Popular Design Styles Defined

Farmhouse, mid-century modern, transitional… what do these terms exactly mean? A lot of times we like the certain look of a space, but we have trouble pinpointing what elements of the design make that space one style over another. Having a general understanding of different design styles can be extremely beneficial when it comes to defining your own unique style and taste. It is also helpful in communicating your style with your designer as well as implementing it in your home.

Today we are giving you a breakdown right from our Studio M Kitchen & Bath designers on the definitions and characteristics you need to know about your favorite design styles.

Mid-Century Modern

Definition: Mid-Century Modern is a style of design that reflects World War II optimism, the growing economy, and the rapid rise of suburban living. This period roughly lasted from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. Suburban homes built during this time were fairly small, yet open, uncluttered, and airy. Efficiency was key! These homes were intentionally designed to be a fresh alternative to the darker, neo-classical styles of the earlier part of the twentieth century.

With its sleek lines and warm tones, this style is perfect for those looking for a space that’s welcoming in nature and fun in design! What’s also special about this design style is that it’s not “one-size-fits-all.” Depending on your unique style, you can create a Mid Century Modern space that is anything you desire it to be: colorful or neutral, relaxing or energetic!

“There is something very playful and whimsical about Mid-Century Modern. It has the characteristics of modern design but with a youthful edge through a space’s color, details, and shapes.” – Olivia Flicker


  • Organic and geometric shapes. Mid-century modern style focuses on clean lines with a mix of both organic and geometric shapes
  • Function over form
  • Combination of contrasting materials and textures
  • Neutral and bold
  • Bringing nature indoors – warm woods
  • Cabinetry with clean, simple lines

Example: Mid-century Modern Home (Mid-Century Modern style)


Definition: Traditional style kitchens are defined by their intriguing details and embellishments. These design elements add character and charm while keeping a space functional and providing ample storage.

Traditional kitchens typically include more decorative and detailed features like moldings, appliques, corbels, and raised panel cabinet doors. If you are a detail-oriented person looking for an elegant and timeless space, traditional might be the style for you!

“To me, traditional equals classic – which can mean different things depending on the specific style that you’re going for (for example: French country, craftsman, or cottage). Often you’re trying to emulate a specific classic architectural style of a home. I associate traditional with history, elegance and comfort.” – Claire Teunissen


  • Decorative Details & Accessories
  • Neutral Color Palette
  • Luxury Countertops
  • Vintage or Raised Panel Cabinets
  • “Typically there are more details – raised panel doors, decorative moldings, paneling and columns. The colors are often warm with darker wood tones. Symmetry is also very important!” – Claire Teunissen
  • Antique Finishes or Glazed Cabinetry
  • Simple Backsplash

“I love the history associated with traditional design, the time-proven elements that are repeated in the space and how inviting it can be! Personally, I love antiques and old homes and the stories they tell!” – Claire Teunissen

Example: Traditional Warm & Bright Kitchen (Traditional Style)  


Definition: Both contemporary and modern kitchens represent new, updated styles and trends. Recently they’ve emphasized clean, open spaces and sleek lines. Modern design for many is a way of life in addition to a room design. You will notice a “less is more” mentality as many modern/contemporary spaces practice minimalism and are clutter free.

What makes a space have that modern look we love is the simplicity of the design. You will often notice symmetry and horizontal lines that accentuate certain features in a space. This is commonly displayed in kitchens through simple and smooth cabinetry door styles that have minimal decoration. Contemporary spaces are becoming increasingly popular because they tend to be very aesthetically pleasing!

“When executed properly, modern/contemporary styles offer a chance to create clever designs that help accentuate functionality of a space in a truly beautiful form. As designers we believe that this design style perfectly embodies the phrase that “form allows function”’. – Olivia Flicker

Example: Nordiska Kök (Modern style)

This Scandinavian style kitchen is a perfect example of Modern design through its clean lines, simplicity, and emphasis on light. You will notice how spaces like this never sacrifice beauty for the sake of functionality but have the perfect balance of both.


  • Space and lighting. Modern kitchen designs ensure that the light and space are maximized with the use of reflective materials and cleverly designed lights and windows
  • Simple and smooth cabinet door styles
  • Open layout
  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Neutral color pallet – “Modern/contemporary tend to lean more in the neutral color palette but can certainly bring in a punch of color too.” – Olivia Flicker
  • Integrated dishwashers, refrigerators, sinks etc. – This contributes to the space’s smooth, sleek lines!


Definition: Transitional style is a thoughtful blend of traditional and contemporary styles to create unique, one-of-a-kind spaces.This can be everything from blending straight and curved lines to balancing both masculine and feminine elements. The combination of a traditional kitchen’s attention to detail and the sleek lines of a contemporary kitchen makes for a beautiful transitional space.

This style is great for people that find traditional a little too formal, but purely contemporary doesn’t fit well with their home or style. The beauty of transitional is that it’s entirely what you make of it!

