20 Traditional Kitchen Design Tips to Create a Trend-Proof Cook Space

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When it comes to interior design styles, traditional is often overshadowed by aesthetics such as modern, bohemian, or farmhouse. However, traditional style is a classic for a reason, especially when it comes to kitchen design.

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So, what is the time-honored approach all about exactly? Well, it's fairly reserved and doesn't latch onto what's popular. It wraps in plenty of details and accents from the days of yore, including antiques and vintage pieces, and it tends to focus on a neutral color scheme that doesn't rock the boat. For traditional style kitchens, think cabinets in non-trendy shades, hardwood floors, straightforward countertops, and simple lighting.

While a modern kitchen typically includes things like angular, geometric shapes, eye-catching color palettes, and artistic, contemporary lighting, a traditional cook space is really quite the opposite. You won't see any abstract wall art, trendy flat-panel cabinetry, or light fixtures and cabinet hardware with slick, clean lines.

If you don't feel like remodeling your culinary headquarters every time there is a new trend, and you adore spaces that are rich in character, we highly recommend a traditional kitchen design. Scroll on for 20 inspired ideas that'll get you started on the right foot.

1. Give your cabinets a pop of color.

Just because you have a traditional kitchen design that doesn't mean you can't paint your shaker cabinets in a shade other than white. Yes, white is usually a tried-and-true hue, but you can still achieve a classic look even with colorful built-ins. For example, Jenna of Jenna Sue Design Co. chose forest green for this cook space, and the visuals, down to the freestanding, vintage kitchen island and visually pleasing open shelving, are still timeless as ever.

2. Embrace a natural feel.

Traditional kitchen features lean toward tranquil, unruffled aesthetics, which can be easily achieved if you opt for natural materials and a neutral color palette. The wood cabinets in this setup by Heidi Caillier Design lend a warm caramel hue to an otherwise minimal space, while the marble countertops add balance and a subtle yet refined note.

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3. Create a family-friendly atmosphere.

If you have a family, or simply enjoy entertaining, a traditional kitchen remodel will be a home run when it comes to functionality. With a large dining table sitting alongside it, this cook space belonging to Rachel Parcell and crafted by Alice Lane Interior Design is fit for little ones and adults alike.

4. Stick to classic materials.

When it comes to materials and finishes, a traditional kitchen design doesn't typically push the envelope. Instead, it focuses on simplicity and natural beauty, something that Jean Stoffer Design has clearly mastered in this lovely space. Here, the team has thoughtfully woven together wood features, marble countertops, and brass details, resulting in a sophisticated look.

5. Go grand when you can.

With its roots in European design, traditional style can lend itself to large-scale kitchens with an elegant feel, even outfitted with sumptuous, old-world chandeliers. Consider not one, but two islands, sizable pendant lights to act as a focal point, warm wood finishes, and special, carefully-chosen embellishments. That's exactly what Angela and Danielle of Studio Onyx chose for this culinary space and the result is stunning.

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6. Opt for a few very special pieces of decor.

In our opinion, a traditional kitchen design requires decor that won't go out of style anytime soon. Instead of bringing in contemporary pieces, hang an antique oil painting, set out time-honored cooking essentials, deck the floor with a vintage rug, punctuate the room with crown molding, and install a brass bridge faucet to complement a farmhouse sink. These are all items that Erin Kestenbaum put to work in this bright space filled with natural light.

7. Include a few surprises.

So, there aren't usually ​a ton​ of patterned details and embellishments seen in traditional kitchen designs. But that doesn't mean that you can't drop in a few surprises here and there — elements that will add interest without overwhelming. For instance, in this setup belonging to Emily of Ivory Lane, modern, graphic wallpaper lines the white cabinets for an extra little visual treat whenever the cabinet doors are opened.

8. Show off special collections.

A traditional kitchen gives you the perfect opportunity to showcase a small collection of treasured antiques that you've collected over the years during flea market expeditions. For instance, in this Classy Clutter design, blue chinoiserie vases tucked into a cabinet steal the show.

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9. Consider a coastal vibe.

