What Is Transitional Style?

Posted In Design - 10/25/2019

What is Transitional Style?

Transitional design blends classic and modern decor through color, texture, shape and scale while avoiding the extremes of both styles. In other words, you'll steer clear of the more ornate aspects of traditional furniture and the austerity of some contemporary pieces in favor of a layout that's chic, timeless and comfortable.

With transitional design, you get the best of both worlds. You can mix overstuffed chairs, skinny mid-century modern tables and Tiffany lamps in a way that feels curated rather than chaotic.

Common features of transitional style also include:

  • Combined shapes –Clean lines mix with soft curves and rounded edges.
  • Tonal color palettes – Lighter tints and darker shades of one hue appear throughout the space.
  • Simple focal points – Only one striking centerpiece or accent wall draws the eye.
  • Vintage materials –Antiques or thrift store items used in unique ways.
  • Minimal decor – Avoid clutter and excessive knickknacks on shelves and surfaces.
  • Shiny surfaces – Mirrored trim, glass tops and metal frames add visual appeal.

In this guide, we'll cover everything from colors and materials to balancing the furniture and accessories that make up your transitional living room, bedroom or dining room.

Color Scheme

A limited palette unifies your transitional decor. While neutrals like beige, taupe, black and white are popular, you can also incorporate cool hues like blue and green to create a calm, serene atmosphere.

Choose four or five colors and stick to using only those hues throughout the room. For example, your space might have tan walls, an ivory rug and gray armchairs with a cobalt blue couch. Accents like lamps, pillows and photos or paintings should echo those same colors.


Fabric and Textures

Balancing different types of upholstery and prints is a big part of putting the whole look together. Traditional textiles like leather and velvet as well as contemporary cotton blends, linen or vinyl are all fair game for transitional furniture.

Repeating the use of material, whether it’s a certain fabric, pattern, wood or metal ensures that your transitional-style room seems purposeful rather than haphazard. For instance, black steel chairs around an oak table might seem out of place. Hanging a metallic onyx pendant lamp above the ensemble continues the motif, making the layout feel intentional.

Transitional Furniture: Finding Harmony

Now that you've got a color palette and materials in mind, it's time to consider tables and seating. In transitional design, the goal is to emphasize your furniture's lines and curves while keeping the space uncluttered and comfortable.

For example, cylindrical end tables offset a boxy contemporary sectional beautifully. Likewise, mid-century modern stools with long tapered legs coordinate well with a classic round pedestal table. Pay attention to the shape and form of each piece to find the best way to arrange them.

Scale is another thing to consider. If you're styling a transitional living room with a low-profile sectional, the end and coffee tables should have similar proportions. Balancing your furniture is also key. A sofa and chairs grouped close together might make the room feel lopsided. Counter this effect by arranging larger pieces across from each other to create symmetry.


Transitional Design by Room

Dining Room

Mix up the styles of your dining set. Add classic, splat back chairs to a minimalist rectangular table. Introduce some curves with a wall mirror or circular rug, and use a hutch or credenza to highlight straight lines and angles.

Living Room

Pair a plush chenille transitional living room sofa with sleek modern leather chairs. Then, bring in a set of round tables in a natural wood tone. Adding a rug and toss pillows in a signature hue takes this ensemble to the next level.



A contemporary bed frame with a traditional cherry or walnut finish is a great start. Look for nightstands and dressers that feature classic bronze or silver pulls to round out the set. Shop for a simple arched mirror and beige or sage green bedding to complete the look.

Transitional Decor: Key Components

Limiting your color scheme, repeating fabric and materials, selecting a blend of modern, traditional and transitional furniture as well as keeping everything balanced is the heart and soul of these designs. There is some planning needed to create a transitional-style room, but it's also important to have fun and experiment with different shapes and styles to get the best look for your home.

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