The open, transitional kitchen has become an increasingly popular design choice in modern homes. This layout combines elements of closed, traditional kitchens with the airy openness of more contemporary models. Transitional kitchens create a space that is both highly functional and aesthetically pleasing.

In this article, we will explore the key features of open, transitional kitchens. We will look at recommended layouts, essential design elements, floor plans, lighting schemes, kitchen island variations, and more. Whether you are renovating an existing kitchen or designing a new build, the information below will help guide your transitional kitchen project.

What Defines a Transitional Kitchen?

A transitional kitchen bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary styles. It brings together the best of both worlds— classic elements with modern flair.

Some signature features of open, transitional kitchens include:

  • A combination of closed cabinetry and open shelving
  • Mix of wood, painted, and glass-front cabinets
  • Neutral color schemes with pops of color
  • Contrasting countertops and backsplashes
  • Stainless steel appliances paired with vintage accents
  • Pendant lighting mixed with recessed lighting
  • Breakfast bar island instead of a full-sized kitchen table

Transitional kitchens allow you to draw inspiration from multiple eras and aesthetics. The overall look is timeless rather than trendy. These kitchens showcase craftsmanship and high-end finishes while still feeling inviting and livable.

Recommended Layouts

When designing an open, transitional kitchen, pay close attention to the layout. This will help maximize both functionality and visual appeal.

Here are some of the most recommended layouts for open, transitional kitchens:


This classic layout uses three walls and provides an efficient work triangle between the sink, stove, and refrigerator. The U shape creates a natural divide between the kitchen and adjacent rooms but still keeps everything connected.


An L-shaped kitchen utilizes two adjacent walls and includes an island or peninsula. This layout works well in long, narrow rooms. It defines the kitchen area without totally separating it from living spaces.


Galley kitchens position cabinets and appliances along two parallel walls. This linear layout suits smaller spaces. The work zone remains compact yet fully equipped.


A kitchen island is essential for an open, transitional layout. The island provides additional counter space and storage while also creating a casual dining area. Position the island near or in between primary kitchen cabinets.

Essential Design Elements

Incorporating specific design elements will establish the transitional style in your open kitchen. Focus on these details:

Color Scheme

Neutrals like white, gray, and tan align with the transitional aesthetic. Add pops of color with pastels or muted complementary shades. For example, pair white cabinets with a light blue island.


Opt for a mix of styles like painted Shaker cabinets, glass-front upper cabinets, and stained wood lowers. Varying the finishes and colors prevents a monotonous look.


Choose transitional hardware like ceramic knobs, shapely pulls, and sleek stainless handles. Oil-rubbed bronze and unlacquered brass also fit the transitional vibe.


Quartz, marble, or granite countertops complement most cabinetry. Butcher block, concrete, or limestone also sync with the transitional style. Mix up countertop finishes for added contrast.


Ceramic, metal, glass, and stone tile make great transitional backsplashes. Add visual interest with geometric, floral, or art deco patterns. Maintain a light color scheme.


Use a blend of lighting. Incorporate flush mount or mini pendant lights over islands and peninsulas along with recessed cans for ambient light.


Hardwood, tile, and high-quality vinyl floors suit transitional kitchens. Choose warm wood tones or natural stone shades. Add pattern with mosaic tiles or parquet floors.

Open Floor Plan

One of the biggest advantages of a transitional kitchen is the ability to create an open floor plan. Knocking down walls to connect the kitchen with adjacent living areas helps achieve an airy, modern feel.

Some tips for executing a successful open floor plan include:

  • Use an island or peninsula to delineate the kitchen area. This maintains functionality without totally separating the spaces.
  • Incorporate varied ceiling heights, beams, arches or columns to define zones while maintaining flow.
  • Use area rugs in living rooms and dining areas to establish separate spaces.
  • Repeat flooring materials and colors throughout the open area for continuity.
  • Minimize upper cabinets to keep sight lines open. Shelving and glass-front cabinets maintain visibility.

Take advantage of the openness by allowing natural light to filter through. Install ample windows along exterior walls. Skylights are another excellent option for bright, airy transitional kitchens.

Kitchen Island Inspiration

No open, transitional kitchen is complete without a stellar island. The island anchors the space both visually and functionally. Take advantage of the flexibility islands provide by getting creative with the design.

Consider these tips for achieving an eye-catching transitional kitchen island:

Contrasting Finishes

Mix up the island finish from the main cabinetry. For example, combine white perimeter cabinets with a natural wood island. Using different colors and textures adds stylistic interest.

Unique Shapes

Islands don’t have to be rectilinear.sweep the shape along the curve of the countertop. Try a rounded, oval, or irregular shaped island.

