Traditional kitchen ideas for a timelessly stylish space

Seeking traditional kitchen ideas? Discover the essentials to achieving this enduring look

traditional kitchen ideas with pink base cabinets and unpainted wooden upper cabinet and shelves
(Image credit: Future)

Traditional kitchen ideas are a classic choice for all ages and styles of home – and for good reason. Their timeless appeal means they will never date – unlike most kitchen trends and they are easy to update and adapt as tastes and needs change.

Of course, there is no standard template for a traditional kitchen  – simply it must be warm, welcoming and filled with heritage-inspired elements. Get the look by embracing softly-grained woods, natural materials, enduring colour schemes, and shelving displaying things you love. Do this and every element of your kitchen ideas will exude classic elegance. 

Traditional kitchen ideas

When it comes to figuring out how to design a kitchen – traditional or otherwise – it is important to make sure that your space has a good flow. 

'Ensuring the layout works can provide a more enjoyable experience of using your kitchen,' notes Richard Davonport, managing director at Davonport Kitchens. 'You’ll need to consider prep, cook and wash areas and how they all interact with each other. While kitchens can have several roles, ultimately, they are about cooking.'

1. Dress walls with handmade tiles

kitchen with green handmade tile wall and fluted butlers sink

(Image credit: Devol)

Occupying the middle ground between patterned and block-coloured tiles, handmade kitchen tiles bring colour, texture and depth to a scheme without dominating it. With handmade tiles, each individual tile has its own unique colour profile and crazing meaning each piece catches the light differently to great effect. Inspired by the traditional tiles of London tube stations and East End pub exteriors, featured are Devol London tiles in Emerald Green – some of the best kitchen wall tiles.

2. Create an exposed brick feature wall

kitchen with exposed brick walls and two toned green cabinetry sandstone flooring

(Image credit: Future)

The materials used to construct period homes are one of the details that make them stand out, so celebrate them in your kitchen design. As seen here, minimalist wooden shelving allows a feature to be made of the exposed brick walls, bringing rustic character to the space, while the sage colour scheme contrasts with the warm red tones for a calm ambience.

If you don't have beautiful brick or stone walls that you can leave exposed in your kitchen you can fake an exposed brick wall with a hyper-realistic wallpaper.

3. Consider a durable matt finish for walls

kitchen with green walls and cabinetry looking through doorway to brown door

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Bright and light are the buzzwords when it comes to choosing the best colours to paint a kitchen but deeper shades, such as Little Greene’s Garden, can bring an energetic feel to the space. 

Also consider the paint's finish and durability. ‘Traditionally, hardwearing gloss paints were the go-to finish, but the rise in washable matt paint means the style of finish is now a matter of taste rather than functionality,’ says creative director at Little Greene, Ruth Mottershead. 

4. Add colour with on trend tide lines

kitchen with dark blue cabinetry and blue and white tide-lines

(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

Two-toned walls have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, but this look actually goes back centuries. ‘The painted tide-line was originally found in downstairs kitchen and scullery spaces, where the lower half of the walls were painted
in a dark, durable gloss paint to help hide the inevitable scuff marks,’ says Merlin Wright, design director at British Standard by Plain English

Today, a similar technique is used to create the illusion of a larger, brighter space. ‘When painting a two-tone wall, the first step is to work out the height of the tide-line. Consider the position of window glazing bars and wall cupboards; the line works best when it can continue around the whole room uninterrupted,’ adds Merlin.

5. Layer patterns for a creative space

kitchen with pink patterned wallpaper green pattered blinds and pink patterned tiles and green cabinetry

(Image credit: House of Hackney)

Why limit yourself to one pattern when layering them can add so much more character and depth? ‘Here, layers of print and colour create visual interest without compromising on functionality,’ says Steve Corcoran, decorating consultancy manager at House of Hackney.

‘The tones of the space are all rooted in nature meaning it feels harmonious even with such bold prints.’ The wallpaper featured above is House of Hackney’s Blackthorn wallpaper in Tourmaline, £195 per 3m roll.

