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What Is Transitional Style and How Can You Make It Work?

If there’s one aesthetic that people love, it seems to be transitional style. You may have heard the term, and wondered what it is, and why people love it so much.

One thing that transitional style is not is traditional. While there might be some similar elements between the two, transitional does stand on its own as a distinctive look and style.

First, what is traditional style? To provide a comparison, when you see a home that’s traditional it tends to look like it could be right out of the 18th century. There may be a sense of luxury and opulence, curved lines, detailed furniture, and deep, rich colors. Transitional, on the other hand, tends to include many more contemporary and even modern furniture items.

The color palettes are simpler, and the lines may be clean and modern. For example, in a transitional living room, you might see a large, neutral-colored sofa, and it might be paired with the more modern look of dramatic and luxurious velvet throw pillows. It’s a bit like a mix and match with transitional style, but there’s more to it than that.

Explaining Transitional Style

Transitional style, at its core, is a way to have the best of all worlds. Many people don’t want a home that’s entirely modern because they feel like it may be cold or stark. They want a livable, comfortable, warm and inviting home. At the same time, they don’t want it so overdone that it feels cluttered, stale and stuffy.

Transitional interior design creates that ideal middle ground for a lot of people. Transitional style is modern, but it’s still comfortable and inviting.

Some designers will refer to transitional style as taking on an updated approach to the classic elements of design.

The Color Palettes

While the accessories in a transitional space might bring in a bit of color or drama, the main aspects of a room are typically neutral. This gives a clean, soothing backdrop that’s also simple.

For example, soft grays and shades of beige can work well in a transitional space, but then the accessories, such as the pillows mentioned above, can still bring in color.


Comfort is really key with transitional style, which is why it’s one that tends to be favored in homes with kids. The pieces of furniture may be over-sized and plush, or they might have cleaner lines, but comfort should be a top priority. A transitional home is one that really tends to look lived in.

As far as sofas, sectionals are always a favorite. A merino weave upholstered sofa in a neutral shade might work well, as an example, as can a linen sectional.

In large rooms, along with bigger pieces of furniture, it can be a good idea to create groupings that show the purpose of a particular space.

The furniture in a transitional home will usually bring in things that are viewed as both traditionally feminine and masculine for a balanced look. While the scale can be on the larger size, it shouldn’t be so big that it feels overwhelming or overstuffed.

Layers and Texture

Also important are building layers and textures in a room. Even if the color palette of a space is primarily neutral, it can still be warmed up, and visual interest can be created through the use of layers and textures. For example, choose large area rugs to cover floors and combine natural textures. Textures you might think about incorporating in a transitional design concept could include wood, acrylic, upholstery, rattan and maybe even some elements of metal.


Lighting is a place to experiment and have some fun when it comes to transitional design. Lighting can be over-sized and include pendants or chandeliers. Sconces can also create warmth, and you can choose from different materials. If you want a touch of glam in a transitional space, the light fixture might be a good place to do that.

Finally, what about accessories and art? Transitional design doesn’t usually favor a lot of “stuff.” Instead, accessories are kept to a minimum, and the ones that are included are often simple but may bring in different materials. For example, accessories could incorporate natural elements. For the artwork, rather than having it everywhere, a transitional home might have one carefully-selected statement piece in a room. There aren’t necessarily going to be a lot of groupings of smaller items either. It’s just about that one big statement-creating piece in many transitional designs.

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