What's Your Look Saying? Matching and Mixing Styles and Finishes

Kitchen with the Tullis Pulldown Faucet

Transitional is a design term, not architectural but there are some house types that fall in between the major categories.

If you're in the midst of a kitchen or bathroom makeover you will find yourself facing an endless string of design decisions about colors, styles and finishes. What goes together to form a cohesive and appealing look with your hard-working faucets, taps, handles and showerheads? It may be best to determine your favorite style and dial things in from there.

Interior designers and architects try to find their clients comfort zones by understanding what kinds of style, colors, fabrics, furnishings or periods in design history they are naturally drawn to. “Traditional," “transitional" and “modern" are the three big categories. Which one do you fall into? Here's a quick guide to figuring all that out.


Do you like Victorian homes? Is antiquing your idea of a good time? Do you like heavy fabrics and ornate furniture? Can you tell the difference between a Georgian and an Adam house type? Don't worry, hardly anybody can. According to the Field Guide of American Houses, traditional style homes have been around since we started building homes and extends to the 1920's when the first modern designs started popping up.

Victorians, colonials and Greek Revival homes are all considered traditional–mostly due to when they were built. If you're trying to match faucets and fixtures to one of these house types–or even if you're just drawn to the period, you should be looking at fixtures with gentle curves, generous lips around the edges of faucets, and a thick, sturdy feel to faucet bases and tap handles. For finishes, consider oil rubbed bronze or spot resistant stainless. You can also use chrome but colder, shinier metals usually denote something more modern.


Ask five different interior designers to define transitional and you'll probably get five different answers. According to HGTV, transitional is “a marriage of traditional and contemporary furniture, finishes, materials and fabrics equating to a classic, timeless design. Furniture lines are simple yet sophisticated, featuring either straight lines or rounded profiles." Got that?

Transitional is a design term, not architectural but there are some house types that fall in between the major categories. The Arts and Crafts movement gave us bungalows that provided a stepping-stone from traditional to modern. Craftsmen-style moved things farther forward into the future towards more contemporary designs. Both of these popular house types lend themselves to transitional.

Transitional furnishings and fixtures look more modern than traditional without appearing stark or industrial. They are simpler in form and less fussy than traditional but still exhibit flares around faucet bases. The curves of handles are subtler and the lips on the spigots are less pronounced. Finishes tend to reflect more cool metal choices like stainless and chrome but oil rubbed bronze and even a matte black can work in the right room.


The modern era began in the early 1920s as delivered through Art Deco, a movement that was launched at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris. Deco went on to influence architecture, fashion, industrial design and the automotive industry. The Chrysler Building, the Empire State building and the ubiquitous American ranch style home were all born in modernism. Modern is not for everyone. Simple lines and forms characterize the designs. Ornamentation is kept to a minimum as function triumphs over form.

Think industrial style lofts, split-levels, and the aforementioned rancher. When thinking about fixtures, think about 90 Degree curves inspired by Deco or gooseneck faucets that would look at home in a laboratory. Think about faucet bases shaped like symmetrical cones. There probably won't be any lips on the faucet but maybe another cone stuck on the end of the faucet. Want an exposed spring on a pull down faucet? That is very modern. Want a single-handle faucet with the handle built into the base? That can be modern. Think clean simple lines, rendered in cool metals or basic black. If you like minimalism, with no fuss and no clutter, you may be a modernist.

Whatever style or time period you lean towards, keep in mind that design guidelines are not carved in stone. It's okay to mix and match and occasionally color outside the lines. You have to be happy with whatever look you choose, so pick something that undoubtedly pleases your eye.