These are the 12 timeless kitchen design elements you need to ensure your kitchen never, ever dates

Kitchens are a big commitment, so the key is to create a timeless kitchen that will still look current in years to come. Here's how

timeless kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan / Photography Julie Soefer)

Kitchens are a big commitment. Not only is a kitchen remodel expensive and time-consuming, but it's a space in the home in which you spend a great deal of time. So it's important to get it right and minimize any design regrets.

Choosing a timeless kitchen is the single most important aim that any of us should have when deciding on a kitchen idea. This goes for anyone planning on moving on swiftly and those who are agonizing over kitchen cabinets and kitchen colors for their forever home. 

The aim is to invest in a kitchen that never dates, never goes out of style, and that you never fall out of love with it. Plus, you want them to look beautiful while being practical because it is the one room in the house that can really add value to a home – so it's vital that the heart of your home isn't going to date. A tall ask, but we're up to the challenge.

Here, we examine the 12 most essential timeless kitchen design elements that the experts all agree on.

12 Timeless Kitchen Design Elements

white small shaker kitchen with dark iroko wood countertops and a terracotta floor

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

So what is the key to designing a timeless kitchen that you won't feel the need to update every few years? Go classic and you'll get longevity. 

'Simplicity is the key to a timeless kitchen,' says Helen Parker, creative director of deVOL. 'Beautifully made, reliable cupboards and a dedicated pantry area are all very important. A few utensils, pots, and pans that will last a lifetime and a beautifully considered lighting arrangement will also make the best of every moment you spend in your kitchen,' she notes.

You can always add your own stamp and personality – and keep up with kitchen trends – with easy-to-replace accessories, wallpaper, window treatments, upholstery, and paint colors. The bigger impact, more permanent items will require some further thinking to switch up. So, here's how to get them right the first time around with our guide to timeless kitchen ideas.

1. A neutral color scheme feels safer, but don't be afraid of color

pink english kitchen with glass fronted upper cabinets

(Image credit: Plain English Kitchens)

Although neutral kitchens are a popular choice for classic kitchen cabinet colors – and, to be honest, you can’t go far wrong with white – it is worth considering some carefully chosen colors such as beige, earthy pastels, and even deeper, more traditional English kitchen hues if you want to create a more individual look without damaging the kitchen's long-term credentials. 

Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene shares her thoughts on choosing colors for kitchens: ‘One of the liveliest spaces with the most activity and energy, a kitchen is usually the heart of the home. While often you will see bright colors such as vibrant yellows and greens used here to reflect the level of energy in the space, soft neutrals and earthier tones can work just as well and will create a comforting and timeless scheme that feels homely and calming.'

'Choice of color is essential to ensure you are not just jumping on the latest trend, which may not pass the test of time,' advises Jayne Evertt, co-founder and creative director of Naked Kitchens. 'Blues, greens, and shades of white will always be popular. Combining these together and introducing timber into the mix will look good today and good 10 or 20 years later. Where you want to step out a bit, you can use pops of color to be a bit bolder,' she adds.

2. Shaker-style cabinetry is a dependable classic

two tone beige and cream shaker kitchen by devol

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

Kitchen cabinet trends come and go, but the real hallmarks of classic kitchen design always remain. Traditional shaker kitchen ideas, whether painted or left as unpainted kitchen cabinets, are always going to be a timeless choice for your cupboard doors.

Equally at home in both traditional and contemporary homes, the shaker door is instantly recognizable by its recessed paneled doors and clean lines making it one of the most versatile cabinetry styles around.

If you're wondering, what is a shaker kitchen? Deriving from the 1790s, these days a simple kitchen with a recessed door and no moldings is often referred to as shaker-style. And while we have seen trends range from white shaker kitchens to the brightest and boldest hues, the basic design elements remain steady. 

3. Ensure you nail the kitchen triangle layout

jeccica helgerson interior design neutral shaker kitchen with no wall cabinets and warm accessories

(Image credit: Jessica Helgerson Interior Design)

To nail a timeless kitchen layout idea with clever ways to arrange cabinetry and configure the most efficient space is no mean feat. But it can be be done.

If you never have a negative thought about the position of certain elements, you are less likely to want to replace them. A professional kitchen designer – and your own valuable experience can help with this.

The main ingredient for a successful layout, whatever the size of the space, is the kitchen triangle, which consists of the sink, oven, and fridge. They create the anchor that the rest of the kitchen flows from, whether your kitchen is L-shaped, galley, U-shaped, or built around an island. According to the rule, these should be laid out to loosely form a triangle, enabling you to perform day-to-day tasks with relative ease and without obstruction. If you get this right, the rest should follow.

