A big influence on what Americans call traditional style is, in fact, European decor that dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Immigrants brought furniture and decorating ideas with them when they settled here, and eventually these items became models for American designers and cabinetmakers. Kitchen cabinets have doors with inset panels and beveled edges, and they feature the same scrolled aprons or carved trim moldings as an antique armoire or dining buffet. Cabinet hardware resembles what you can find on furniture. Window coverings might feature the floral chintz fabric popular in British homes or be fashioned like the swags and jabots of French chateaux. These influences extend to more than cabinetry: A traditional kitchen space mimics early-century rooms, with wide-plank wood floors and multipane windows.
Because these kitchens take their cues from early high-society homes, the flavor is decidedly formal. But, a traditional kitchen does not have to be stuffy or overly constrained. Rich wood tones including cherry and mahogany, as well as creamy paints in hues such as ivory and butter, are inviting. Countertops have rounded edges, such as ogee and bullnose designs, that are smooth to the touch. Lighting is gentle and flattering, with chandeliers and sconces wearing fabric shades that soften the light.
Unlike the spare, clutter-free surfaces in a modern-style kitchen, a traditional-style kitchen features extra embellishment wherever possible. Cabinet doors have carved panels, brackets, and molding, plus hardware that acts like jewelry, such as brass drop pulls or crystal knobs. Tile backsplashes will be placed in a pattern, such as a diamond or herringbone design, and will frequently feature trim pieces with shape and contour. Window treatments have flourishes, such as tassels and fringe. Then there are the accessories: floor rugs, seat cushions, table dressings, centerpieces, and collections of vases or pitchers displayed behind glass doors in a hutch or cabinet.
To add some international spice to your traditional kitchen, incorporate elements from old-world countries, such as Italy, France, and England. You can introduce small exotic hints by displaying collections that are gathered during vacation or a visit to an import store. Or, focus on the architecture of the space and include rustic wood ceiling beams, a terra-cotta floor, and even a fireplace and mantel. Hand-painted tiles, imported linens, and an iron pot rack are also at home in a traditional-style kitchen.