Transitional Kitchen Design

You’ve probably heard of modern and traditional kitchen design. But did you know there’s a third option? Transitional kitchen design is a popular style that blends the best of traditional and modern aesthetics into a smart, inviting, and stylish compromise.

A transitional kitchen keeps what’s best about each style–like the functionality of a modern kitchen and the comfort of a traditional one–while avoiding their disadvantages, like modern coldness and traditional overdecoration.

The transitional style presents endless possibilities and gives you freedom to do pretty much whatever you want. How you combine old and new elements to create a transitional kitchen is entirely up to you.

This style is about bending the rules, breaking the rules, or even throwing out the rulebook entirely. The following tips provide some inspiration, but at the end of the day, a transitional kitchen remodel is whatever you want it to be.

Design Philosophy

In fancy design terms, a transitional kitchen is “postmodern.” It draws on the whole history of kitchen design and makes no apologies for stealing inspiration from different eras.

Traditional and modern are on a continuum, and a transitional design can be closer to one end or the other. On the more traditional end, you have an updated classic look, while the modern end will give you a modern yet warm space that preserves key traditional features.

More than anything, a transitional style is all about going with what works and discarding what doesn’t. You’re not married to any single design philosophy.  You’re free from an “either/or” way of looking at things.

Materials

Materials are a defining feature of a transitional kitchen. Wood, marble, stone, and steel, are all brought together in a coherent design.

Done right, this avoids feeling like a hodgepodge and instead uses diverse materials for their complementary effects. Wood island stools and cabinetry can provide warmth in a space with stark, industrial fixtures and steel accents.

Layout

Attitudes about our use of space have changed over the years. Just like materials and colors, the setup of a kitchen can make it feel dated or come across as a stylistic statement.  Once again, the transitional option gives you the upside of a century’s worth of trends.

Put an island in your L-shaped kitchen. Have a quartz-counter breakfast bar in what otherwise feels like a country kitchen from the days before microwaves. If you have enough space, you can have more than one dining area in more than one style: a traditional dining room for traditional dinners and a working island with barstools to bring guests into the kitchen for a more intimate and interactive meal. These two concepts don’t have to clash in a transitional kitchen.  

Colors and Texture

Different eras of kitchen design can find common ground in a neutral color palette. Greys, browns, and monochrome unite eclectic features.  Loud colors can be trickier because they draw attention to design contrasts in a way that feels more like a clash.

But that’s not to say your kitchen needs to be colorless. Add color with a bold backsplash or an eye-catching island. Accent colors stand out more in an otherwise neutral kitchen. Transitional design is all about the push and pull between the subtle and the eye-catching. Color is a great way to enhance this effect.

You can also add expression with unique textures. A backsplash could be glass or tile and incorporate wild patterns in an otherwise toned-down space.

Lighting

There’s a lot of room to have fun when it comes to lighting a transitional space. Today’s super-efficient LED lights come in a range of color temperatures to match the feel of the room and set the right mood. The bulbs themselves are available in vintage-inspired styles that look like something out of Thomas Edison’s workshop.

You can mix and match traditional and modern light fixtures in different areas of the kitchen and dining area.

Don’t forget natural light. Letting the sunshine in is a timeless design choice.

Cabinets

Traditional cabinets are often over-the-top by today’s standards with ornate hardware and engravings. As a rule, you want to keep it simple with cabinetry. Simplicity can be modern or traditional; the difference is often in the materials.

One way to get creative while keeping things traditional is to find antique or vintage nobs and fixtures for your wooden cabinets.  

Matching Your Home’s Style

Just as the design details within a transitional kitchen contrast and complement one another, your kitchen is in a stylistic dialog with the rest of your home.  

Think about how the construction of your home introduces transitional elements into your kitchen design.  For example, an apartment in a converted loft space, like you find in Downtown San Diego, can incorporate an existing brick wall or exposed beams and ductwork with traditional cabinets or countertops that soften the industrial vibe.

A ranch house can preserve the traditional touches that nod to its design heritage, and a beach house kitchen can include a laid-back seating area and cheerful accent wall alongside serious cookware and appliances.

When remodeling to a transitional style, you can save money by working with existing tile or wood floors. Whether your current kitchen is traditional or modern, you can keep the parts you like and complement them with opposite touches.

Get Creative, Have Fun

A kitchen is the heart and soul of a house in many ways. To truly make this space you’re own, think beyond picking out appliances and tiles and colors.

Try reimagining not just the kitchen but what the kitchen is used. Take your transitional design a step further by getting creative with how you store pots and pans, how you put family photos on the fridge, and how you write notes and to do lists.

As with any remodeling project, you can always start with small, inexpensive touches. You can start with new lightbulbs, cast-iron cookware, or a style-conscious coffee maker. Transitional design is all in the details, and no detail is too small.

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