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What is a Transitional Kitchen?

Transitional is the most popular kitchen design in the National Kitchen + Bath Association’s 2019 kitchen design trends. In fact, 65% of kitchens designed in the past year were transitional, more than double the kitchens that were traditional, contemporary or farmhouse, according to Tricia Zach, Market Research Analyst at the NKBA.

Why are transitional kitchens so popular? And, perhaps more importantly, would this style fit your design aesthetic? Freshome asked Zach and John Starck, CEO and Owner of Showcase Kitchens in Manhasset, NY, to explain the features that define a transitional kitchen.

Clean, light and airy.

Clean, light and airy. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Clean and relaxed

“Transitional design offers the best of both worlds, blending the textures of traditional with the sleekness of contemporary design,” says Starck. “For kitchens, think geometric, clean and practical lines for the countertops, cabinetry, crown molding and other crafted elements.”

Starck says non-fussy is a key element of transitional kitchens. “Never would you include corbels or ornate appliques or other heavily decorative features typical of traditional kitchens,” he explains.

Floor to ceiling subway tiles.

Floor-to-ceiling subway tiles. Image courtesy of Showcase Kitchens.

Colors

Since transitional kitchens often open to the living area, designers are opting for smooth features that blend in. What’s more, they often aim to achieve a light and airy effect. “Designers report using clean colors such as whites, grays, beiges, bones and blues,” Zach says. Those are good choices for now — and when homeowners decide to sell since neutral colors appeal to buyers.

Cabinet drawers in abundance.

Cabinet drawers in abundance. Image courtesy of Showcase Kitchens.

Cabinets

In transitional kitchens, cabinets are usually a light or medium color in painted wood, wood grain or mixed materials. “Our report reveals that designers are using integrated storage with recessed panels, and doors are not as prevalent as drawers,” Zach says. Matte decorative hardware or integrated hardware are also traits of this design style.

Updraft hoods are a staple of transitional kitchens.

Updraft hoods are a staple of transitional kitchens. Image courtesy of Showcase Kitchens.

Appliances

“White kitchens with stainless steel appliances are still king — with frequently contrasting island and perimeter cabinetry,” explains Starck. Also, expect to find fully-integrated French-door refrigerators in transitional kitchens. “Designers have told us there will either be an induction cooktop along with a wall oven and microwave, or a dual-fuel or gas range,” Zach says. Updraft hoods and standard-door dishwashers are other staples in this design.

Countertops with waterfall edges. I

Countertops with waterfall edges. Image: C Wood Photography/Shutterstock

Countertops and backsplashes

“Marble countertops and even marble backsplashes work beautifully for transitional kitchens,” Starck says. Other popular features that define transitional kitchens include quartz and quartzite. “Designers say countertops are thick (1¼ inch) and are either traditional or they have waterfall edges,” Zach explains.

“Subway tile for backsplashes is still a favorite, but mosaics and glass tile in a variety of sizes work great, too,” Starck explains.

The Elkay Circuit Chef Sink. Image courtesy of Elkay.

Sinks and faucets

Popular sinks styles among designers include stainless steel single bowl or apron sinks,” Zach says.

The Moen One-Handle Pulldown Faucet. Image courtesy of Moen.

Among faucets, brushed stainless steel finishes reign; matte, polished or satin finishes are also popular. However, there is no preference regarding faucet functionality. “Designers are selecting faucets that are motion-controlled, touch or even manual,” she says.

Dark wood floors provide contrast.

Dark wood floors provide contrast. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Flooring and lighting

“The flooring can be either tile or wood, typically high gloss, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Starck. Designers are using both hardwood and engineered wood plank, continuing the debate on using hardwood floors in kitchens and bathrooms. “The various types of large-format tile used in transitional kitchens include ceramic, porcelain and stone,” Zach says. “Some designers are also using luxury vinyl.”

Designers are incorporating a variety of lighting options in transitional kitchens. “This includes recessed lights and pendants and dimmer and traditional switches,” Zach says. Undercabinet lighting and interior cabinet lighting are also features of this kitchen style. And designers are more frequently adding motion sensors and keypads.

“Lighting, seating and hardware are areas where our clients have fun,” Starck says. “Contemporary, mid-century modern, industrial, glam and even traditional elements can blend successfully into a transitional kitchen.”


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