What Is "Transitional Design" And How Can You Spot It?

Can't decide between traditional and contemporary? This one's for you.

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Victoria Pearson

Maybe a "traditional" living room of tall taffeta drapes, heavy fabrics, and porcelain figurines seems stiff to you. And maybe a modern room of harsh edges and no cushions doesn't found very fun, either. If your taste falls somewhere in the middle, your favorite
design style actually has a name: transitional. Here's exactly what that term means.

Transitional Is A Happy Medium

This look is perfect for anyone who feels like traditional design is a bit too stuffy, but steers clear of contemporary for fear it's too cold and stark. "Transitional style has cleaner lines, sleek profiles, and a more modern aesthetic without wiping out all the traditional details. In transitional spaces, there are nods to both modern elements and traditional elements," says interior designer Barbara Schmidt. It's proof that you can, actually, have the best of both worlds.

image
Courtesy of Erin Gates Design

See more at Erin Gates Design.

The Combination Of Styles Needn't Be Funky Or Eclectic

Bringing in elements from two drastically different design styles might seem like it would result in something purposefully loud or wacky, but the look is actually pretty mellow. Pieces typically feature simple, clean lines, are symmetrical, and err more on the side of minimalism. "Some core transitional features would be painted out molding, open floor plans, shaker cabinet doors, and taller ceiling heights. A lot of farmhouse styles feel transitional," Schmidt says.

Color Is Minimal And Soothing

The color palette is usually neutral, but that lack of color aids in creating something key to the design style: a clean, calming aesthetic. Everything should feel soft and subtle, with neutral bases such as grays, tans, and warm whites. Darker colors are brought in to add depth and accent, like browns, blues, and soft shades of green.

"A lot of farmhouse styles feel transitional."

The Fabric Types Are Diverse

Because you're not going color-crazy elsewhere, fabric is where you have some room to get fun. Texture can add a sense of cozy comfort to a space, so transitional design incorporates textiles like corduroy, cotton, chenille, and suede.

Furniture Stays Away From Extremes

Couches and chairs are generally large, and comfort is prioritized. That means h pieces that, at the same time, feature clean lines. Furniture is often placed in groupings to ground a room, but negative space is key to keep the overall effect streamlined, and make the furniture the focal point.

image
Courtesy of Erin Gates Design

See more at Erin Gates Design.

Accessories Are Kept To A Minimum

It's that marriage between an at-times gaudy traditional and totally pared down contemporary, right? You can totally add in decor accents, but don't go HAM with it. Keep it simple and choose accessories that create interest, without totally overwhelming the space or distracting visually. Common accessories include area rugs, throw pillows, and blankets (which only help the comfy vibe), potted plants, and wooden trays.

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