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How to design a timeless kitchen

We compiled 22 design elements to help you achieve a timeless look

White kitchen
  • Kitchen with mid-century lights
  • Kitchen with gray walls
  • Green kitchen cabinets
  • Classic Series Refrigerator
  • Natural wood kitchen
  • White traditional-style kitchen
  • Light cream kitchen cabinets
  • White kitchen
  • Shaker-style cabinets
  • Black and White kitchen
  • Sage green kitchen
  • White kitchen
  • Traditional style kitchen
  • Blue kitchen island
  • Modern farmhouse kitchen
  • Small kitchen
  • Green cabinets in a kitchen
  • Green kitchen

Kitchen remodels are an exciting opportunity to both express yourself and experiment with new design choices. However, most homeowners want to ensure they’re making choices that withstand the test of time. 

So, how do you avoid kitchen trends to achieve a timeless look? We compiled 22 design elements to consider.

1. Oak Cabinets

Kitchen with mid-century lights
Photo: Sarki StudiosSleek, modern cabinetry along with state of the art appliances were installed to create this warm and functional kitchen.

One thing is for sure: oak cabinetry will never go out of style. In the above kitchen, Natalie Rebuck, Principal Designer at Re: Design Architects, uses “oak panel for uppers, which adds warmth to the space.” She uses soft brown matte lacquer base cabinets to compliment the oak doors. 

2. Gray walls

Kitchen with gray walls
Playful, color-filled artwork is used to compliment this kitchen’s gray walls.

For a look that creates timeless drama, try gray walls. Natalie Rebuck uses gray walls in this kitchen to “move away from the all white kitchen without being too controversial with the color choice.” To compliment the kitchen’s gray walls, Natalie added playful, color-filled artwork that can be switched out anytime. 

3. Don’t skimp and save on appliances 

Choosing appliances that will hold value is arguably the most important element of a timeless kitchen. According to Hilary Matt of Hilary Matt Interiors, “it’s key to invest in appliances that will last for years and years to come, as they will always be the best and outlast many of the kitchen design trends we see.” Matt suggests opting for the classic stainless-steel finish or choosing a custom panel-ready option to blend with your cabinetry and yield a long-lasting, timeless look. 

Green kitchen cabinets
Photo: Spectrum Design GroupAppliances will often outlast any kitchen trends.

Matt suggests that her clients “remember that a kitchen has a purpose outside of looking pretty… quality appliances will make the kitchen function better,” and always recommends Sub-Zero’s Classic Series Refrigerator for an appliance built to last. 

Classic Series Refrigerator
Photo: Sub-ZeroSub-Zero’s Classic Series Refrigerator

4. Invest in quality 

When it comes to designing a timeless kitchen, Keeley Smith’s top tip is to “choose high-quality, durable materials that will stand up to the wear and tear of daily use.” Smith suggests choosing natural stone countertops, hardwood flooring, and timeless cabinetry that will never go out of style. 

5. Pair neutral colors with wood

Natural wood kitchen
Photo: Block RenovationThis kitchen features plenty of natural wood with white and gold accents.

When picking a color for your kitchen cabinets, think neutrals like whites, warm whites, and taupes paired with wood. According to Kendal Cavalieri of Kandal Cavalieri Design Inc., “this is the most timeless combination,” as colored cabinets are bound to go out of style at some point. 

6. Natural stone countertops 

Photo: Kacey GilpinThe ample space in this stunning modern farmhouse kitchen is well utilized to bring focus to elements such as the large central island

When choosing countertops for your kitchen, try a natural stone like granite, marble, or quartzite. “These come from the Earth so they are most likely going to be around for a while,” says Kendal Cavalieri. “You can achieve this look with quartz countertops as well, but some companies tend to lean towards the same pattern in different colorways, and this would be on its way out in the upcoming years.” 

7. Focus on function

White traditional-style kitchen
Photo: Caleb VugteveenWhen considering your kitchen layout it's essential to think about spacing to ensure you can complete tasks without too much clutter.

