Ideas + Advice

transitional living room

What Is Transitional Style?

Transitional style is the sweet spot between traditional and contemporary! If you are looking for versatility in your home's interior design, then go with the transitional style. Merging the clean lines and bold colors of contemporary with the rich fabrics and ornate patterns of traditional, transitional style makes it easy to dress up or tone down, depending on your mood. 

What Makes Transitional Different Than Traditional

While transitional uses the classic lines of traditional style, colors and furnishings are usually more contemporary. Transitional style embraces soft lines and comfortable furnishings, but without the fuss or ornateness of traditional styling. Here are some ways that transitional style compares to traditional:

transitional dining room
  • Transitional's colors are not as saturated, and there's less use of pattern overall. When a pattern is employed, it's generally a subdued geometric.
  • Transitional style mixes different species and tones of wood, and the wood is generally a lighter color than in traditional design. Painted wood dressers, tables and more are also good options for this style.
  • Transitional may have detailed millwork, but it doesn't overwhelm the space.
  • Transitional tones down traditional elements with contrasting contemporary furniture.
  • Transitional style uses fibers such as rattan, sisal and jute, which aren't found in traditional decor.
  • Transitional fixtures are not as ornate as traditional.

What Makes Transitional Different Than Contemporary

transitional dining rooms
Transitional style is less bold than contemporary. It avoids angular shapes and, instead, employs the soft, rounded look of traditional styles. It's also less unadorned than contemporary, meaning there's room for your favorite accessories or collections. These transitional differences help to make your space more serene than spartan.

How Much Traditional, How Much Contemporary?

When considering how much contemporary flair to mix with your traditional comfort, it's good to stick to some tried-and-true approaches so your design doesn't fall too much into either camp. That way, you can count on your rooms always looking fresh and timeless. Here are some ideas to accomplish that goal.

Choose either traditional or contemporary for anchor elements

Perhaps the best way to build your transitional design is to start with the large furniture pieces — couches, chairs, tables — in the style that appeals to you the most for those items. Then, bring in other traditional and contemporary elements for balance. This approach can lean your room toward either the contemporary or the traditional but doesn't anchor you there, so you avoid a design that is either too ornate or too austere.

The best traditional features for transitional style:

what is transitional style
  • A color palette of tone-on-tone neutrals in creams, taupes and grays, but with less saturated tones
  • Comfortable furnishings, especially well-padded upholstery and lots of cushions and pillows
  • Rounded, rather than angular, lines
  • Matching accessories that provide balance and symmetry
  • Detailed woodwork, especially wainscoting and window and door moldings
The best contemporary colors and elements for transitional style:
  • Simple, sophisticated lines, particularly in furniture
  • Minimal accessories
  • Simple, crisp window treatments
  • Pops of bold color to brighten the neutral color scheme
  • Eclectic collections
Transitional style is for you if you're looking for a contemporary design with a more comfortable twist, or you want a younger, punchier version of traditional. The flexibility of a transitional design lets you pick your favorite features of traditional and contemporary and mix and match them until your space is a warm and welcoming expression of your personality.

— More Great Articles —

Read the Latest

Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.