A transitional kitchen refers to a kitchen design style that combines elements of traditional and contemporary styles for a look that feels fresh yet classic. As a designer working on a transitional kitchen project, there are key elements to focus on that will achieve this stylish and timeless aesthetic.


A transitional kitchen strikes the perfect balance between old and new. It brings together traditional shapes and materials with clean, modern touches. This look manages to feel elegant and current without going too far into trendy territory. For designers, creating a cohesive transitional kitchen requires careful attention to detail and a deft hand at blending classic and contemporary elements.

When approaching a transitional kitchen design, focus on creating warmth through materiality while keeping the overall look sleek. Use finishes like polished nickel and brushed bronze for fixtures. Opt for natural surfaces like wood, stone, and marble to add organic texture. Then temper those traditional choices with modern simplicity – think handle-less cabinetry, discreet appliances, and minimal ornamentation. This article delves into the key steps any designer should take to craft an appealing, on-trend transitional kitchen.

Developing the Floor Plan

When starting to design a transitional kitchen, begin by developing an efficient, logical floor plan. Transitional kitchen layouts balance openness and separation between zones. Here are some floor plan tips for a cohesive transitional look:

  • Create natural traffic flow between cooking, cleaning, and gathering areas
  • Use an open concept while still defining work triangles
  • Incorporate signature transitional elements like a sizable kitchen island, built-in banquette, or breakfast bar
  • Allow enough room for clean lines and minimalist storage like concealed appliances
  • Include transitional materials like marble, quartz, or porcelain tile flooring

Remember, transitional means a combination of styles. Seek balance in the floor plan between completely closed off and completely open. Define zones while maintaining an uncluttered flow.

Selecting Cabinetry

Cabinetry plays a huge role in establishing the aesthetic of a transitional kitchen. Focus on styles and finishes that straddle the line between traditional and modern.

Door Styles

Look for cabinet doors that are simple rather than ornate. Some good options include:

  • Shaker style doors with a square center panel and clean lines
  • Slab style doors for a streamlined, contemporary look
  • Flat panel doors with subtle grooves rather than heavy carved details

Steer clear of overly embellished doors. Opt for door styles with clean profiles to keep the transitional vibe.

Colors and Finishes

Keep cabinet colors neutral but warm. Inviting transitional color schemes include:

  • White
  • Soft grey
  • Beige
  • Light wood tones

In terms of finishes, strike a balance with choices like:

  • Wood stained in natural, muted hues
  • Painted cabinets in matte finishes rather than high gloss
  • Stainless steel for a cool touch on modern styled doors


Hardware offers another chance to meld traditional and modern. Retro bow pull handles pair nicely with flat recessed panel cabinets. Or, choose sleek handle-free cabinets and accessories. Other transitional hardware options include:

  • Bar pulls in brushed bronze, chrome, or steel
  • Discreet finger pulls on drawers
  • Unobtrusive wire pulls

Selecting Countertops

The countertops provide another opportunity to reflect the transitional kitchen aesthetic. Mix natural stone or quartz with modern edge profiles and minimal seams.


Good countertop materials for transitional kitchens include:

  • Granite – prefer darker flecked styles for depth without pattern
  • Marble – seek veining that’s elegant rather than showy
  • Quartz – pick a polished solid surface with neutral tones

Avoid heavily patterned or colorful surfaces. Maintain a streamlined look.


For the countertop edges, transitional kitchens suit:

  • Square edge profile
  • Small eased or pencil edge
  • Minimal bevel for a hint of detail

Steer clear of ornate ogee, triple waterfall, or heavily rounded edges. Keep edges clean-lined.

Selecting Backsplashes

The backsplash offers a chance to inject personality while upholding the transitional look. Focus on materials and patterns that provide subtle interest without going over the top.


On-trend transitional backsplash materials include:

  • White subway tile
  • Marble tile in a neutral shade
  • Metal like stainless steel or tin
  • Clear or frosted glass

Avoid bold colors or heavily variegated patterns. maintain a simple, refined material palette.

Patterns and Textures

For pattern inspiration, look to:

  • Subway tile in a classic brick lay pattern
  • Tiles with a subtle Moroccan fish scale pattern
  • Mini tiles creating a streamlined grid
  • Frosted glass or stone for organic texture

Stay away from large-scale patterns like wide zigzags. Keep patterns geometric and understated.

Lighting and Decor Touches

Details like lighting and decor provide those finishing touches that elevate the transitional kitchen. Focus on elements that fuse classic and contemporary style.

Pendant Lights

For pendant lights, look for simple forms like:

  • Dome shaped shades in brushed metal or glass
  • Cylinder shades in clear glass or linen for softness
  • Vintage-style filament bulbs paired with sleek fittings
  • Contemporary track lighting with warm lamp elements

Avoid anything with heavy ornamentation or overly trendy. Seek versatile fixtures with classic lines.

Decor Accents

Recommended transitional decor includes:

  • A polished metal hood and matching hardware
  • Frameless cabinets for a streamlined look
  • Warm wood cutting boards and spoons adding natural texture
  • Glass canisters and containers for visual balance
  • A vase of fresh flowers for an approachable feel

Skip themed decor like farmhouse accents or industrial pipes and gears. Keep it minimal and neutral.

Incorporating a Transitional Kitchen Island

One of the quintessential elements of a transitional kitchen is a stylish kitchen island. Use the island to bring traditional and contemporary elements together.


When sizing the island consider:

  • Proportions that feel substantial but not oversized
  • Allowing enough room for seating and circulation
  • Suitable clearance for traffic flow and appliance access


Stick with simple, clean-lined island shapes like:

  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Oval

Avoid angles, cutouts or overly ornate edges. Keep the shape classic.


