Slick, high-gloss finishes and slab doors may be the “it” look for urban loft-dwellers, but for most homeowners, modern/contemporary cabinetry styles can feel too spare and cold. Conversely, heavily ornamented traditional cabinetry with lots of embellishments and moldings can feel too overblown and busy. Homeowners also are concerned about date-stamping their homes with a too-modern or too-traditional kitchen. Valued for the easy way they bridge the gap between the two extremes, “transitional” cabinetry styles offer the best of both: simple, clean lines with a few traditional elements thrown in, such as square sticking profiles or craftsman-like joinery.
“Anytime you have 180 degrees between styles, there always has to be a middle road,” points out Linda Hughes, manager of marketing development for Yorktowne . “That's why transitional styles, like Shaker doors, are probably the No. 1 door style consistently over the past 10 years, and it continues to get stronger.”
The appeal of the transitional style revolves around its flexibility. “With the straight, even lines, you can take the door style and make it look more contemporary or more traditional depending on what you do with hardware, colors, and flooring,” says Brenda McGuire Brown, a cabinet designer for Lumbermens' Yakima, Wash., location.
With homeowners more confident in their own tastes and willing to experiment, they feel less confined to any one style and they don't want to be pigeonholed, points out Cathy Hitz, Aristokraft's group brand manager. They redecorate more frequently to keep up with changing fashions or as the mood hits.
“That's one of the things that drives simplicity: it's much easier to redecorate and reorder if you don't get it right the first time. People are really much more cognizant of changing more frequently these days,” says Andy Wells, senior design director for Diamond Cabinets.
The trend to transitional cabinetry is moving more into the high-production home building market, indicates Connie Edwards, Timberlake's director of design. “Particularly when [builders] merchandise the home, you're seeing more contemporary elements—less cathedral door styles (which used to be the upgrade) and more square door styles,” she says.
Traditional cabinetry is still very popular with homeowners across the country, designers say. But those who have had very traditional kitchens in the past may be ready for a more minimalist look without going completely modern, advises Laurie Galbraith, head designer for HomeCrest Cabinetry.
The Gen X and Gen Y populations show a particular tendency toward less traditional styles because they don't want what their baby boomer parents had, according to Paul Radoy, design services manager for Merillat and Quality Cabinets.
Whatever the style preferences of your market, there will always be customers who don't fit the standard profile. Offering and displaying transitional cabinetry can allow designers to express a range of styles and dress them up or down to accommodate a wide range of customers without committing them or your showroom to either end of the spectrum.