Dare To Be Different

Sue Shinneman, co-owner of Kitchen Studio: KC, sheds light on what makes contemporary, traditional or transitional kitchen styles unique.

The kitchen often serves as the heart of any home. It’s where your day may begin, scooping coffee grounds and twisting open the blinds. It’s where you chop basil for your family’s tradition of making your own pizzas every Sunday instead of ordering out. It’s where you pour yourself another glass of water between Zoom conference calls or where you slip your pet a treat because you cannot believe their cuteness. Perhaps it’s where you lean against the counter, hand cupped around a cocktail while the sun sets behind you, to talk about your day. 

Sue Shinneman, co-owner of Kitchen Studio: KC, shed light on what makes each of these kitchen styles unique—whether contemporary, traditional, or transitional. If this fall season has you feeling ready for a change and with some extra energy for projects around the house, take a moment to dream about which of these distinct styles best fits your lifestyle. 


If it weren’t for stainless steel handles of appliances or the stove top nestled between clean counter space, you may not even realize at first that you’re standing in a kitchen. Shinneman notes that contemporary kitchens have clean lines, and the beauty of its materials shines on its own, without excessive ornamentation. Both contemporary kitchens pictured have different styles of cabinet doors—slab cabinet doors with high gloss acrylic color and stainless steel cabinet fronts to complement the appliances. Shinneman says that any type of countertop can work in this style and that wood and stone tops specifically tend to have streamlined shapes and simple edges. Appliances in this style could either be hidden with cabinetry panels to create a cohesive look or could be accented by stainless steel to distinguish them from the cabinetry. 


This style establishes a perfect balance of modern, clean design with traditional elements that feel warm and inviting. According to Shinneman, having a mix of simple design with traditional accent details is popular for the transitional style. She says cabinetry is likely to have more details than contemporary styling, seen in painted finishes that enhance the details of the wood (whereas wood finishes remain simple to display the natural beauty of the wood itself). A mix of metal finishes are used in the hardware, decorative lighting and metal range hoods, and there is more likely to be mixing of countertop styles. She also notes appliances tend to be hidden by cabinetry, except for the range hoods that are intended to shine on their own. 


In the traditional style, more detail is used in the cabinetry doors and applied moldings on doors, with a heavier feel to the cabinets and a tendency for more stained wood finishes as accents. For instance, the kitchen island cabinetry would have a wood finish and heavier moldings. According to Shinneman, countertops in this style have more detailed-edge treatments in stone and wood counters. She adds that the classic style within this genre may have all painted cabinetry and all one countertop material—rendering it a space that will last a lifetime.

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