Your Guide to Transitional Kitchen Cabinets

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Transitional kitchens are endlessly popular, serving up a perfect combination of the old and the new.

In case you don't know, transitional kitchens are a “halfway” between modern and old-school kitchens, blending both vintage and contemporary design elements to create a transitional kitchen style that feels warm and homely, yet modern and stylish.

Transitional kitchen styles are heavily reliant on their cabinets to carry their old-meets-new aesthetic, and Kitchen Infinity delivers that job seamlessly.

But before we get into the kitchen cabinets, we must familiarize ourselves with transitional style kitchen designs.

Let's get to it!

What is a transitional kitchen?

A transitional kitchen is a blend of modern and traditional kitchen styles, hence the idea of “transitioning” from the old into the new.

Although a transitional design can take many forms, there are 4 main features that define this style of kitchen design.

Soft or neutral color scheme

Most transitional style kitchens will have neutral or soft color palettes that are designed to make the space feel warm and welcoming without being too vibrant and over the top.

Oftentimes the color palette will reflect the natural dark wood of the kitchen cabinet doors, sticking to natural colors resulting from the type of wood used.

It makes for a timeless look!

However, sometimes transitional kitchens will feature a soft pastel-like color palette inspired by the post-war kitchens of the 1950s and 1960s.

Either way, the color palette will rarely feature exceptionally bright or vibrant colors. If there are light colors like white, they're usually in a flat finish so they don't look too shiny and distracting.

transitional kitchen designs
Colorful Cherry Design by Kitchen Infinity

Timeless features

Transitional kitchen designs transcend fashion trends to use features that are timeless and endlessly popular throughout the years.

For example, you'll often see a transitional kitchen design with white subway tile backsplashes, hanging lights, crown molding, and granite countertops.

These kitchen design elements are great for bridging that gap between modern and traditional design because they don't feel like they “belong” to a particular decade.

Mix of natural and man-made materials

While an old-school traditional design would be focused almost exclusively on wood, a transitional kitchen design incorporates many different natural and artificially-made materials.

You'll often see wood mixed with glass, granite, tile, and stainless steel appliances.

The wood and granite help to keep the old-school elements of the aesthetic, while the glass and stainless steel pull it into the 21st century.

Old meets new

I mean, the whole point of transitional kitchens is that they're “old meets new”, right?

Although the idea of what's old and what's new will inevitably shift over time, you should be looking at multiple decades of kitchen elements when designing a kitchen like this.

For instance, crown molding gives the space a very old-timey feel, while a subway tile backsplash has a timeless and trendy feel that pulls the look into modern times.

Play around with elements and find the right balance!

What do transitional kitchen cabinets look like?

The kitchen cabinets are obviously a huge part of the look and style of your transitional kitchen – the cabinet doors are one of the main things that people see when they walk in.

So, what are some of the main features of these kitchen cabinets?

They're always wood

It's very rare to see a transitional kitchen without wooden cabinets.

The cabinets will almost always be wooden because wooden cabinets are one of the easiest ways to tie a traditional homely feel into the style without being too obvious.

wooden kitchen cabinets
Image credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

They're usually a soft or natural color

You'll often see wooden cabinets in their natural color or perhaps painted a soft, pastel-like color to be reminiscent of the '50s and '60s.

They may also come in a matte white sometimes.

To help them blend in, they'll usually be in a matte or semi-gloss finish which helps them to look nice but also blend into the aesthetic seamlessly. You can learn more about the best finishes for kitchen cabinets here.

Transitional cabinets
White Shaker Cabinets by Kitchen Infinity

Their design is not too ornate

You'll rarely find that these cabinets are meticulously designed or carved in any special way – the whole point is for their design to feel subtle and low-key.

Although you might find recessed doors like Shaker-style cabinets, there will never be anything too over the top in a transitional design. For more ideas, check our article on best kitchen cabinet designs.

They might have modern fittings and handles

One of the easiest ways to make a wooden kitchen cabinet door look modern is to give it modern door handles.

Sometimes you'll see transitional kitchen cabinets with modern steel door handles to give them that old-meets-new aesthetic.

It's also quite common to see callbacks to other old-school styles, such as recessed door handles. It all depends on the way your designer is blending the aesthetics of different time periods.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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