Kitchens are the hub of the home. Thus, it’s important to focus on your kitchen’s function to ensure you’re getting the most out of your space. Kendal Cavalieri advises considering the work triangle (sink, stove, and refrigerator) and coming up with what works best for you, as you’ll be more likely to enjoy being in your kitchen over time. “If you stick with the latest buzz, you’ll be left with redoing your kitchen whenever trends are onto the next popular layout,” says Cavalieri.  

8. Stick with white

Light cream kitchen cabinets
Photo: John GranenThis warm white cabinetry blends seamlessly with the kitchen's wood paneling and gold hardware.

When in doubt, stick with white. According to Hilary Matt, “a white kitchen is timeless and will never tire.” Sure, color may pop in and out of style, but nobody is ever going to be offended by a fresh, clean white kitchen. Matt suggests focusing on detailing when designing a white kitchen as “they’re even more important in the design since you can’t distract with color and pattern.” Additionally, Matt finds it fun to play with elements like appliances and home décor. 

9. Add color through accessories 

White kitchen
Photo: Clarity Northwest PhotographyThis kitchen combines a mix of white cabinets and natural wood finishes.

An easy, impermanent way to add color to your space is by accessorizing. Catherine Wilson likes to incorporate vibrant colors to a neutral space by using appliances, like the ones from Kitchen Aid that now comes in colors like avocado, milkshake, ink blue, or scorched orange. “These colors stand front and center and make a lasting statement,” says Wilson. 

Cavalieri, on the other hand, tests out accent colors by incorporating items that are easy to switch out– in case you get sick of it. “Get a green teapot, or dish towels,” she advises. “You can even consider things like colored drapery or larger items, like dining room chairs.” After all, it’s much easier to switch out accessories or furniture than remodel your kitchen. 

10. Simple cabinets

When choosing cabinets for her clients’ kitchen, Keeley Smith looks for pieces with simple, clean lines, such as classic shaker-style or timeless raised-panel cabinets. “Neutral tones, like white, gray, or navy, are always a safe bet,” says Smith. 

Natalie Rebuck agrees, adding that “the simplicity of flat panel cabinets feel sleek and timeless, whereas cabinets that have a lot of edges and grooves date more quickly.” 

Shaker-style cabinets
Photo: Catherine Wilson InteriorsShaker-style cabinets can easily bridge transitional and traditional designs.

In the above kitchen, Catherine Wilson uses shaker-style cabinets to easily bring transitional and traditional home design to the space. “You can jazz it up by adding a modern yet still timeless twist and go with a micro-shaker profile,” says Wilson. “Hardware brushed in gold is super hot right now, but take a look around you and make sure your finishes get along.” While you can certainly mix and match finishes, they should flow and balance each other out as you move from cabinetry hardware to lighting to door hardware.” 

11. Consider the “work triangle”

Layout is also a crucial consideration when seeking timeless design. “The layout should be both functional and efficient, with a logical flow that makes it easy to move around and access everything you need,” says Keeley Smith. She recommends considering the “work triangle” of the sink, stove, and refrigerator, and ensuring that these elements are located in a way that maximizes efficiency and ease of use.

Photo: Design by Trade Mark Interiors. Photo by Nicholas Ferris.Custom built-ins and unique light fixtures help create a space that is both modern and welcoming

Natalie Rebuck agrees as “the work triangle is a tried and true method that will never go out of style.” 

12. Farmhouse tables

When it comes to furniture, keep it simple by shopping for classic pieces. Keeley Smith suggests prioritizing functionality with a large farmhouse table, comfortable dining chairs, or classic barstools. “Avoid trendy or overly ornate pieces that may look dated in a few years,” says Smith. 

This modern farmhouse kitchen features massive cabinetry, a soft color palette and minimalist vibe

13. Timeless accents

Accent pieces can add a pop of color, personality, and just plain fun to any space. “Consider adding classic and timeless accents, such as vintage-inspired hardware, subway tile backsplash, or a classic range hood,” says Smith, as these elements add character and charm to your space– and will never go out of style.

Photo: Laura SumrakThe kitchen island/breakfast bar is the perfect place for the family to gather.

14. Go Black and white

Black and White kitchen
Photo: Ashton Woods HomesA black and white kitchen provides a "classic and clean" look.