Overhang Bar

An overhang or bar counter creates a place to sit and interact. The overhang should be 12-15 inches deep. Include decorative corbels or legs below for support.

Two Tier Island

Maximize storage with a two tier island. Use the lower level for cabinets and the upper portion for countertop space and bar seating.


Incorporate built-in bookshelves or glass front cabinets along one side of the island for display. This adds visual appeal and easy access storage.

Lighting Schemes

From gleaming pendants to recessed cans, lighting plays a crucial role in open, transitional kitchens. Follow these guidelines when planning the lighting layout:

Task Lighting

Bright task lighting facilitates cooking and food prep work. Place recessed lights or LED under cabinet lighting near the sink, stove, and primary prep areas.

Ambient Lighting

Recessed cans spaced evenly throughout provide overall ambient fill light. Place on dimmers to control the mood and brightness as needed.

Accent Lighting

Mini pendant lights or chandeliers work well over a kitchen island or peninsula. Opt for 2-3 pendants to illuminate this focal point appropriately.

Natural Light

Maximize natural light through ample windows and skylights. East or southeast facing windows are ideal for morning sunshine in the kitchen.

Dimmer Switches

Install dimmer switches to adjust lighting levels for various functions. Bright for cooking, subdued for ambiance. Dimmers give full control.

Warm Color Temperature

Choose bulbs with a warm color temperature around 2700-3000K. This range provides pleasing light that reflects accurately off counters and appliances.

Stylish & Functional Open Shelving

While some closed cabinets are essential, open shelving offers a great way to break up solid cabinetry. The airy look aligns with the transitional style. Shelves also provide decorative display space.

Follow these tips when incorporating open shelving:

  • Limit open shelving near the range or oven to avoid grease splatter accumulation.
  • Use glass or stainless steel shelves to maintain an airier aesthetic. Wood also pairs well with transitional kitchens.
  • Display decorative dishware, cookbooks or rolling pins to personalize the space.
  • Install shelving away from high moisture areas like the sink to prevent warping.
  • Light the shelves directly using mini pendant lights, recessed lighting or track lighting. This highlights displayed items.
  • Stagger shelves at varying heights for visual dynamism. Mix in some half-depth and full-depth shelves.
  • Anchor shelves securely into wall studs, using at least 3 support brackets per shelf for safety.

Transitional Kitchen Backsplashes

The backsplash anchors the transitional look. Strategically choosing backsplash materials and colors prevents the space from skewing too traditional or ultra-modern.

Here are some backsplash options that work beautifully in open, transitional kitchens:

Subway Tile

Classic white 3×6 subway tiles pair elegantly with Shaker cabinets. Continue the tiles onto the wall behind the range for a seamless look. For variation, bead subway tiles vertically between countertop and cabinetry.

Marble & Stone

Honed marble, travertine and limestone backsplashes provide natural contrast. Stick with a neutral color palette. install stone mosaic tiles in varying shapes for added interest.

Clear Glass & Metal

Both clear glass and metal like stainless steel or nickel backsplashes allow light to bounce around the transitional kitchen. These materials create a sleek, reflective surface.


Wood backsplashes complement the warmth of wood cabinetry. Opt for bamboo, teak or maple planks to align with the cabinetry finish. Use spar urethane to seal and protect the wood from moisture.

Stylish Storage Solutions

While the open layout does limit upper cabinetry, there are still ample stylish storage solutions for transitional kitchens.

Pantry Cabinet

Incorporate a full height pantry cabinet near the fridge or oven. This accommodates food staples, small appliances and cookware out of sight. Include rollout trays, pull out baskets and vertical dividers.


Maximize cabinets with functional drawers, like cutlery dividers and deeper drawers for pots and pans. Full extension gliding drawers offer easy access.

Under Cabinet Organizers

Use the hidden space under cabinets by adding pull out spice racks, tray dividers and tilt-out bins. Great for maximizing every inch.

Open Shelving

While open shelves have limitations, they do allow for quick access to frequently used items. Use for display ceramics and glassware.

Island Storage

A kitchen island with cabinets and drawers builds in storage. Use for lesser-used items like extra serveware.

Kitchen Sink & Faucet Selection

The sink and faucet serve as focal points in an open, transitional kitchen. Select these fittings based on function, looks and efficiency.

