Transitional Style Kitchens: Key Elements & Ideas

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated March 11, 2022
A spacious transitional kitchen with blue cabinets and wooden countertops
Photo: James Osmond / The Image Bank / Getty Images


  • Transitional kitchen design blends contemporary and traditional styles.

  • Incorporate neutral tones, natural light, and sleek surfaces.

  • Choose shaker cabinets with low-profile hardware.

  • Opt for granite, quartz, or marble countertops.

  • Maximize your storage to keep your kitchen uncluttered.

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A transitional kitchen design blends modern and traditional elements to create a timeless appeal. With a mix of sleek lines and subtle textures, your kitchen can have a classic feel with a contemporary touch. Since emerging in the 1950s, transitional kitchens are functional, inviting, and great for those who enjoy a fusion of styles. 

10 Key Elements of Transitional Design

Transitional kitchens offer a bright, airy, and casual feel with a blend of textures, finishes, and soothing colors. Clean lines, neutral tones, and ample lighting are staples of this design style. With the right mixture of elements, a transitional style kitchen blends seamlessly with other rooms in the home.

1. Neutral Colors Paired With Wood

The color palette of transitional kitchens leans toward neutral tones to ensure the space carries a classic, enduring look. Whites, grays, beiges, greens, and clay tones are often found in transitional design, along with wood elements in your flooring, window casing, range hood, or even exposed beams. 

While earthy tones should make up the primary colors of your transitional kitchen, you can add splashes of color to your accessories and accent pieces to break up the more neutral space. 

2. Robust Lighting

Transitional kitchens often incorporate more than one lighting source to boost visibility and add style. 

  • Natural light: Transitional design focuses on maximizing natural light to add timeless beauty and simplicity to the space.

  • Pendant lights: Whether over your island or kitchen sink, pendants in brass, black, or metallic tones add a modern touch without stealing the spotlight. 

  • Recessed lighting: Opt for overhead canned lights that don’t distract from the rest of your kitchen design.

  • Under cabinet lighting: Consider putting dimmable lights under your cabinets for better visibility while prepping foods or setting a serene mood. 

3. Simple Kitchen Cabinets

Transitional kitchen cabinets are low profile and streamlined. They don't have intricate carvings, but instead rely on clean lines for beauty and appeal. Shaker cabinets are a go-to choice for transitional kitchen designs. The clean lines and paneled doors blend in with the rest of the kitchen and allow you to add accents elsewhere.

4. Low Profile Hardware

The hardware in a transitional kitchen gravitates toward sleek and functional, instead of ornate. Tubular bar pulls or barrel pulls are popular options in silver, wood, black, and brass tones. 

5. Ample Storage

A signature element of a transitional kitchen is a space that’s clean and uncluttered. A transitional kitchen has plenty of storage to keep items and appliances off the counters.

6. Blended Accents and Textures

Traditional kitchens tend to have many decorative accents, while modern designs tend to be simple. Transitional kitchens mix both of these looks for a healthy balance. 

You may choose a simple crown molding or a metallic pendant—instead of ornate cabinetry and hardware—or opt for a backsplash with a hint of color or a range hood with character. As with any design style, a transitional kitchen should embody your personality and preferences, so don’t be afraid to throw in a bit of texture and color throughout the space. 

7. Sleek Countertops

A transitional kitchen with a marble countertop
Photo: Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

Granite, marble, and quartz are the most popular countertop materials for transitional kitchens, due to their natural, streamlined look. These materials also offer durability and longevity, which lends well to the transitional style. A simple countertop edge is best, or a thick countertop profile, such as a mitered edge. 

8. Wood or Plank Flooring

Hardwood floors, or plank flooring that mimics wood, are popular choices for transitional kitchens to bring warmth to the space. 

9. Kitchen Island

Transitional kitchens boast an open concept, making a kitchen island a common staple. You can match your island color to your other cabinets or mix it up for contrast. If you don't have space for an island, a peninsula with bar stools is a popular alternative.

10. Stainless Steel or Paneled Appliances

To blend in with the classic look of a transitional kitchen, stainless steel or paneled appliances are go-tos. Stainless steel adds subtle texture and color while paneled appliances are hidden away to let other features take the spotlight.

How to Incorporate Transitional Design Into Your Kitchen

By opting for neutral colors and sleek lines, you can achieve a stunning transitional kitchen that still bubbles with personality. Play with each element to blend textures and finishes for a balanced look. Whether you’re tackling a full kitchen remodel or making tasteful updates, here’s how to bring a transitional design to your kitchen. 

1. Install Pendants

Remove old or traditional light fixtures and swap with a modern pendant, or series of pendants. Choose a metallic or black finish to bring in a modern touch into the space.

2. Increase Your Natural Light

If you can add a window, or increase the size of an existing window, the natural light will work wonders for your transitional kitchen. As an alternative, remove any drapery on your current windows. Take off any curtains or valances, and let the sunlight in. 

3. Update Your Countertops

Replace your countertops with a granite, quartz, or marble material for an immediate game-changer. The sleek look will bring a more timeless feel to your kitchen.

4. Change Your Hardware

Switching out cabinet hardware can make a surprising difference in your kitchen. Opt for tubular pulls in a black, brass, silver, or wood tone for a transitional design.

5. Add a Runner

Bring in a new texture with a kitchen runner that's either modern or traditional. Aim for a material or color that offers contrast to the main style of your kitchen.

6. Paint or Replace Your Cabinets

Opt for a soothing cabinet color, such as a white or cream, to soften your kitchen. Or, replace your cabinets altogether with shaker cabinets in white or light gray.

7. Remove Clutter

A transitional design has an open, uncrowded feel. Remove any appliances you don't normally use and store them elsewhere. Maximize what you're storing in your cabinets or pantry to remove excess clutter from your countertops.

8. Paint the Walls an Earth Tone

A fresh coat of paint on your walls can help change your style to transitional. Opt for a white or earthy tone for a timeless look that can complement many textures, finishes, and styles.

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