Traditional vs. Transitional Kitchen Designs

Kitchen designs have come a long way in the past few decades. From what was once relegated to a small, cramped corner of the home to what has now become a central gathering place where family and friends create both beautiful meals and lasting memories. Today, kitchens have evolved mainly into two designs — traditional and transitional. Traditional kitchens use more ornate details, while transitional kitchens are a mix of traditional and modern elements. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at both designs by highlighting their common features and identifying their cons. Read on to decide which design is best for you.

Traditional kitchen design

A traditional kitchen is a popular choice for many homeowners because it offers a timeless style and a classic look that will stand the test of time. This design infuses classic architectural details like crown molding and wainscoting, which add visual interest and depth to the space. In addition, there is something about a traditional kitchen that just feels cozy and comforting — maybe it is the warm colors, the rustic details, or the way everything seems to be connected to nature. Whatever it is, if you are looking to create a traditional kitchen of your own, it will be helpful to familiarize yourself with the features of traditional kitchen designs. Below are some of the most common features to consider:

Common features of traditional kitchen designs

  • Large kitchen island
  • Shaker-style cabinets
  • Glass-front cabinet
  • Backsplashes that are made of tile or stone
  • Hardwood, ceramic tile, or patterned stone floors
  • Countertops made of granite or marble, or quartz
  • Appliances such as ranges, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers
  • Classic architectural elements like fireplaces and exposed beams
  • Standard large-family dining set-up or a simple table with chairs in the center of the room
  • Wooden cabinets with fine finishes which can be stained or painted to match any desired color scheme
  • Warm inviting colors such as red, yellow, orange, and neutral earthy tones such as cream, sage green, light blue, and white
  • Chandeliers, lantern-style lightings, and pendants to create more interest, especially in the dining area or kitchen island
  • Antique-like accessories such as copper pots and pans, stainless steel appliances, mason jars, and farmhouse
  • Ample storage space through the use of cabinets, built-in pantries, built-in hutch,  and kitchen islands
  • Other common features include a prep island, a breakfast nook, and multiple workstations.

Cons of traditional kitchen designs

When all is said and done, traditional kitchens have their drawbacks, but ultimately it is up to you to decide whether or not these disadvantages are outweighed by the advantages of this kitchen design. Let’s take a look at them below:

  1. Traditional kitchens can sometimes feel a bit dated, and they may not have all the latest features and appliances that you might find in a more modern kitchen.

  2. Traditional kitchens also tend to require more maintenance than other types of kitchens, as they are often made with wood cabinets and floors that need to be regularly sealed and polished.

  3. They tend to be heavy on cabinets and countertops, which can make the space feel cluttered and cramped.

  4. Traditional kitchens do not offer much natural light, since they often do not have large windows.

  5. Traditional kitchens can also be challenging to keep clean. With all of the nooks and crannies, it can be easy for dust and dirt to build up, making it hard to keep the space looking neat and tidy.

  6. Traditional kitchens can be quite expensive to renovate, as they often require the use of custom cabinetry and countertops.

Transitional kitchen design

If you are among the homeowners who want to hold on dearly to the elements of a traditional kitchen design while also hoping not to miss out on the trend and perks of a contemporary kitchen design, you will be pleased to know that the transitional kitchen design is the key to making your dream come true. This design is a clever technique that offers you the best of both worlds.

Transitional kitchen design follows the theme categorized as “simple and cohesive design”. A perfect example is a timeless all-white kitchen with handleless cabinets, and a quartz countertop, which is majorly accessorized with rustic and/or Tuscan elements. Majorly, the transitional kitchen is designed in such a way that there is more focus on “function” than “form” and distractions are eliminated by keeping the room uncluttered to ensure that you can focus on what really matters while cooking your favorite meal. To achieve this, there are some key features to keep in mind. Take a look at the common features of transitional kitchen designs below:

Common features of transitional kitchen designs (a blend of both traditional and modern features)

  • Open layout
  • Open shelving
  • Farmhouse sink or ceramic sink
  • Built-in cooktop and oven
  • Porcelain tile flooring
  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Quartz, granite, marble, or butcher block countertops
  • Overhang on the kitchen island
  • Sleek design and geometric shapes
  • Incorporation of natural light and plants
  • Energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures
  • Large kitchen island with plenty of seating
  • The mixture of light and dark complementary colors
  • Geometric backsplash tiles
  • Statement hood vent
  • Neutral colors — such as whites, grays, and beiges that will never go out of style
  • The mixture of both traditional lighting fixtures (such as lantern-style lighting and industrial lighting) and modern lighting fixtures (such as LED lighting)

Cons of transitional kitchen designs

Depending on the elements (traditional or modern) that are prioritized, a transitional kitchen design can be too modern for some homeowners, while others may find them too traditional. Although, irrespective of the aforementioned, transitional kitchen designs generally have their own disadvantages. What you must do is put these disadvantages into careful consideration to get to know if they do not outweigh why you prefer a transitional kitchen design in the first place. Read on to find out:

