Traditional, Contemporary, Transitional: What Kitchen Design Is Right For You?

Traditional, Contemporary, Transitional: What Kitchen Design Is Right For You?

There’s no denying the versatility of modern kitchen design.  Today’s homeowners and designers enjoy playing with a variety of aesthetics, and many are eager to make bold statements with their curated interiors. Still, most kitchens tend to fall into one of three main categories: traditional, contemporary, or transitional.

All of these styles have unique perks and drawbacks.  Here are some specifics on those characteristics. 

Traditional Kitchen Design

In the wide world of kitchen design, concepts like traditional and contemporary are somewhat fluid. What may seem current to today’s standards will inevitably feel outdated in a few decades – especially as new trends and technologies take over.  However, certain elements offer plenty of timeless appeal.  

The beauty of traditional design lays in the details: ornate embellishments, soft corners, quality craftmanship, and an inviting aesthetic. Traditional kitchens exude warmth and nostalgia, taking us back to quieter, more comforting times spent baking cookies with grandma or hosting holiday meals.

Common denominators of traditional cabinetry include:

  • Hardwood material with medium-to-dark stain
  • Painted material with distressed or highlight elements
  • Raised or arched center door panels
  • Rounded, wider stiles and rails
  • Finial hinges with matching knobs and pulls
  • Decorative glass inserts
  • Crown molding, corbels, and furniture-style legs
  • Large, ornate range hoods

Although center islands are a distinct modern feature in newer kitchens, they are prevalent in many homes.  Adding an island to an older kitchen that does not have one is definitely a possibility, as long as space allows for it and the style is cohesive with the rest of the room.  For more compact layouts, a peninsula or raised bar with seating is also a great option. 

BKC Kitchen and Bath white traditional kitchen with dark wood center island and blue chair stools

Photo by BKC Kitchen and Bath

Contemporary Kitchen Design

Steering clear of ornamental flourishes, contemporary kitchens emphasize clean lines and minimalist concepts. Smooth surfaces, high technology, enhanced storage solutions, and chef-inspired appliances are key elements of design. This interior style embraces a “more is less” philosophy of simple design and sustainability, while also projecting a cool, artistic flair.

In contemporary kitchens, functionality reigns supreme. That’s not to say that function is lacking with traditional kitchens — but those who feel compelled by contemporary concepts are often more interested in how their kitchen will flow than how it will look. Hence, the dominance of the open-concept kitchen, which is a hallmark of contemporary style. 

Common features of contemporary cabinetry include:

  • Textured melamine, laminate, or high-gloss acrylic material
  • Subdued or contrasting colors
  • Flat-panel (also known as slab) drawers and door fronts
  • Engineered quartz or granite countertops with matching full-height backsplashes
  • Absence of crown molding and other decorative details
  • Touch-latch systems in place of traditional knobs and pulls
  • Strategic task lighting

When considering colors for a contemporary kitchen, experts at HGTV recommend following the 60-30-10 rule: 60 percent should be relegated to a dominant color (typically white), with 30 percent dedicated to a secondary hue and the final 10 percent reserved for accents.

Appliances are also a key consideration. Stainless steel dominates in contemporary spaces, as does space-saving placement – over-the-range microwaves are a key example. High-tech solutions are common, including smart appliances and customized LED systems. 

BKC Kitchen and Bath contemporary kitchen with black lacquer cabinets and flat panel wood cabinets

Photo by BKC Kitchen and Bath

Transitional Kitchen Design

If you love elements of both traditional and contemporary design, you could be the perfect candidate for an increasingly common middle ground solution: transitional style. 

Offering the best of both worlds, this approach combines the functionality of a contemporary kitchen with the warmth and personality of a traditional aesthetic. Feel free to mix and match the many elements highlighted above: warm wooden cabinets with modern pulls, for example, or smart appliances in the same space as crown molding. 

Emphasizing comfort, the ideal transitional kitchen will incorporate details that allow you, loved ones, and guests to feel relaxed and at ease. Natural light is important, as are textures and patterns that add dimension. Clean lines can be expected, but they’re often softened with soothing elements that might seem out of place in a strictly contemporary kitchen.

Transitional kitchens are inherently versatile, but they all hold one key element in common: balance. Every detail must be carefully considered to ensure that your kitchen doesn’t veer too far into contemporary or traditional territory. 

If you’re determined to strike the right balance between functional and ornamental or between elegant and laid-back, the right blend of elements can promote a kitchen that feels true to you. If you reverse-engineer your kitchen, you can include both the contemporary and traditional features you hold dear, rather than feeling overwhelmed by so many details.

BKC Kitchen and Bathtransitional kitchen with light wood cabinets, large center island and metal pendant lights

Photo by BKC Kitchen and Bath

Design the kitchen of your dreams!

Whether you favor traditional, contemporary, or transitional aesthetics, you deserve a functional kitchen that feels inviting and chic. By partnering with a professional kitchen designer, you can easily navigate both classic elements and the kitchen design trends of 2023. 

Our team at BKC can help you select cohesive elements that promote efficient workflow and let your personality shine.

Ready to get started? Download our guide on the 6 Steps to a Successful Remodel or get in touch with our team today!