A transitional kitchen refers to a kitchen design style that incorporates elements of both traditional and contemporary styles. Transitional kitchens blend the warmth and familiarity of traditional kitchens with the sleek, clean lines of contemporary kitchens. The result is a versatile and livable kitchen design that offers the best of both worlds.

What Defines a Transitional Kitchen?

There are a few key elements that characterize the transitional kitchen aesthetic:

Balance of Old and New

Transitional kitchens strike a balance between the old and the new. They incorporate both traditional features like ornate cabinetry and contemporary features like stainless steel appliances. The mix of elements creates visual interest and depth.

Mix of Materials

Transitional kitchens utilize a diverse mix of materials and textures. Wood, stone, glass, metal and other materials are combined in unique ways. Quartz countertops paired with reclaimed wood flooring is one example of this eclectic blend.

Simple Lines

While transitional kitchens embrace some ornate elements, they also rely on clean, simple lines for an uncluttered look. Flat panel cabinetry and drawers with discrete hardware embody the streamlined aspects.

Neutral Color Palette

Transitional kitchens tend to have a neutral, subdued color palette. Grays, tans, whites and other muted tones allow the textures and materials to take center stage. Pops of color can be added through accessories.

The Best of Both Eras

Ultimately, transitional kitchens incorporate both the comfort and craftsmanship of traditional kitchens and the sleek functionality of contemporary kitchens. This allows for the most desirable elements of each to shine.

Benefits of a Transitional Kitchen

The balanced blending of styles in a transitional kitchen offers several benefits:

Timeless Look

By avoiding ultra-trendy features, transitional kitchens have a more timeless aesthetic. Their versatility allows them to retain their stylishness over many years, unlike niche styles that can look dated after a while.

Broad Appeal

Transitional design appeals to diverse tastes. The familiar traditional aspects appeal to longtime homeowners, while young professionals appreciate the modern twists. Guests of all ages feel comfortable in the space.

Cohesive Functionality

The streamlined contemporary features accommodate modern needs like technology and accessibility. Traditional warmth and character remain intact. This allows for a kitchen highly-functional for real life.

Ease of Change

With a transitional foundation in place, it’s easier to integrate new décor and appliances as trends and innovations unfold. The kitchen can gracefully evolve over time.

Value Booster

A transitional style adds resale value. Home buyers are attracted to its classic look and sensibility. Unusual niche styles often limit a home’s appeal.

Elements of a Transitional Kitchen

Several key elements can be incorporated to achieve a signature transitional kitchen design:


Islands can anchor a transitional kitchen. Opt for an eclectic shape like an oval or octagon. Include a mix of materials like a butcher block top and painted base. Add overhang for casual seating.


Quartz countertops in solid white or gray are a popular choice. Butcher block, concrete, or stone like marble offer attractive alternatives. Regardless of material, keep lines clean and minimal.


For cabinets, combine streamlined Shaker-style doors on the lower cabinets with ornamental glass fronts on the uppers. Varying wood stains and finishes also helps strike the right balance.


The backsplash presents an opportunity to integrate eye-catching materials like handmade subway tile, marble mosaics, or multi-toned glass. Just adhere to a simple layout for the desired transitional look.


For lighting, use pendant lights over islands and recessed can lighting overall. Forged iron or brass pendants with Edison bulbs inject traditional flair. Rectangular LED flat panel lights keep things contemporary.


Brass and iron handles and knobs nicely complement the traditional notes in a transitional kitchen. Go for clean lines rather than ornate shapes. Pulls work better than knobs for a streamlined look.


Hardwood oak strip flooring conveys traditional styling but avoids a rustic vibe. Ceramic or porcelain tile in neutral tones is another option. Just avoid intricate patterns.

Window Treatments

Because transitional kitchens use a neutral color scheme, make windows a spot for adding color and texture. Valances in bold hues and materials like jute and linen help tie traditional and contemporary together.