6. Make a statement with a mural

pink botanical wallpaper mural with wooden shelf and navy blue cabinetry with stainless steel appliances

(Image credit: Future)

While on paper large-scale wall murals, such as Garden Of Serica in Mallow by Anna Glover, may seem daunting, when used alongside solid cabinetry, painted in a contrasting hue, the print will feel more balanced. 

If you are very creative, wall murals can be painted by hand. You can learn how to design a wall mural yourself or you can opt for a ready-made wallpaper mural. When deciding on kitchen wallpaper, a non-woven design will offer greater durability, plus pair with a low-level upstand to protect it from errant splashes. 

7. Add a chalk board wall

kitchen with blue cabinets and chalkboard wall

(Image credit: Future)

Chalkboards aren’t just for school. Painting a feature wall with durable chalk paint, such as Rust-Oleum’s chalkboard paint, £12 per 750ml on Amazon, is a great addition to family kitchen design ideas

Whether used for adding shopping lists, as an aide-mémoire or decorated for different seasons or events, it adds instant character and a welcoming family atmosphere. To avoid a build-up of chalk dust opt for liquid chalk markers, which are erased with a damp cloth, over powder chalk. 

A kitchen chalkboard ideas is also a great way to add affordable personality to your small kitchen ideas

8. Decorate with antiques

kitchen with antique cabinet unit and terracotta tiles british standard

(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

Nothing says traditional quite like antiques. ‘When it comes to interiors, we believe in buying once and buying well,’ advises Will Eaves, design coordinator at British Standard by Plain English. ‘Antique and reclaimed pieces can provide the perfect partner to traditional cabinetry. They have a certain patina that can only be achieved with age – adding a layer of texture that will stand the test of time.’ 

Antiques are also an affordable way to make your kitchen look expensive, you can find lots of beautiful pieces in secondhand shops that you'll be able to repurpose as part of your traditional kitchen ideas.

9. Add wallpaper

yellow wallpaper in kitchen with open wooden shelving and blue tiled splashback

(Image credit: Annika Reed)

When it comes to kitchen wall decor ideas, wallpaper offers the perfect opportunity to bring heritage-inspired prints into the kitchen. Think not only of the pattern – small, repeating designs work better as part of traditional kitchen ideas – but also colour. 

‘Yellow has a powerful emotional appeal that can infuse the room with energy,’ says Annika Reed. Featured here is her beautiful Marigold Wallpaper in Indian Sunrise. Opt for open shelves or an open-backed cabinet to really make the most of the print.

10. Opt for warm woodflooring

Country kitchen with cream cabinetry and wooden floors

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Reclaimed or engineered wooden flooring will instantly add warmth to a kitchen. As well as thinking about the materials of your kitchen flooring ideas, also consider laying patterns. ‘Parquet adds contrast and interest to otherwise straight sight lines of the kitchen,’ explains Natalie Mudd, creative director for The Wood Flooring Co. ‘It looks particularly stunning in kitchens with a central island or farmhouse table that breaks up the floor space.’

You can also try different tile layout patterns – for example, lay porcelain wood-look kitchen floor tiles in a herringbone or parquet pattern for further durability. 

11. Combine painted and unpainted cabinetry for depth

kitchen with pink base cabinets and unpainted wooden upper cabinet and shelves

(Image credit: Christopher Peters)

Each year there is a new ‘must-have’ kitchen colour scheme, but well-made wooden cabinetry with beautiful graining and depth is an excellent way to achieve a timeless look. 

For example, this chestnut spindle wall cupboard in a space designed by luxury kitchen and interior brand, Christopher Peters, was based on an 18th-century original. To balance old and new, pair unpainted upper cabinets and shelves with painted designs below. 

12. Add a traditional edge with panelling

dark blue kitchen cabinets and matching dark wall panelling set against white walls and ceiling and light wood flooring

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

‘A simple and cost-effective way to complement kitchen cabinetry, panelling helps connect the design to the period architecture of your home. It’s also an effective vehicle for colour,’ says Ben Burbidge, managing director at Kitchen Makers

Create an elegant look by using the same shade on both cabinets and wall panelling ideas, as seen here, or create a feature by highlighting the panels in a contrasting shade. 