4. Strike a balance between freestanding and fitted

red english country kitchen with a rustic freestanding kitchen table island

(Image credit: Plain English Design)

A big decision when designing a kitchen is where and when to opt for freestanding vs fitted. They both have pros and cons and can fit into a ‘timeless style’ – but, in truth, the most classic kitchens (in our opinion) should have elements of both. 

'At Plain English, we intend to design kitchens and rooms for long-term use,' says Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English. 'Incorporating classic pieces such as a larder cupboard, and a table if room allows and taking time to ensure the layout and positioning of any appliances is going to continue to work as your family grows.'

'Freestanding pieces immediately allow for change of use and adaptation,' he suggests. 'It is important from the onset to make sure you research and know you have the right room in mind for the kitchen, and that the kitchen space will be in proportion to the size of the property and its occupants.'

Freestanding (or 'freestanding-look') kitchens are more laid-back in finish, ideal for character properties, and are easily moveable should you choose to sell up and leave. Fitted units, on the other hand, ensure you're able to maximize your space to the last inch and are usually better at creating a streamlined look.

5. Natural materials will live forever

wood cabinetry kitchen with large plastered white range hood

(Image credit: A. Naber Design)

'Natural materials help to not "timestamp" a design,' says designer Abbie Naber. When it comes to kitchens, incorporating natural elements like stone, wood, and metal will never date and adds heaps of character. Stone countertops, marble tiles, and wooden cabinetry will not only exude warmth but also are incredibly enduring.

'In a kitchen, natural finishes such as marble or quartzite countertops exude a timeless charm that draws on one’s natural surroundings and the earth’s rich resources,' agrees interior designer Marie Flanigan

Whether it's reclaimed barn wood for rustic charm or sleek walnut for a contemporary feel, incorporating wooden elements such as cabinetry, flooring, or butcher block countertops brings so much charm.

Richard Davonport, managing director at Davonport, says: 'One of the key reasons for wood’s enduring popularity is that as a natural material, it is extremely versatile and blends into a variety of home settings, from rustic through to more minimalist. This means that it provides longevity, which is important as a new kitchen can be a large financial investment,' he adds.

6. Try to include a multi-functional island

wooden kitchen island with drawers

(Image credit: Plaster & Patina / Photography Amy Bartlam)

You’re more likely to see a kitchen with an island these days than without. Kitchen island ideas have evolved into a kitchen mainstay and a design must-have. You can play with scale and shape to suit your needs, but they have to work hard to cater to the needs of a busy, modern home. 

‘Islands provide the most space-efficient way to organize everything in dedicated zones and help significantly with the flow of traffic around the room,' says Richard Moore, design director at Martin Moore. 'They make a great focal point for the room, especially when they are multi-functional incorporating appliances and informal seating.'

'Clever kitchen island layout ideas help us multi-task: cooking for a dinner party, chatting to friends gathered around the island, or sitting kids down to do their homework whilst we prepare supper. Islands also make great space dividers between the kitchen and adjacent dining or living areas and you can add even more design focus in your choice of color and worktop materials,' adds Richard.

7. Pick flooring that stands the test of time

white neutral shaker kitchen with nblack and white checkerboard marble floor

(Image credit: Jaclyn Christensen Design / Photography Christopher Stark)

‘Although the kitchen's design is the biggest priority, it’s important not to forget other elements of the room, such as the floor and lighting,’ explains Ben Burbidge, Managing Director at Kitchen Makers

‘Everything should be considered individually but also as a whole to make sure they work together. You’ll want these pieces to feel cohesive throughout the space and consulting your kitchen designer can help to ensure this,' suggests Ben.

Classic kitchen flooring ideas are of course wood and stone. Wood flooring adds character and warmth while stone floors are beautiful, sturdy, and extremely long-lasting, and stone also works well with underfloor heating. When thinking about how to choose the best kitchen floor, top on your list of priorities should be low-maintenance, durable, and long-lasting to stop you from wanting to upgrade a year down the line. Secondly, you want to consider color, pattern, and aesthetic to ensure it blends well with your cabinet styles.

8. As well as durable countertops

plain english kitchens green traditional kitchen

(Image credit: Plain English Kitchens)

On a similar note, kitchen countertop ideas also need to work hard from both a practical and design standpoint. Our best advice? Avoid on-trend materials or overly statement designs that are brightly or boldly colored if you are looking for 'timeless'. 

'For worktops, choose a natural stone that will age elegantly, developing a natural patina, or timber which can be sanded down and re-oiled should someone scorch it with a hot pan accidentally,' suggests Merlin Wright. 'The same principals apply when looking at appliances,' he adds. 'A super clever gadget may not last the test of time, while good quality, well-made classic designs will serve long-term use.'

The general rule of thumb is: if your units are plain, you can add extra pattern or texture with natural stone, or a stronger marble veining, for example, or combine different materials within a kitchen to create a more eye-catching decorative aspect.  But if you've gone bolder on your cabinets, maybe with a high gloss kitchen finish, then maybe pair them with something more subtle. 

