures in this post are of our actual projects.


Thank you for reading our blog post on 21 NYC kitchen Design Ideas.

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.