13. Bring warmth with a range cooker

white kitchen with beams and sage green range cooker

(Image credit: Everhot)

Since its development in the late 18th century, the range has become a staple for cooking and heating in the kitchen. It quickly earned its place as the heart of traditional kitchen ideas, and you can get the same look and feel without compromising on the efficiency or benefits of modern cooking methods.

Many of the best range cookers today feature induction hobs, slow cooking ovens or even rotisseries. 

14. Instil elegance with a marble (or marble look) splashback

blonde wood kitchen with full height pantry cupboard and island and marble splashback and worktop

(Image credit: Neptune)

In the high-end kitchens of the past, marble was an essential material. Its high thermal conductivity means that the stone is typically a few degrees cooler than room temperature – something that was invaluable pre-refrigeration. 

Marble worktops are also heat resistant and can be durable when repeatedly treated. If you love the look but have a smaller budget, marble-effect porcelain is a cost-effective alternative. 

15. Select lighting that makes a statement

kitchen with white walls and aga, a cream corner cabinet in alcove and dark wooden island with brass and white pendant light

(Image credit: Devol)

Kitchen lighting can be a challenge as part of traditional kitchen ideas, as it must combine both practicality and aesthetics. Designs with brass finishes and ceramic shades instantly add period charm and are especially elegant when installed as a pendant bar light above an island or a farmhouse table. 

‘When planning kitchen lighting, selecting this style of light keep it as low as you can to fully benefit from its beauty and ethereal glow,’ advises Helen Parker, creative director at Devol

16. Create a splashback that makes a statement

green and white gloss tiles in kitchen with sage cabinetry and white walls

(Image credit: Fired Earth X Nina Campbell)

A neutral colourway doesn't mean plain; instead, adds interest with layers of texture. Here, a soothing olive and white scheme is brought to life with matt cabinetry, an enamelled range cooker, striped kitchen splashback and metallic accents. 

‘The glossy, glazed finish lifts the subtlety of the olive colour perfectly, giving a gently modern edge to these timeless tiles,’ says interior designer Nina Campbell.

17. Dress windows with decorative shutters

kitchen with reclaimed wood flooring dark grey island and white shutters on window

(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

Whether dressing sashes or casements, window shutters are the perfect companions for traditional kitchen ideas. 

Not only do they offer total lighting and privacy control, but unlike blinds or curtains, they are easy to clean and will not harbour cooking smells or grease. 

18. Install a pantry for storage

full height fitted pantry in grey kitchen and wooden island

(Image credit: Humphrey Munson)

Once a staple of kitchen design, the pantry fell out of fashion in the 1950s, when food storage moved into cabinetry. In recent years, however, with more people cooking from scratch, the kitchen pantry has, once again, become the must-have addition. 

‘A pantry aids efficiency, plus it frees up that all-important cabinetry space, helping you to keep your kitchen in order,’ says Louisa Eggleston from Humphrey Munson, who designed this space.

19. Choose timeless shaker cabinetry for a traditional kitchen

shaker style kitchen cabinets in sea green with brass handles and open shelving

(Image credit: Davonport Kitchen)

Instantly recognisable, Shaker-style kitchens are loved for their clean lines and beautiful utilitarian design. The expertly crafted cabinetry will stand the test of time and instantly elevate your space. 

Partner this classic style with metallic handles and natural worktops for an elegant aesthetic.


What style of kitchen cabinets are timeless?

Shaker-style kitchen cabinets are a timeless choice that will suit any style of kitchen – especially traditional kitchen ideas. 

What are the timeless traditional kitchen colours?

Neutrals are the classic choice for traditional kitchen ideas – cream, white or grey painted cabinets are a safe choice. However, for something with more interest and depth blues and greens are popular choices. 

'Deep, rich and inviting, navy kitchens ooze a sense of class and sophistication, adding a deeply stylish aesthetic to any home,' says Al Bruce, founder Olive & Barr. 'Yet it also feels bold and creative, giving your space an added depth, balance and dramatic edge.'

How do you decorate a plain wall in the kitchen?

The options are endless, from installing wall panelling that accentuates the height of the room, to playing with paint, embracing prints and patterns, to making a decorative feature out of the building materials of your house. 

Decorating your kitchen walls is a cost-effective way to make a bold design statement and can instantly add a new dimension to what may otherwise be an underwhelming space.

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.