Attain the Perfect Transitional Decor

A Perfect Blend of Contemporary and Traditional

This transitional style living room perfectly pairs the beauty and classical feeling of traditional with the neutral colors and bold lines of contemporary. Photo © Paul Burns/Getty

Transitional style is often described as a balanced blend of traditional and contemporary furnishings and decor. Many who like a “lighter” traditional look choose this style because transitional decor tends to span multiple decades and always look fresh. Transitional decor retains the classic lines of traditional styles, but the colors and furnishings are typically more modern in their appearance.

Transitional decorating embraces soft lines and comfortable furnishings, but without the fuss of traditional styling. Color palettes tend to follow the contemporary style and are kept to a minimum. That doesn't mean neutrals are the only color on the table, but there may be fewer colors incorporated into the overall decor. The style, on the other hand, is less bold than what one would typically find in a contemporary space. It blends elements of both styles with textures, colors, and furnishings that somehow seem to come together flawlessly.

In short, transitional style is an elegant and  timeless design motif that combines new and old--and masculine with feminine--in a fresh way. (And it an be hard to strike the right balance when you're trying to attain this look, which is why it often takes careful thought...especially when the functionality of a room comes into play.)

Transitional Decor Done Right

Some of the typical characteristics of transitional decor include the following:

  • Neutral colors, such as creams, taupes, grays and black
  • It can include tone-on-tone color palettes
  • Contrast is highlighted through textures or tones
  • Simple focuses, such as a focus wall
  • Minimal accessories
  • Materials that were utilized in the past, but incorporated into the home (either new or used)
  • Fabrics such as suede, chenille, and leather
  • Bold furnishings with classic, simple lines--not too many curves
  • Sophisticated feel
  • Mirrored, glass and metallic furnishings and decor
  • Can be upscale but does not necessarily have to be in order to be considered transitional decor

A Style All Its Own

The transitional decor is often confused with the eclectic style, but the styles are very different. Transitional will often use contemporary furnishings mixed with antiques, but even these old-world pieces will be sophisticated and have simple, classic lines. Eclectic styling is far less refined and consistent and often incorporates one type of item either as a stand alone or in a group.

For instance, a living room eclectically styled would have two different end tables anchoring the sofa with two different lamps. A transitional decor room would probably have matching accessories. In a kitchen, the eclectic style would mean hand-painted cabinets and a retrofit island with different colored appliances; in a transitional style kitchen, it may include a reclaimed wood island with all matching stainless steel appliances. Window treatments would be simpler and more crisp in a transitionally styled room, while an eclectic room could have more ornate window coverings.