Why transitional design is so popular in kitchens today

  • Traditional white cabinets can work well with modern lighting, seating and tile backsplash.

    Traditional white cabinets can work well with modern lighting, seating and tile backsplash.

  • A transitional kitchen will combine classic elements such as a subway tile backsplash with contemporary features such as industrial-style lighting.

    A transitional kitchen will combine classic elements such as a subway tile backsplash with contemporary features such as industrial-style lighting. Stock Photos

  • A transitional kitchen in newly constructed luxury home.

    A transitional kitchen in newly constructed luxury home.

 
By Erik J. Martin
Content That Works
Updated 12/23/2022 6:46 AM

You and your partner yearn for a remodeled kitchen. Problem is, you prefer a sleek modern look while your significant other insists on a more elaborate, classical approach.

Fortunately, there's room for compromise in the form of a transitional kitchen, which was recently voted the most popular kitchen design style (chosen by 88%) among surveyed members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

 

Julie Assenberg, owner of Julie Assenberg Interior Design LLC in Salt Lake City, explains that "transitional" is a fairly new term in the design world that harmonizes elements of both traditional and contemporary design -- offering the best of both worlds.

"It's popular because it fits well in homes of varying architectural styles and can suit almost any aesthetic," she says. "Transitional design is also appealing because there are no rules, except to ensure that all the elements you choose play well together."

Danielle DeBoe Harper, interior designer and senior creative content manager with Moen in North Olmsted, Ohio, echoes that thought.

"Warm and inviting, transitional kitchens often blend contemporary elements with the ornate comforts of more classic aesthetics. For example, fixtures and appliances are simple yet sophisticated, featuring either straight lines or rounded profiles. Finishes and textures are mixed throughout the space, such as on countertops, hardware and other details," says Harper. "Because they offer design flexibility, transitional kitchens are in demand among homeowners who don't want to confine themselves to a single style."

And it's a trend that has staying power, too.

"Transitional provides a beautiful level of detail without being gaudy and overdone, thus preventing the design from being dated. It's a nice, safe choice for homeowners to select -- one that promises longevity," says Dessie Sliekers, interior designer with Ankeny, Iowa-located Slick Designs.

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But it's a look that can backfire if not properly planned, which is why it's probably best to hire a professional designer who can steer you in the right direction.

"Mixing styles successfully isn't easy," cautions Assenberg. "You've got to strike the right balance between traditional and contemporary."

To pull it off with panache, it's important to select profiles that feature a level of detail, such as a raised bevel on a cabinet or a turned leg.

"You want to mix these components with a more modern finish -- maybe a painted cabinet or a white oak or caramel wood tone," Sliekers notes. "The melding of a refined, tamed level of detail with more modern colors also helps create a timeless transitional look. But be careful not to go too heavy-handed on the detail and trim or too dark on the finishes. It's good to have some ornate details in your trim work, but don't go overboard or you hedge into a traditional style."

Assenberg recommends selecting a timeless and simple countertop material, like marble, black granite or gray quartz, and using a version of classic subway tile as your backsplash -- laid in a brick pattern for a traditional vibe or stacked to evoke a modern chic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I would also choose a Shaker cabinet door style or a flat panel cabinet door," adds Assenberg.

Janet Lorusso, owner of JRL Interiors, checks most of those boxes.

"The hallmarks of transitional kitchens are usually simple Shaker panel door styles in neutral colors or light wood tones or a mix of the two. Other hallmarks include neutral traditional tile shapes applied in a pattern like herringbone or basket weave as well as stainless steel or paneled appliances," says Lorusso.

Fortunately, a transitional design is simple to update over the years.

"It's easy to change things like paint, cabinet hardware, lighting and faucets to make a transitional kitchen current and trendier without worrying about an expensive fix," Lorusso adds. "The style is so ubiquitous it works for nearly every situation."

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