9. And a backsplash that isn't overtly 'trendy'

pale pink shaker kitchen with white subway tiles and a glazed wall cabinet

(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

While it can be tempting to opt for trendy patterns or bold colors, choosing a backsplash that will outlive fads is essential for achieving timeless elegance. Tiles are pretty permanent, so just like flooring, you want to ensure that you opt for classic materials and patterns that will hold up over time.

A backsplash should complement the overall aesthetic of the kitchen without overpowering it. Subway tile remains a perennial favorite, whether in classic white or a muted hue, and handmade zellige tiles will bring a rustic feel to a more country kitchen. 

'A beautiful handmade tile backsplash adds a layer of luxury and can be updated to complement the color story of the space,' suggests Nadia Palacios Lauterbach. 'Traditional shapes and materials will remain timeless in their design, yet can be updated in their appeal when paired with bold paint colors and unexpected finishes.'

'Adding visual interest to a neutral kitchen with a dynamic natural stone countertop or an updated take on tilework is another way to embrace traditional elements and elevate them to timelessness,' agrees Courtnay Tartt Elias of Creative Tonic Design.

10. Stick to age-old materials for hardware and fixtures

devol yellow kitchen with a dark brown island with brass accessories, hardware and tap

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

Handles, knobs, faucets, hinges – these are the details that are going to give your kitchen character. In other words: make sure you sweat the small stuff.

To create a timeless kitchen, it has to have a cohesive look, so make sure you match all of your fixtures and fittings, particularly when using metals – the handles, the faucets, light sockets and so on should all complement one another. 

'Select living finishes like unlacquered brass for plumbing fixtures and hardware to add an authentic touch that echoes the beauty found in natural elements,' suggests Marie Flanigan. 'These materials, sourced from nature, offer kitchens a sense of harmony and longevity, creating an atmosphere that transcends passing trends.'

Designer Benjamin Johnston agrees. 'Timeless kitchen design is subtle yet unique and always includes a few personal, stand-out elements that communicate the innate style of the homeowner. Details are meant to patina over time and only get more beautiful as the years go by.'

11. A painted finish means you can change it up

blue shaker small kitchen with vintage fluted sink by plain english design

(Image credit: Plain English Design)

If you're feeling daunted by landing on a 'forever color' for your cabinetry, painted finishes will offer a versatile solution; affording you the adaptability to refresh your kitchen aesthetic to adapt and evolve with changing tastes and trends. 

'Try not to follow any trends or be formulaic in decisions,' suggests Plain English's Merlin Wright. 'Rather like choosing clothing; a kitchen should be assembled from classic pieces which will not date. Having a hand-painted finish allows a re-paint in years to come should the kitchen need a re-fresh or change in color.'

Additionally, a paintable island or accent piece like a freestanding pantry in a bold hue can inject personality into the kitchen while maintaining a timeless overall aesthetic.

'Materials have a great part to play in ensuring a kitchen remains timeless,' agrees Jayne Everett. 'Oak and walnut will never date, so can always be used in any timeless kitchen design. It's far easier to change the wall color of your kitchen and soft furnishings to embrace the new color trends.'

12. Choose timeless accessories and decor

neptune neutral kitchen with shaker style cabinets and marble countertop and backsplash

(Image credit: Neptune)

We often spend all our time and budget on the core of the kitchen, but forget about the important finishing touches.

'Try to incorporate personality, individuality, passion, and restraint into your kitchen design,' says deVOL's Helen Parker. 'A room that can begin as a simple space with all the necessities and can be added to over time is a perfect way to achieve a look that is more organic than forced. Avoid gadgets and trendy ‘in’ looks and don’t go full on with the theme or have a shopping spree to accessorize the whole room all in one go,' she suggests. 

'The key to transcending fashion is to go for simple beautifully made classic cupboards, fittings and worktops and then add small well-chosen pieces gradually, ensuring they are things you will grow to love more rather than go off because they are a little bit ‘of the moment’,' says Helen.

'Using classic materials and lighting is a great way to keep your kitchen looking timeless,' adds Jaclyn Christensen. 'Pair these classic touches with simple yet stylish lighting accents or a sconce above the sink. These touches will add a touch of warmth and character to your kitchen, and they'll help you create a space that feels both classic and contemporary,' she advises.

A timeless kitchen design will be a solid investment in your home, and when married with items that showcase your personality and a few trending updates, it will create a beautiful space that will truly stand the test of time.

Charlotte Olby
Style & Trends Editor

Charlotte is style and trends editor at Homes and Gardens, and has been with the team since Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she has worked at many women's glossy magazines including Grazia, Stylist, and Hello and most recently worked as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with her passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome

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