Guide to Creating a Transitional Kitchen

The transitional kitchen blends the old with the new and adds a touch of creativity to create a flexible gathering place.



If you're looking for a design that is open to interpretation, if you prefer to ignore the rules, if you just like what you like, then you might like the transitional kitchen design. It's all of that and more.

It's also hard to define.

"It's anything you want it to be and in-between," says Fred Puksta, who works in product development at Crown-Point Cabinetry out of New Hampshire. He says the company carries a new transitional cabinetry design that is modular in shape but can be dressed out any way you prefer, blending modern innovation with classic design.

Because it may be difficult to pin down a definition, this style is said to be transitioning, on the move or going somewhere. People are often reminded of something familiar when they see it, but they can't quite place it.

"Specifically, the style may reference details from the past, but there must be something new that makes it fresh and updated," Puksta says, but it's not "stark, contemporary or futuristic."

Transitional designs are a way to break away from traditional design style rules, says Michigan-based Kathy Hoffman, an interior designer who works with Susan Fredman & Associates, which has its headquarters in Chicago.

One way to do that is to combine finishes, she says. You can have an all-white kitchen, for example, but mix the finishes and details.

What you're doing is blending the old with the new, and adding a playfulness to the design, Hoffman says.

"It takes a bit more creativity and adventure to create your own transitional style than to comfortably conform to a pre-existing historical style," Puksta says.

It can fit any style of home. You can't get that same type of flexibility with other styles, he says. "For instance, Arts and Crafts is Arts and Crafts, and it seems to marry more strongly to some houses versus others," Puksta explains. Transitional designs can go anywhere.

If you're unsure if it's right for you, try playing around with it in the bathroom first, says Hoffman, "That's a great place to experiment with found items that scream unexpected."

How to Get This Look

To achieve this look, try these ideas:

  • Experiment with "found" items in a transitional design by using something that is unexpected. Instead of using the typical wood panels, think about using chalkboard panels on the refrigerator door. Because everyone uses the refrigerator, it's the perfect place to leave notes for the family. You can also have a chalkboard back splash.

  • It's not uncommon to use concrete on the island, but what about on the backsplash? Craft concrete tiles and mix pebbles in it for texture. Do the same on your countertops.

  • Stick with white and black colors, which transitions any way you like.

  • Look for new materials and use them on old furniture or cabinetry. When concrete first came out as a contemporary design, for example, it proved to work just as well in more classic designs.

  • Mix components from different eras, such as corbels, brackets, moldings, doors and legs.

  • Bring in traditional granite for the countertops, but don't order it polished. Choose a matte finish, and have the granite honed. And change up the colors. Look for new and unusual colors, blue, for example, instead of the more traditional black, green or beige.

  • For sinks, consider a farmhouse sink that has been redesigned with a contemporary finish, such as stainless steel.

  • Recycle or find a way to reuse objects that you already have or find elsewhere. The junk yard is a good place to start.

  • If you want something to look different, then you have to do something different. Think innovatively.
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