Want a Design Style for Your Kitchen You Can’t Muck Up?

This versatile style lets you blend old and new, personalize, and defy the fads.

Transitional style is coming into its own as a favorite kitchen design. In a recent survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, transitional design moved into the No. 1 spot for the first time, edging out the long-time champ, traditional.

The reason? Transitional style has universal appeal -- it takes a trend-defying approach to design that’s cozy, elegant, and ensures a great return on your investment.

Adding the Basics

Brick backsplash in transitional kitchen

These Arizona homeowners made all the right transitional-style moves when they remodeled their kitchen:

  • Anchored their scheme by painting their oak cabinets white.
  • Moved to a neutral palette by painting walls tan.
  • Mixed rustic and contemporary by adding a brick tile backsplash over sleek polished black granite countertops.
  • Brought in the warmth of wood with a black walnut island countertop.

Basic Neutrals Come Alive

Transitional kitchen with a dark wood floor
Image: Katja @ Shift Ctrl Art

A balanced blend of black, white, metal, and wood tones creates a textural depth that’s serene, yet never boring. The mix works great with minimal detailing -- there’s a distinct absence of elaborate moldings and trim. Wood kitchen flooring is a favorite element that always feels warm and homey.

Untraditional Materials

Concrete countertop in kitchen
Image: Natalie Roussy from La gang à Nat

Unusual materials are fine, especially if they’re in keeping with the principles of no-regrets kitchen design, including simple detailing and subtle colors. These concrete countertops are handmade, but they have the one-of-a-kind look of a stone slab -- adding an artisan’s touch is a favorite element of transitional style. This remodeled kitchen adds a sky-blue ceiling for a color pop. With transitional design as the foundation, changing paint colors is an easy way to alter your kitchenscape.

A Little Dash of Quirky

Chalkboard backsplash in kitchen

Unique details give your kitchen personality and keep it from being formulaic. This chalkboard backsplash is fun for the family -- and it’s even in tune with the transitional palette. Other ways:

  • Bring in a favorite antique -- a cupboard, pie safe, or other unique piece.
  • Liven up walls with kids’ artwork.
  • Use open shelves and tops of upper cabinets for staging unique dishes and pottery.
  • Add one-of-a-kind pendant lighting.

Blending New and Old Elements

Transitional kitchen with a subway tile backsplash
Image: Malorie from Frazzled Grace

Combining old and new brings together classic details and updated sensibilities. This remodeled kitchen in New Jersey has a subway tile backsplash and frame-and-panel cabinets -- time-honored motifs that have been around for more than a century and continue to hold their value. They’re mixed with stainless steel appliances and a contemporary version of a butcher block countertop. Corbels are familiar old-school; these updated interpretations have simple, clean lines.

Style Chameleon

White cabinets work nicely in a transitional style kitchen
Image: Amy H.Taylor of This Bendable Life

Transitional style adapts easily to its surroundings. It’s modern, classic, and comfortable all at once. You might say this remodeled Oregon kitchen is contemporary, but blink once and you’ll see warm wood floors, wood countertops, open cottagey shelves, and timeless white cabinets with universal appeal.


Personal Touches

Bins decorate and serve as storage in a transitional kitchen

It's easy to warm up transitional style and keep it homey. These little storage bins are set on open shelves so they get plenty of show time, and their honey-colored exterior is right in keeping with transitional’s neutral palette.

Make It Your Own

Kitchen with honed marble counters
Image: Gretchen at New Every Morning

Streamlined farmhouse style is what these homeowners call their new kitchen; we’d say that fits perfectly in our definition of transitional -- a kitchen that uses familiar, time-honored elements (check the classic subway tile backsplash and apron-front sink), a simple palette (white cabinets make everything right), and a touch of modern convenience (two dishwashers will handle anything you can throw at them).


John Riha
John Riha

John Riha has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.