To drive the theme of your cook space home, even more, consider imbibing it with coastal ambiance. Leslie of The Leslie Style accomplished a coastal look in her traditional kitchen by including an airy, beaded flush mount, breezy white cabinets, bits of blue decor, and light wood flooring.

10. Choose appliances with an old-fashioned feel.

You can absolutely go with stainless steel for the appliances in your traditional kitchen. However, if you want it to have even more charm, seek out options that look as if they've been transported from another era, like the icebox-inspired refrigerator spotlighted in this all-white kitchen by House of Jade Interiors.

11. Highlight a pretty piece of art (or two).

While traditional kitchens aren't big on abstract, contemporary pieces, you can absolutely still include artwork — just make sure it has a traditional feel. That's what Zoë Feldman did in this jaw-dropping design, by capping the marble backsplash with shelving that doubles as a display space for carefully selected works of art and treasured tchotchkes. The articulating wall sconces ensure that each piece will get the attention it deserves.

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12. Use the range hood to create a design moment.

The team over at Sita Montgomery Interiors added decorative trim to the range hood in this white kitchen resulting in a seamless transition between it and the cabinets. Additionally, the idea also turned an otherwise practical item into a major design moment.

13. Pick something other than subway tile.

First, let us say that subway tile won't be going out of style anytime soon, and it's always a home-run for any traditional kitchen. But to push the envelope ​ever so slightly,​ get inspired by Daniel Kanter's cozy and colorful cook space. Consider a backsplash that still feels traditional (classic forest green) but looks unexpected when paired with black cabinets.

14. Go with hardware that’s equally traditional.

You'll want to choose cabinet pulls for your traditional kitchen that fit the style of the space. Here, Christina and Renee of Park & Oak Interior Design chose antiqued brass cup pulls which look stylish and time-honored, especially when paired with dreamy gray cabinetry.

15. Be a little playful with the flooring.

When Emily Henderson's colleague Brady Tolbert designed his traditional galley kitchen, he didn't just give into a hardwood floor or a standard laminate in a neutral hue. Instead, he went for a more playful take on traditional flooring, opting for a black-and-white checkered pattern, and the result takes center stage.

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16. Lend a subtle dose of texture with beadboard wall paneling.

The secret to a stunning traditional kitchen design is all about the details. One such detail is beadboard paneling. The classic element is simple yet makes quite an impact, as you can see in this quaint setup by Kitchen & Beyond. And if you want to include additional visual interest, think about dark countertops, a floral-printed Roman shade at the window, and glass cabinet doors.

17. Or, go bigger with shiplap.

Shiplap. Yup, the wall paneling solidified by Joanna Gaines and other farmhouse devotees is not going anywhere soon. And we can see why. When used on the backsplash and hood in this cook space, designed by Garrett and Cathy of The Grit and Polish, shiplap looks fresh, clean, and still very traditional.

18. Include a modern nod through lighting.

Okay, so traditional kitchens don't ​have​ to be traditional top-to-bottom. Let's say that you're sold on traditional, but you can't get that modern light fixture out of your mind. Go ahead and hang it! The juxtaposition will look cool and one-of-a-kind in your otherwise classic space, which Chris Loves Julia proved here.

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19. Add some sheen to the backsplash.

Traditional kitchens do tend to wrap in a lot of matte materials, but that doesn't mean that your backsplash can't shine — literally. Get inspired by Sarah of Room for Tuesday and choose tiling with a subtle sheen to make it even more head-turning.

20. Allow kitchen essentials to double as decor.

Generally, traditional kitchens are fairly minimal, turning away from maximalism and tons of decor. That's why you should think of your culinary essentials as decorative elements, resulting in practical ​and​ pretty decor, like the cutting boards in this setup by Suzannah of Create/Enjoy.

Bottom Line

As you go through your remodeling process, be sure to keep these traditional details at the forefront of your mind. Think about how you can make an impact in your kitchen in a subtle way. Follow the lead of your favorite designers and shop flea markets, gravitate toward soft neutrals, and inject creativity and personality in small doses. "Tried-and-true" should be your motto all the way through.

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Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer who contributes to national magazines and websites, including Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Well+Good, and more. When she's not writing, you'll find her shopping flea markets, hiking, and going for walks with her corgi.