  1. Due to the fact that they tend to prioritize clean lines and a minimal aesthetic, transitional kitchens can lack warmth and charm when compared to traditional designs. If you are not careful, your kitchen might end up feeling more like a showroom than a cozy cooking space.
  2. Difficulty in incorporating new technologies – Transitional kitchen designs may require careful consideration before updating with new technologies (like smart appliances) because they incorporate elements from both traditional and modern design styles.
  3. Another potential drawback of transitional kitchen designs is that they may be unable to withstand heavy tasks. Because there are often fewer cabinets and storage spaces, it can be easy for counters to become cluttered with small appliances and cooking wares.
  4. You may have less counter space because transitional kitchens emphasize an open floor plan, with minimalistic surfaces.
  5. The design may not fit with the rest of your home.
  6. Transitional designs may not be as timeless as classic designs. If you choose a transitional design for your kitchen, you may need to update it more frequently to keep up with changing trends.

The 5 Fundamental Kitchen Design Elements

There are certain elements that are essential to creating a beautiful and functional space. These fundamental elements are space, line, form, color, and texture. Each one plays an important role in the overall kitchen design, and understanding how they work together is what guarantees you a kitchen that looks and feels just the way you want it and functions just exactly how you intend to use it. Further details on each element are as follows:


Space is perhaps the most important element of all. It dictates the size and shape of your kitchen, and how the individual features will be arranged. If the kitchen is small, then it will be important to make use of every square inch and to choose compact appliances. For example, the kitchen space will determine the storage option. This will help to determine the size and number of cabinets and drawers it can accommodate.


The line is what defines the edges of a space, and can be used to create both visual interest and a sense of movement. For example, the placement of cabinets and appliances is determined by lines. Line is an element that can be used to create a variety of different looks, from sleek and modern to warm and traditional. It can also be used to control the flow of traffic in the kitchen and to highlight certain areas. For instance, horizontal lines can make a space seem wider, vertical lines can make it seem taller, and diagonal lines can add interest and visual appeal.


The form is the three-dimensional shape of an object and can add both height and depth to a room. This refers to the overall layout of the room and how the various elements are arranged in relation to each other. You need to be able to move easily from one part of the kitchen to another, without having to thread your way through a maze of appliances and cabinets. Another key element is ergonomics. The layout of your kitchen should make it easy to reach everything you need, without having to stretch or strain.


Color is used to create contrast and visual interest. It is also important to consider how the color will interact with the other design elements in the room. For instance, white cabinets can help to make a small kitchen space feel more open. In addition, earth tones like cream, brown, and green are the magic colors for a traditional kitchen while shades of blue or gray work perfectly for modern kitchen designs.


Texture can add visual interest and dimension to a space and can help to highlight certain features. For example, a glossy countertop will reflect light and make the space feel brighter, while a textured backsplash can add visual interest and depth to the countertop.

How do you choose your ideal kitchen design?

When it comes to choosing the perfect kitchen design, there are endless choices to make. By going through the process one step at a time and personalizing the process, you can create a kitchen that is perfect for your needs and personality. Here are a few basic steps to help get you started:

Consider your lifestyle

Do you have a large family? Do you love to cook elaborate spicy meals? Do you love to entertain guests? Answering these questions and other ones that relate to your lifestyle will help you narrow down your choices and find a kitchen design that perfectly suits cooking routines and needs. For example, if you are someone who loves to entertain guests, you might want to invest in a design that features an open layout, high-quality appliances, and plenty of counter space. In addition, you may want to focus on creating an aesthetically pleasing and welcoming space for guests.

Consider your personality

If you are someone who is only drawn toward anything that comes in a full-blown classic timeless look, then a traditional kitchen design is probably the best option for you. If you find yourself often attracted to kitchens with a sleek and modern look, a transitional kitchen may be the way to go. You may take some time to carry out a test on yourself and see how you feel about the different kitchen designs in our gallery.

Consider your available square footage.

Traditional kitchens often require more square footage due to their detailed elaborate designs, while transitional kitchens are typically smaller and more compact. If you have a limited amount of space to work with, a transitional kitchen may be the better option for you.


Traditional kitchens tend to be more expensive because they require more labor-intensive details like custom cabinetry, wainscoting, and detailed crown moldings. Transitional kitchens are typically less expensive because they use more mass-produced materials and have a simpler overall design.

Get started on your new kitchen today!

Whether you are looking for a traditional or transitional kitchen design, our team at Penn Construction + Design is here to help you create a kitchen that perfectly suits your personality and cooking routines. Our expert designers are well-versed in both traditional and transitional kitchen design and understand that no two kitchens are alike, which is why we take the time to get to know each of our clients before starting on their projects. This individualized attention ensures that your new kitchen will be just as you imagined it — beautiful and highly functional.

Penn Construction + Design has been providing kitchen remodeling services for over 15 years. We are known for excellent service and responsiveness throughout Delaware County PA, Montgomery County PA, and the City of Philadelphia. We will work with you one-on-one from the consultation stage, to design and installation. If you are ready to start planning your dream kitchen, contact us today to learn more about the kitchen design process and book a free consultation to get started!