The Surging Popularity Of Transitional Kitchen Design – The Middle Ground Between Traditional And Modern Styles

Posted on | May 2, 2017 | No Comments

More and more homeowners are opting for a transitional style in their kitchens. This fresh, clean approach to design holds a lot of appeal as a middle ground between traditional and modern styles. To delve further into this newer, yet significant shift in design preferences, we reached out to Raleigh kitchen designer, Desi McAlister, at Kitchen & Bath Galleries. The senior designer has been a go-to expert on kitchens for years, and Desi shared with North Carolina Design some keen insights into the rise of transitional style, and the very different forms it can take.

Images Courtesy of Kitchen &Bath Galleries ©

Desi tells us that before transitional style came into play, there were only two real style preferences. “You were either traditional or modern – that was it,” she says. “I personally would get one request a year for a modern kitchen, if that. Now I do a number of fully contemporary kitchens, and I very seldom have anyone tell me they are purely traditional. Almost everyone is transitional in some way, shape or form.”

Desi traces the transitional trend to the end of the recession. “Things just started getting simpler,” she observes. “People just weren’t putting as much pizazz into the cabinetry – you didn’t see as much ornamental moulding or detailed doors. I felt like it was falling in line with people’s changing lifestyles – a new ‘less is more’ philosophy. Transitional cabinetry isn’t as heavy, and it isn’t as busy. There aren’t as many grooves to clean.”

The shift has been dramatic. “With traditional kitchens, you had heavy trim moulding and detailed doors,” Desi reflects. “The cabinets had a lot of detail in general. The cabinets were the ‘wow’ in the room, so people added all of these elements to make them pop. Now, because they’re so clean and simple, they act as a backdrop that helps other elements of the kitchen stand out, like the hardware, backsplash and countertop color.”

Desi has found that, within the scope of transitional design, homeowners still tend to fall into two general style groups. “You have what I call the ‘classic transitional’ style group,” she explains. “These are people who have perhaps had a traditional style all their lives. It’s what they prefer. But now, they’re looking in magazines, and they’re seeing their friends’ homes. They really like the simple, streamlined designs they’re seeing. So they want something that’s a little cleaner and simpler, but still has classic elements and details.”

“People in this group tend to love symmetry. They want things to match, and they want to see balance on both sides of the window, or the range hood. They like subtle embellishment. They’re not going to have a flat slab cabinet door – they’re going to have a recessed panel with edge detail. They’re going to have detail on the hardware. Their cabinets are going to be cream or white. They’re going to choose quartz countertops that mimic Carrera marble. They’re going to choose classic subway tiles.”

“Then you have the ‘modern transitional’ group. These are people who are open to trying new trends. They want something that’s bolder and edgier. They’re going to choose an eclectic light fixture. They are okay with having asymmetrical, off-balance elements in the room. They’re going to choose slab doors and longer, more modern bar pulls. They are more likely to choose gray for their cabinetry color. They like glass and metal accents, and they prefer elongated, more narrow tiles.”

Desi believes that the appeal of transitional style is in its versatility. “It’s a mesh between traditional and contemporary, so people have the freedom to combine elements they like from either style,” she says. “It really does give people more options, and a greater opportunity to tailor their kitchen to their liking. Plus, it fits today’s lifestyles very well.”

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