Getting Started with Traditional Kitchen Design

traditional design


Unlike the clean, minimalist lines of modern and contemporary design, traditional kitchens are elegant and luxurious, using natural materials and embellished details to create a refined, yet comfortable space.

Drawing from 18th, 19th and early 20th century American and European design, the traditional style can describe a variety of early regional and period looks. Design types falling under the traditional umbrella can include the country kitchen, cottage, shaker, colonial, neoclassical, Cape Cod, Georgian, Victorian, and old world styles.

Mix-and-match materials, patterns and fixtures

The hallmark of the traditional style is its comfortable use of many patterns, colors, and natural materials to create a space that is welcoming and unified without being too “matchy-matchy.”

Colors are typically muted, calm, soft and natural, keeping in the family of creams, light pastels, greys and greens that play well with organic woods and stones.

Wood cabinets are a must as well as a decorative centerpiece in traditional design. Stains and finishes can be dark or light (or both!) and cabinets can be painted off-white or cream, with distressed finishes adding a rustic panache. If you can’t decide on a single finish, try more than one! Combining several wood styles and colors is common in the traditional kitchen, and as long as the finishes are harmonious, you can choose as many as you like for different areas of your traditional kitchen.

Whatever finish you choose for your cabinets, framed construction is a must and flat or raised panel doors work best for a traditional kitchen. Many designs add interest with cabinet fronts that incorporate decorative inserts and accents. Patterned glass, metal mesh, wood mullions and even open shelving are ideal options for showing off antiques and heirlooms that capture the personality of the homeowner.

Delight in the details

From the smallest cabinet pull to a centerpiece custom range hood, the first rule in traditional design is to never pass up an opportunity to add detail or interest.

The traditional kitchen is replete with carved wood accents and decorative molding, fluting and corbels. Pilasters and elegantly styled legs are a natural fit on islands, stoves and sink wall bases and add an elegant flair even if they’re not strictly necessary. Range hoods in carved wood, metal or plaster provide a gorgeous focal point, and toe-kicks on cabinet bases give a pre-colonial, old-world feel.

Cabinets are adorned with decorative hardware, visible outside of the framed construction, and lighting is also treated with a flourish. In addition to recessed task lighting, chandeliers, lanterns and sconces proudly take center stage to complete the ornamented look.

Luxurious materials and antique fixtures

There is nothing fake, laminated or veneered in the traditional kitchen, so expect to splurge on natural materials and finishes that exude refinement.

Flooring is generally tile, stained wood or patterned stone. Countertops are equally fine, whether you choose a light granite, quartz or even walnut butcher-block. If you have the option, salvaged material is another excellent choice to bring history and interest into your traditional kitchen.

Fixtures tend toward old-fashioned, perhaps even antique. Apron-front and copper-basin sinks are exceedingly popular and add a rustic feel while being highly functional. And while some inspired homeowners are able to find period appliances, most of us will opt for modern models. The traditional style is all about mixing and matching, though, so don’t worry about your modern refrigerator or stove conflicting with your Georgian design. As long as the colors and patterns agree, anything goes in your traditional kitchen.

Love a traditional look but need some help getting started? Marsh Kitchen & Bath designers have the expertise and the experience to bring your vision to life and create a kitchen you’ll love for years to come. Get in touch online, on the phone or in-person to learn more!