“Transitional style is comfortable and inviting. The scale of furnishings is ample but not over whelming. A well-designed transitional space should be visually pleasing yet communicate ‘come in, sit down, put your feet up, and relax.’” – Kelly Davert


  • Sleek cabinetry and hardware – Transitional kitchen cabinetry is simpler in style than traditional cabinetry. Whereas traditional cabinetry often features raised panels and detailing, transitional cabinetry features flat panels with minimal trim.
  • Minimal accents
  • Neutral color palette
  • Natural surfaces (ex. granite, marble to keep a space looking classic)
  • Lots of texture – Backsplash, light fixtures, hardware

“I think that Transitional design is the best style for couples who may have varying opinions and taste when embarking on a project. Marrying varying styles together is truly a lot of fun. At the end of the day when both individuals feel good about what you’ve created and they see how their individual style is reflected in the project, it’s a win-win for everyone!” – Kelly Davert  

Example: Dura Supreme (Transitional Style)


Definition: Eclectic style is defined by the harmonization of disparate design styles, juxtaposing textures, and contrasting colors. While this might sound overwhelming or obnoxious, the elements of eclectically-styled spaces come together cohesively to create kitchens that are beautiful and timeless.

“Eclectic is a unique style and allows flexibility and variety. The style itself is a mixing of several different elements such as a combination of old with new time periods and pieces, antique furniture pieces mixed with modern furniture (example a Queen Anne sofa mixed with a Lucite coffee table chair) or mixing period styles (Art Nouveau mixed with contemporary). All these mixed elements can be harmonized together using similar textures, colors, and finishes that pair well together.” – Danee Bohn

Eclecticism is perfect for those who appreciate many different design styles. There is no rule book saying that you can’t combine the sleek cabinetry style of a contemporary kitchen with the warm woods and vintage elements of a farmhouse style kitchen. But be warned, there is a fine line between a tasteful eclectic kitchen and one that is too “busy!”


  • A variety of mixed textures and patterns within the space – Rattan accents, plush & patterned fabrics, textured stones, marble and more!
  • Mixing metal finishes – Gold with stainless steel or even matte black and copper. 
  • An attention-grabbing features like a painted wall or unique tilework
  • Exposed shelves
  • The combination of different design styles
  • Mixed color palettes. – Bold color choices with soothing neutrals
  • Travel and global influences – Decorating with pieces influenced by other cultures and areas around the world

“I love Eclectic spaces – my own home is Eclectic!  The beauty about Eclectic spaces is that it allows one to fully express and showcase their own personality in their home without having to follow a strict style. Personal and favorite items that hold sentimental value can be paired with a favorite designer brand piece.” – Danee Bohn

Example: Modern Eclectic Kitchen (Eclectic style)


Definition: Modern day farmhouse is a style that lies on the transitional continuum. It’s not traditional, not contemporary, but has qualities of both!

Inspired by homes historically built on agricultural lands, Farmhouse styled homes were created to be efficient for hardworking households and accommodating for big families. While many modern-day homes are not built on active farms, the simple and cozy qualities of these spaces translate to the popular farmhouse style we see today.

“I would define farmhouse design style as practicality & comfort! This design style relies heavily on the wood elements with white tones which are a signature of the farmhouse style! When I think of Farmhouse I think ‘lived-in, loved, and full of character.” – Danielle Lardani

Due to Farmhouse design being a subset of transitional style, there are many different variations of the design such as Scandinavian Farmhouse, French Farmhouse, Rustic Farmhouse, and Modern Farmhouse. Each of these design styles has elements that are indicative of classic Farmhouse design but with different adaptations!


  • Apron-front sinks
  • Shaker-style cabinets with simple hardware
  • Natural wood floors, exposed beams, butcher block and farm tables
  • Beadboard and paneling
  • Open shelving
  • Natural neutrals – Buttermilk, straw, gray, khaki, stone
  • Classic colors – Barn red, denim blue, sage green, mustard yellow
  • Sturdy (handmade) wood farmhouse table with bench seating
  • Two toned cabinetry in a textured finish

“My favorite thing about Farmhouse style is the lived-in appeal! It gives me the illusion that a family can be raised in that space without worrying so much about imperfections. Dings and scratches just enhance the character of the space. Animals can also be a bit tough of floors, furniture, etc. but with the farmhouse approach, they fit right in!” – Danielle Lardani

Farmhouse Kitchen Design with Green CabinetryExample: Modern Farmhouse Kitchen (Farmhouse Style)

Keep in mind when it comes to designing your own home, there is no rule book when it comes to these styles! In fact, many of our projects at Studio M are curated blends of different styles designed to achieve a client’s vision.

For example, our Rustic Modern kitchen was thoughtfully designed with the warm woods and whites of a Farmhouse space, the clean lines and stainless steel of a Modern space, and rustic elements like the iron bar stools.

Rustic Modern Kitchen

With a basic knowledge of design styles and help from your designer, you can bring different design elements together and create a space that perfectly reflects your taste and lifestyle. 

To learn more about design styles or to start a project with Studio M, contact us!