Transitional style is one of the hardest looks to define, simply because there’s no one way to achieve it. In a nutshell, transitional design is the marriage of classic and contemporary styles, which results in a look that’s clean, cozy, and inviting. We’ll walk you through the basics of transitional style to help you decide if this look is right for your home.
The Elements of Transitional Style
As we mentioned above, transitional design involves the combination of both classic and contemporary style elements. The look is typically achieved by incorporating the comfort and craftsmanship of traditional designs, then balancing it out with an updated color palette and sleek, minimal accents.
Mixing Masculine & Feminine
The beauty of transitional design lies in its perfect balance of the masculine and the feminine. Rough-hewn elements such as leather and wood pair perfectly with mirrored and metallic accents and touchable textiles. Whether your space leans one way or the other is entirely up to you – the versatility of transitional style is one of its defining traits.
This balance is also achieved by mixing silhouettes in your furniture and décor. The clean, straight lines of a rectangular coffee table look handsome against a tufted chesterfield sofa, and sleek armless dining chairs are perfect complements to a traditional wooden table.
The Transitional Color Palette
Transitional spaces often rely on the simplicity of bright, neutral hues. That’s not to say, however, that the space has to be beige and boring. Contrast and dimension are achieved by layering various shades in the same general palette, or through pops of color and pattern in décor and accents. For an even more dramatic look, try a bold paint color on the walls and balance it out with neutral furniture and décor.
Due to their signature neutral palettes, transitional spaces often incorporate a wide variety of fabrics and materials. Layering these different elements helps create texture and dimension while still adhering to the minimalist color scheme. Try pairing linen with leather for a best-of-both-worlds look. Wood, wicker, and metal elements also add pleasant contrast to the softness of upholstery.
When it comes to furniture, there’s no one piece that makes a space transitional. Rather, the look is achieved by mixing and matching various elements of classic and contemporary styles.
Some elements are constant: clean lines, large and comfortable pieces, and a neutral, calming color palette are always major players in transitional design. However, there’s plenty of space to play with bold accents or contrasting styles. We’ll show you how to achieve this well-balanced look in the living room, bedroom, and dining space.
Transitional Sofas & Accent Chairs
Transitional living room seating is all about classic comfort. Upholstered seats and backs, spacious designs, and soothing hues are all essential to nailing down the transitional look.
You’ll typically see chairs and sofas upholstered in shades of gray, beige, or cream, but that doesn’t mean color and pattern are off-limits. Pair a colorful side chair with a classic linen sofa, or go for a subtle print that matches the overall color scheme.
Our favorite transitional tables are those that put a modern twist on a traditional design. Simple, timeless silhouettes are easily updated through finishes and materials: metallic frames and glass tops are perfect for adding a touch of shine. If your tastes lean a little less glamorous, distressed wood is perfect for adding rustic or even industrial flair.
Transitional Beds & Headboards
The transitional look works especially well in the bedroom. The calming palette and comfortable silhouettes of transitional style are perfect for creating a serene, soothing sleep space. Elegant tufted headboards lend an air of comfort and softness to the space, and serve as a handsome compliment to contemporary dressers, chests, or bedside tables.
Nightstands & Dressers
A transitional bedroom typically marries traditional beds and headboards with more modern-leaning dressers and nightstands, but this rule is by no means hard-and-fast. Perhaps you prefer the look of a simple platform bed alongside curvy wooden silhouettes – and that’s OK! No matter your preference, the most important element of transitional style is a well-struck balance between the old and the new.
Transitional Dining Tables
Transitional dining tables are often more traditional than contemporary, employing classic wooden designs and detailed craftsmanship. These types of tables embody the signature sense of warmth and comfort found in transitional design.
Transitional Dining Chairs
Dining chairs offer the opportunity to infuse your space with a little more visual flair. High-backed, nailhead-trimmed, or bench-style designs allow you to express your personal style, and also make the space feel elevated and chic.
Transitional décor is best incorporated with a light hand. Accents such as wall art, mirrors, and pillows and throws are essential for bringing style and dimension to the space, but each piece should be impactful, intentional, and not act simply as décor for décor’s sake.
Rather than hanging prints and paintings from every available surface, opt for a single piece of statement artwork, or make an impact with an accent wall. Use rugs, pillows, and throws to pack in color and pattern, but don’t overdo it. A transitional space is never crowded, noisy, or overwhelming. When it comes to transitional décor, less is almost always more.
Transitional Patio Furniture & Outdoor Décor
Use the principles of transitional design in your outdoor space to create a handsomely balanced porch or patio. Clean lines and neutral textiles are perfect for the great outdoors, allowing nature to take center stage.
Transitional outdoor furniture, such as patio dining tables or outdoor conversation sets, provides a perfect canvas for accessorizing. Try a mix of prints, patterns, and masculine and feminine elements to create a balanced transitional look.
For an extra touch of style and personality, use decorative accents such as rugs, cushions, transitional outdoor lighting, or planters.
Need More Inspiration?
Check out some of our favorite transitional spaces to see the furniture and décor we love. Once you find the pieces and styles that best suit your space, you’ll be ready to transition to this classic-contemporary look …
We love the way this living space mixes color, pattern, and texture to achieve a slightly eclectic transitional look. The gray tufted sofa is textbook transitional, but the bright rug and gold accent tables add a touch of boldness and shine. The fact that the console, end, and coffee tables are all from the same collection creates a sense of cohesion and balance.
This bedroom is the perfect example of layered patterns and textures within a single color scheme. The striped bedding, quilted throw, and patterned rug add dimension to the look while still adhering to the gray, cream, and navy palette. The four-poster canopy bed and upholstered headboard exude classic charm, while the contemporary chest and nightstand balance the look.
A master class in balanced transitional style, this dining room incorporates the best of classic furnishings and modern accents. The simple wooden dining table and upholstered chairs keep the space grounded, while the layered area rugs add a healthy dose of color, pattern, and texture.