Recommended island finishes include:

  • White, beige or gray cabinets for an airy feel
  • Light wood or butcher block top for warmth
  • Matte painted base updated with metal stools
  • Marble, limestone or quartz countertop for elegance

Prevent too stark a contrast between the island and other cabinets. Let it blend seamlessly.

Functional Details

Consider incorporating:

  • An overhang for casual seating
  • Pendant lights above for task lighting
  • Shelves for cookbooks adding personalized flair
  • Drawers and cabinets for concealed storage
  • Electrical outlets for appliance functionality

Just be sure to avoid clutter. Opt for streamlined storage and understated decor.

Creating a Transitional Banquette Dining Area

Another way to reinforce the transitional kitchen aesthetic is to include a banquette dining area. Here are some tips for designing a banquette space with a timeless transitional look.


Ideal banquette placement includes:

  • Along a kitchen wall or nook
  • Near a window for natural light
  • Opposite an island or peninsula

Consider sightlines and ensure the banquette feels thoughtfully integrated.


Select banquette seating materials like:

  • Fabric upholstery in a solid or subtle print
  • Leather or leatherette for durability
  • Wood or stained frames for warmth
  • Polished metal paired with soft cushions

The materials should mirror the sophistication of the overall kitchen scheme.


Think L-shaped, U-shaped or straight designs to keep the banquette classic. Add clean lines and minimal ornamentation.

Table Space

Incorporate a table flush with the banquette for multifunctional use of the space. Opt for:

  • Marble or wood tabletops
  • Sleek metal legs in black, silver, or bronze
  • High-low table shapes for varied heights

Include lighting above the banquette table space for ambiance.

Achieving a Timeless Transitional Kitchen Vibe

With careful planning and attention to detail, designers can craft transitional kitchens with enduring appeal. Focus on the balance between classic elements like natural wood cabinetry and soft detailing with modern touches like streamlined hardware and minimalist shapes. Rely on this blend of old and new to create kitchens that will retain their stylish good looks for years to come.

The most critical point to remember is that a transitional look walks the line between tradition and trend. Source materials, fixtures, and finishes with versatility and longevity in mind. Take a less-is-more approach to ornamentation. With the right balance of warmth, simplicity and function, designers can achieve beautiful transitional kitchens.

FAQs About Designing a Transitional Kitchen

What are the key elements of a transitional kitchen?

Some hallmarks of transitional kitchen design include:

  • A versatile color palette blending neutral tones like warm grays and ivory
  • Streamlined cabinetry shapes like Shaker or slab-front styles
  • Natural materials like marble, quartz, stone and wood
  • Metallic accents and fixtures in brushed nickel, bronze and chrome
  • Minimal ornamentation for a simplified look
  • Seamless marriage of traditional and contemporary elements

What type of flooring works best for a transitional kitchen?

Opt for natural stone or wood with neutral, organic appeal. Strong options include:

  • Porcelain tile with subtle variation
  • Hardwood in oak or maple, stained in lighter tones
  • Marble or limestone with gentle veining
  • Concrete with a polished or matte finish

Avoid brightly colored or heavily patterned floors to keep the transitional look refined.

What backsplash tile patterns align with a transitional style?

Focus on simple, geometric patterns like:

  • Square, rectangular, or hexagonal shaped tile
  • Subway tile or penny rounds in straight lay patterns
  • Mini mosaics to create clean lines rather than swirls
  • Stacked tiles for subtle offset vertical bands

Stay clear of large-scale graphic patterns or loud colors.

How do you mix metals within a transitional kitchen?

Aim for a complementary blend of metals that feels unified rather than haphazard. Some pairings to consider include:

  • Brushed brass hardware with satin nickel fixtures
  • Oil-rubbed bronze light fixtures alongside chrome appliances
  • Modern stainless steel stove with antique bronze faucet

Tying metals together through finish or tone creates a pulled-together look. Just don’t overdo the mix.

What type of transitional kitchen island works well?

A great option is a streamlined island with details like:

  • Crisp white painted base with natural butcher block top
  • Soft closing drawers in muted gray tone
  • Straightforward rectangular shape
  • Discreet paneling and modest cove molding
  • A few stool seats for casual gathering

The island should mirror the kitchen’s overall subtle traditional charm.

How can you add warmth to a transitional kitchen?

Warmth comes from:

  • Rich natural textures likes oak cabinetry and marble counters
  • Elegant yet muted finishes like an oil-rubbed bronze faucet
  • Antique-inspired glass pendants mixed with modern spot lighting
  • Creamy off-whites paired with beiges and light driftwood grays
  • Fresh flowers, fruits, and accent greenery

Use timeless, welcoming materials to balance sleek simplicity.


The hallmark of a transitional kitchen is the seamless marriage of traditional and contemporary elements. By blending vintage warmth with modern minimalism, designers can create kitchens with wide, enduring appeal. The most important guidelines for nailing this straddling-the-trends look include:

  • Develop a versatile floor plan with clean sightlines and differentiated zones
  • Choose cabinetry with simplified Shaker, slab or flat panel door fronts
  • Select countertops and backsplashes in muted natural hues
  • Incorporate metallic accents and hardware in finishes like brushed bronze
  • Add an island and banquette for signature transitional elements
  • Use pendant lighting, greenery and warm textures to create livable luxury

With these fundamental steps, designers can craft refreshed yet timeless transitional kitchens. This intelligent fusion of old and new creates kitchen spaces with lasting style in any home.

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This extensive article explores how to design a stylish and timeless transitional kitchen. Learn the elements that blend traditional and contemporary for a look that stands the test of time.