Design Concepts for a Transitional Kitchen

Certain design concepts align well with the transitional kitchen aesthetic:

Contrasting Textures

Integrating opposing textures like smooth countertops and rough wood flooring creates visual dynamism. Matte finishes contrasted with glossy finishes also adds appealing depth.

Focal Point

Every kitchen needs a focal point. Make a stately hood, marble-framed window or textured backsplash the star in a transitional kitchen. Avoid multiple competing focal points.

Clear Organization

Keep the transitional kitchen looking ordered and clutter-free. Conceal small appliances inside cabinetry. Minimize kitchen chaos through smart organization and storage solutions.

Subtle Color Scheme

As mentioned, neutral wall colors are best for a transitional scheme. Layer in punches of color through mosaic tile, accessories and decor instead of bright hues.

Quality Craftsmanship

Reliance on fine materials calls for excellent craftsmanship. Carpentry, stonework, metalwork and other details should exhibit meticulous construction.

Ceiling Treatment

Don’t overlook the ceiling. Beams, intricate tile, pendant lights, and other interesting ceiling details infuse character into the transitional kitchen.

Selecting the Right Cabinetry

Cabinetry plays a starring role in the transitional kitchen. Keep these tips in mind when selecting cabinets:

  • Stick with flat panel doors. Ornate raised panels skew too traditional. Recessed panel doors look too contemporary. Shaker-style flat fronts hit the transitional sweet spot.
  • Vary door styles. Use glass fronts on upper cabinets and solid doors on lowers. Mix ornate and plain fronts. Two-toned finishes also add appealing contrast.
  • Go for visible drawer fronts. Drawers better optimize space than deep cabinets. Plus, they lend a streamlined contemporary edge.
  • Get creative with shapes. Consider arched cabinet tops, unique corners or curved ends on islands. Avoid boxy uniformity.
  • Incorporate discreet hardware. Iron pulls and knobs with clean lines enhance the transitional vibe. Avoid heavily embellished hardware.
  • Select durable finishes. Painted cabinets show wear and tear over time. Opt for stain, glaze or distressing for durability and character.
  • Consider custom-built cabinets. Stock cabinets often lack the distinctive details and quality that make a statement. The investment in custom pays dividends.

Flooring Options for Transitional Style

Flooring can make or break a transitional kitchen’s aesthetic. Evaluate these flooring options:


  • Pros: Timeless appearance. Available in array of stains. Long-lasting durability.
  • Cons: Expensive. Requires maintenance. Not moisture friendly.

Stone Tile

  • Pros: Elegant visual appeal. Natural material. Adds character. Durable.
  • Cons: Hard underfoot. Can be porous. Needs resealing over time.

Luxury Vinyl Plank

  • Pros: Mimics wood/stone look. Waterproof. Affordable. Easy installation.
  • Cons: Still looks synthetic up close. Prone to scratches/dents. Less enduring.


  • Pros: Industrial vibe. Can be stained in colors. Seamless. Handles moisture well.
  • Cons: Takes seasoning to cure. Prone to cracks and stains. Hard on feet.

Porcelain Tile

  • Pros: Wide variety of styles. Waterproof. Durable yet classic material. Easy to clean.
  • Cons: Grout requires maintenance. Dropped items can crack tiles. Minimal insulation.

For the best durability, character, timeless appearance and real wood/stone aesthetics, hardwood and stone tile are superior flooring options for most transitional kitchens.

Selecting Countertops for a Transitional Look

The right countertops can make a transitional kitchen shine. Compare popular countertop options:


With the look of natural stone but more durability, scratch-resistance and easy maintenance, quartz is ideal for transitional kitchens. Affordable pricing is another plus. The material lacks the natural imperfections that traditionalists adore however.


The elegance, uniqueness and timeless beauty of marble countersuits transitional kitchens perfectly. But marble requires vigilant sealing and easily stains and cracks. Use marble only in low-traffic areas if concerned.


Granite’s durability and natural beauty complement transitional designs. The material does need periodic sealing however and lacks the softer grays and whites prevalent in transitional palettes.


Soapstone has a lovely weathered, vintage appeal that aligns well with traditional kitchens. But the material is quite soft and scratches/stains easily. It also lacks modern colors like bright whites.