For a color combination that’s as classic as they come, try black and white. "Black and white kitchens are timeless and glamorous,” says Nikki James, interior designer and Studio Director for Ashton Woods Homes Dallas Division. “This combination is classic and clean, leaving you an open canvas for any other bold color you may want to incorporate.” In the above kitchens, James uses black and white to create a unique sense of depth and contrast. 

15. Choose colors you love

The key to color in general is to not follow trends, but to pick colors that you love, and that will give you comfort for years to come. Natalie Rebuck agrees, adding that “if you like a color today because it’s a lovely color, it’s likely that you will still love that color in ten years.” 

Sage green kitchen
Photo: Miranda EstesThis sophisticated, alluring hue of green is becoming very popular in kitchen designs.

16. Mix high-gloss and matte finishes 

White kitchen
Photo: Bakes & Kropp Fine CabinetryThe “soft modern” style includes contrast created by a high-gloss finish and matte wood finish.

According to Bob Bakes of Bakes & Kropp Fine Cabinetry, timeless kitchens honor traditional elements alongside more contemporary aesthetics. With modern styles in greater demand, Bakes’ team has honed a new style called “soft modern” that includes contrast created by a high-gloss finish and matte wood finish. 

17. Embrace trends with hardware, lighting and backsplashes 

Traditional style kitchen
Photo: Spectrum Design GroupBacksplashes are a great place to add some color or pattern to your kitchen.

If remaining on-trend is a must for you, consider incorporating them into elements of the kitchen that can easily be switched out as trends change. Hardware, lighting, and backsplashes are elements of the kitchen that are easier to switch out compared to say, cabinetry, for example. “These items are relatively easy and inexpensive to update, so those elements could be replaced as the personal style of the homeowner evolves,” says Cory Rodeheaver and Dawn Bane.

18. Add color to the island

Blue kitchen island
Photo: Meghan Balcom PhotographyA rich blue island adds warmth and character to this white kitchen.

Megan Pisano likes to add color to common kitchen features, such as the island, to create timeless design. This strategy is seen in the kitchen above, where Pisano “brought warmth and character into the space through a rich blue kitchen island as well as navy patterned window treatments and chairs.” 

19. Use subway tiles or natural stone

Modern farmhouse kitchen
Photo: SpacecraftingThe dark grout between tiles is a classic farmhouse feature.

For timeless kitchen design, Heather Mastrangeli always suggests using subway tiles for the backsplash. “They’re classic and were never really a trend, so rest assured that they’ll work for you for many years,” says Mastrangeli. “If subway tiles aren’t really your thing, then look at natural stone options– which are also timeless and will keep your kitchen feeling fresh longer.” 

20. Work with existing architecture 

Small kitchen
Photo: Spectrum Design GroupTo ensure that your kitchen design is timeless, design the space with the architecture of the home in mind.

To ensure that your kitchen design is indeed timeless, design the kitchen with the architecture of the home in mind. According to Cory Rodeheaver and Dawn Bane, “kitchen layouts should transcend time, with functionality as the top priority.” As for cabinetry, Rodeheaver and Bane recommend choosing a style that fits your home– ensuring timeless design. 

21. Plan out your space

Anyone who has ever entered the design world knows that there’s nothing more important than planning out your space. Natalie Rebuck suggests “taking a pen to paper and labeling every single drawer and shelf” and to “think about what you own currently, and where each item will go in this new kitchen. 

Green cabinets in a kitchen
Photo: Spectrum Design GroupWhen designing a timeless kitchen, it's important to consider layout and how you'll use the space.

Additionally, Rebuck advises making sure there’s space for growth. “Having that growth space will allow you to not feel like you’re immediately growing out of your kitchen, again making it feel timeless.” 

22. Tell your story

Green kitchen
Photo: Spectrum Design GroupThe kitchen is a space to make your own and showcase what you love.

According to Cory Rodeheaver and Dawn Bane, if you’re planning on staying in your home for a long time, it’s important to design a kitchen that you love. “Tell your story and don’t worry about the resale value,” says Rodeheaver and Bane. “Remember the kitchen is an extension of the rest of your home… you can make bold choices that are timeless.” 

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