Some tips for choosing fixtures:

  • Stainless steel sinks match appliances and resist stains. Choose a single deep basin or two compartments.
  • Undermount sinks create a seamless countertop look. Coordinate sink and countertop finishes for a continuous appearance.
  • Apron front sinks offer a slightly more traditional vibe. Coordinate with the cabinetry style.
  • Pull-down faucets maximize functionality and remove the need for a side sprayer. Select ones with multiple modes.
  • Bridge faucets make a stylish impact while saving counter space. Find one wide enough for the sink basin.
  • Choose a polished chrome, brushed nickel, or matte black faucet finish to match the overall aesthetic.
  • Look for energy-efficient faucets with low flow rates to conserve water.

Delineating Kitchen Dining Space

Open floor plans lend themselves to comfortable kitchen dining arrangements. But the space still benefits from some separation. Use these techniques:

  • Define zones with area rugs in dining spaces and runners between cabinet groupings.
  • Use pendant lighting over islands and chandeliers over dining tables to distinguish functions.
  • Incorporate two different island heights – bar height for prep and counter height for dining.
  • Install architectural details like columns or archways between kitchen and dining areas.
  • Float kitchen islands parallel to perimeter cabinetry to block sightlines and delineate the spaces.

Recommended Appliances

Appliance selection has a major impact on the look of a transitional kitchen. Choose versatile models in finishes that pop against cabinetry and countertops.

  • Stainless steel range, refrigerator and dishwasher provide a sleek contrast.
  • French door refrigerators seamlessly blend in with surrounding cabinetry while offering expansive storage.
  • Slide-in ranges with front controls align with the streamlined transitional aesthetic.
  • Warming drawers, induction cooktops and wine fridges simplify entertaining.
  • Panel ready dishwashers and microwaves allow you to match the cabinetry facade.
  • For a vintage highlight, include one focal point appliance in a color like SMEG’s pastel blue or red.

Accessorizing Your Transitional Kitchen

The right accents personalize a transitional kitchen. Incorporate decorative elements on open shelving, kitchen islands and tabletops.

  • Display colorful dishware. Fiestaware, Le Creuset enameled cast iron and handmade pottery all pop against neutrals.
  • Fresh cut flowers, herb gardens and decorative produce like lemons or artichokes inject organic flair.
  • Modern glass vases, ceramic pieces and trays continue the transitional blending of styles.
  • Vintage cake stands, wireware and framed photos provide a charming contrast.

The beauty of the transitional kitchen lies in its balance of new and old, casual and formal. By mixing materials, colors and textures, you can achieve a look that suits your personal taste. Use the tips in this guide to create an open, transitional kitchen that gets rave reviews. With smart planning and strategic design choices, this versatile style fills any home with flair and functionality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Open, Transitional Kitchens

What defines a transitional kitchen style?

Transitional kitchens blend elements of traditional and contemporary design. Signature features include neutral color schemes with pops of color, a mix of cabinetry finishes like wood and painted, stainless steel appliances, granite or quartz countertops, subway tile backsplashes, and a combination of closed and open shelving.

What layout works best for a transitional kitchen?

Open layouts like a U-shaped, L-shaped, galley or island design allow a transitional kitchen to feel both airy and functional. Islands are essential for additional prepping space and casual dining.

What type of island suits a transitional kitchen?

Opt for an island with contrasting finishes from the main cabinetry. Rounded or irregular shaped islands add unique flair. Include an overhang eating bar and bookshelves or glass front cabinets for attractive display space.

What backsplashes work with a transitional kitchen aesthetic?

Subway tile, marble, stone, stainless steel, glass, nickel and wood backsplashes all complement the look of a transitional kitchen. Maintain a neutral color scheme in materials that contrast the cabinetry and countertops.

How do you blend closed and open storage elements?

Use upper cabinets sparingly to keep sight lines open. Install open shelving away from high heat appliances or moisture. Built-in pantries, islands with cabinets and drawers maximize closed storage.

What lighting should you incorporate?

Use a blend of task lighting like under cabinet strips, overall ambient lighting from recessed cans, accent lighting from mini pendants over islands, and ample natural light. Include dimmers for flexibility.

What architectural details help transition between kitchen and dining?

Floating kitchen islands, area rugs, varied ceiling heights, columns or archways help define the kitchen and dining zones without totally separating them.

How do you accessorize a transitional kitchen?

Decorate open shelves and tabletops with colorful dishware, flower arrangements, ceramic pieces, glassware and vintage items. These personalized touches give character.


The open, transitional kitchen artfully brings together classic and contemporary elements into one stylish, functional space. By following the design tips outlined above and choosing the right mix of materials, colors, lighting and layouts, you can create a timeless kitchen that truly suits your needs and aesthetic. Pay special attention to creating defined zones and choosing fixtures that bridge old and new. With quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, your open, transitional kitchen will become a cherished hub for family and friends.