Butcher Block

For a touch of warmth, butcher block offers an attractive natural wood option. But it requires diligent oiling and sealing. Spills and cuts also easily mar the surface. Use as a dining table instead of main counters.

For the optimal marriage of aesthetics, durability and practicality, quartz and marble best balance the traditional/contemporary blend coveted in transitional kitchens.

Appliance Considerations

Appliance finish and styling also impact the transitional kitchen motif. Follow these guidelines:

  • Range: Dual fuel pro-style ranges offer a commercial appeal while catering to serious home chefs. For a more budget-friendly option, opt for a slide-in range with convection cooking.
  • Refrigerator: Counter-depth french door refrigerators provide a built-in look with expansive storage. Or integrate two single-door units on either side of the range for a symmetrically appealing built-in aesthetic.
  • Dishwasher: Dishwashers have become style-neutral. Focus instead on a quiet motor and soil sensor. Integrate cabinet facing for a streamlined look.
  • Microwave: Skip the dated over-the-range style and opt for a built-in or countertop model. Conceal in a cabinet for the sleekest look.
  • Oven: Large double wall ovens permit serious culinary pursuits. Place one at countertop height for easy access. Or install a single oven with microwave or steam oven separate.

For a cohesive look, opt for matching appliance finishes in stainless steel, black stainless or custom color. Avoid ultra-bright finishes that skew too contemporary.

10 Beautiful Transitional Kitchen Examples

Need inspiration for your own transitional kitchen design? Below are 10 stunning examples showcasing eclectic elements and seamless blending of old and new:

1. Open White Kitchen with Octagonal Island

This airy kitchen utilizes a striking octagonal-shaped island as the anchor. White cabinets, subway tile and quartz counters complement the light and bright space. Pops of black provide contrast along with the black iron chandelier.

2. U-Shaped Gray and White Kitchen

This U-shaped layout capitalizes on gray Shaker cabinets paired with white marble counters for transitional appeal. Herringbone backsplash tile and modern barstool seating add to the aesthetically pleasing and highly-functional design.

3. Glam Transitional Kitchen

Glam elements like the crystalline pendant lights, velvet barstools and marble backsplash provide eclectic flair. The open shelves, white Shaker cabinets and chrome hardware keep the look grounded.

4. Wood Floor Transitional Kitchen

The natural wood floor and butcher block surfaces infuse warmth while the clean lines of the Shaker cabinets and stainless appliances streamline the space. Notice how colors are kept neutral.

5. Tropical Transitional Kitchen

Tropical details like the banana leaf walls and rattan pendants add unique flair in this sunlit kitchen. The marble surfaces, black window frames and simple cabinetry keep the look transitional.

6. Bright Transitional Kitchen

While most transitional kitchens utilize a neutral scheme, this example demonstrates how selective pops of bright color can enliven the space while maintaining the core transitional look.

7. Rustic Transitional Kitchen

Wood beams, an apron sink and brass hardware put a rustic spin on this inviting kitchen. White subway tile and flat front cabinets balance out the traditional aspects.

8. Luxury Transitional Kitchen

This luxe kitchen manages to seamlessly blend wood floors, marble counters, glass cabinets, stainless appliances and chandelier lighting into one sleek, statement-making transitional design.

9. Smoky Blue Transitional Kitchen

A smoky blue-gray on the cabinets provides a soothing sophistication in this transitional kitchen. Marble counters, open shelves and a massive hood amplify the stylish functionality.

10. Craftsman Transitional Kitchen

The Craftsman-style island with corbels and cast iron accents pairs beautifully with modern Shaker cabinets and stainless appliances in this skillful example of old meets new.

Designing an Open Floor Plan Kitchen

Many homeowners opt to incorporate their kitchen into an open floor plan with adjoining living space. This facilitates socializing and entertaining but also presents acoustic and spatial design challenges.

Follow these tips when tackling an open concept transitional kitchen:

  • Strategically place shared surfaces like islands and peninsulas to delineate individual spaces.
  • Angle kitchen cabinetry and furnishings towards each other to promote interaction between rooms.
  • Select sound-absorbing materials like carpet and drapes to minimize noise traveling.
  • Incorporate architectural details like columns, arches and varied ceiling heights to define rooms.
  • Allow adequate space surrounding islands and tables for traffic flow and accessibility.
  • Use glass cabinet doors and open shelving judiciously to prevent a cluttered look.
  • Take lighting, HVAC and vent hood placement into account so cooking smells and noise don’t intrude into living areas.
  • Include a eat-in dining area to facilitate casual meals without crossing rooms.

Accessibility Considerations

Like all home spaces, an aging-in-place, wheelchair-compatible or universally designed kitchen calls for some specific planning:

  • Opt for pull handles instead of knobs on drawers/doors for easier accessibility.
  • Include a section of low-profile cabinets and drawers for access while seated.
  • Maximize toe kick space under cabinets. Keep areas under counters free of cabinets or appliances for legroom.
  • Select adjustable height countertops and sinks to accommodate all users.
  • Use glass cabinet fronts and open shelving for easy access to frequently used items.
  • Incorporate varying counter heights and raised dishwashers for accessibility.
  • Install induction cooktops that only heat pans and avoid dangerous gas flames.
  • Choose lighter cabinet finishes like white or light gray that make the space feel open and airy.

Common Transitional Kitchen Remodeling Mistakes

Kitchen remodels allow homeowners to update worn or dated kitchens. But take care to avoid these common transitional kitchen remodeling mistakes:

  • Prioritizing style over function. Ensure changes improve practicality and flow.
  • Sacrificing storage space. Ample and accessible storage remains essential.
  • Selecting low-grade materials to cut costs. Quality cabinetry, counters and hardware make the space.
  • Ignoring lighting. Well-lit and layered lighting prevents a gloomy ambiance.
  • Disregarding layout and traffic flow. Ensure a remodel doesn’t impede movement.
  • Overlooking electrical needs. Ensure outlets and switches accommodate small appliances and tech.
  • Attempting overly complex designs. Remain consistent with the overall transitional aesthetic.
  • Failing to address HVAC. Proper ventilation protects finishes from cooking byproducts over time.
  • Not planning for inevitably future changes. Select versatile, enduring finishes and layouts.
  • Skimping on universal accessibility. At minimum, keep options viable in the future through adaptable designs.

FAQs About Transitional Kitchens

What are the key differences between traditional and transitional kitchens?

While both share some familiar elements like natural materials and ornate accents, traditional kitchens have an old-world rustic feel while transitional kitchens artfully blend those elements with contemporary features.

What colors work best in a transitional kitchen?

Neutral tones like grays, creams, whites and blues make the best transitional kitchen color schemes. Pops of color can be added through backsplashes, pendants and decor instead.

What flooring goes best with a transitional kitchen style?

Wood flooring options like oak planks and stone tiles like marble best complement the transitional blend of old and new. Materials like concrete and LVP can work but may skew too contemporary.

What is the most popular transitional kitchen cabinet style?

Shaker-style flat panel cabinets with minimalist detailing strike the desired balance between simple and decorative for transitional kitchens.

Should a transitional kitchen have an island?

Islands make superb additions to transitional kitchens. Opt for an oval, octagonal or unique shape. Adding ornate corbels and cabinet detailing on the island injects traditional flair.

What backsplash tiles work in a transitional kitchen?

Subway tiles, marble mosaics, handmade and multi-toned glass tiles all make stunning and timeless backsplash options for transitional kitchens. Stick to classics over ultra-modern styles.

How do you update cabinets for a transitional look?

Some easy ways to update existing cabinets include replacing old hardware with iron pulls or knobs, installing new Shaker-style door fronts, painting cabinets white or gray, and adding open shelving.


With their skillful and appealing blend of old and new, transitional kitchens offer one of the most popular and enduring kitchen design aesthetics. By combining the cozy elements of traditional kitchens with the streamlined functionality of contemporary ones,