Transitional Style: A Guide to Designing Your Perfect Interior

How to Know if Using Transitional Interior Design Style is Right For You

In recent years, interior designers have strayed from sticking to one decorating style too strictly. Combining elements from contemporary and traditional interiors, transitional design is one of the most popular interior design styles for today’s home. For the homeowner, it can be confusing to combine styles and to do it effortlessly. We want to demystify the transitional interior style and create a cohesive design.

What is Transitional Interior Style?

The combination of classic and clean lines equate to a timeless design. Straight, tailored profiles are intertwined with traditional pieces, blurring the lines of one style. Often called “the new traditional” or “classics with a twist”, interior designers will mix more ornate pieces with clean, modern lines. Transitional décor simplifies the complexity of traditional and harshness of modern, allowing for a more spacious, luxurious, and comfortable feel.

Transitional décor became more prominent in the late 50’s as the more modern furnishings of the era had started to wane. Many families had an abundance of older traditional pieces but were wanting to decorate with a style that was more “in-between”, hence transitional. Now, some 60 years later, transitional interior design has become a classic that is here to stay. 

The Must-Haves for Transitional Interior Design

Not every modern piece is meant to go with a traditional look, and vice versa. There is a trick to combining the pieces, and proportion is very important.

The Starting Point

Rugs are often the defining piece of the puzzle, and a place to start your overall design. With transitional interior design, the style of the rug can go more textural and neutral, or it can be the anchor piece with a classic hand knotted pattern.

Transitional interior design in New York
Tribeca Apartment, Downtown Manhattan, NY

Combining simple lines with luxurious tufting, this transitional sofa anchors this light filled space in Tribeca. The curves of the complimenting chair and rug add a softness to the overall layout.

The Basics

The larger upholstery pieces tend to be like the “little black dress” of the room – these are covered in a neutral textured fabric, such as a chenille or nubby woven. These key pieces are typically a sofa or sectional, and the lines are kept simple. Tailored track arms, well fitted cushions, and simple block legs are all hallmarks of transitional furniture. Add color and whimsy by layering patterned pillows, throws and accents to put your stamp on the style.

From here we love to mix in pieces that may be more traditional – perhaps a pair of wing chairs, or a carved sofa table.

Patterns are kept to accents, such as pillows, benches, and smaller seating pieces. Modern décor tends to stray away from patterns, whereas transitional style embraces the mix.

The Devil is in the Details

Architectural details are always important to pulling transitional interior design ideas together. When the furnishings tend to be more minimal, the permanent built in elements weigh heavily with the overall design. For instance, an ornately carved wood or marble fireplace surround creates a focal point to ground the room’s overall design. Heavy crown moldings define the ceiling and bring the height of the room up. Top interior designers will emphasize these enduring details, particularly when they tend to be more traditional in style. This often makes it easier to mix in the more simple, contemporary furnishings.

Art is another important detail to keep in mind. Large abstract paintings look perfect above a traditional styled sofa or ornately carved chest. Again, it’s making sure your proportions are balanced in the space. Live with what you love – mix in those old still life’s or portraits with colorful, flowing contemporary wall pieces.

Westchester, NY, Tailored Transitional Entrance
Tailored Transitional, Westchester, NY

In this new home located in Westchester County, NY the entry provides a stunning effect. The curvature of the wall becomes more evident with moldings, and the subtle two tone effect of the staircase leads your eye to the show stopping chandelier. These details define the space.

Mixing it Up

Mixing materials and finishes is another must-do of transitional interior design. Traditional design tends to focus on wood furnishings, while contemporary utilizes metal. With this style, we want to blend these finishes, adding more visual interest to the room. Antiqued gold light fixtures next to a blackened steel door handle are delightful to mix, as long as we complement the styles. Or Perhaps your cocktail table has a mirrored top with a shiny silver base – let’s layer the top with some gold toned accessories.

Transitional interior design allows us to create spaces that look like they were created over many years, carefully curated and collected. The mix of styles also allows your personal vibe to shine through.

Westchester, NY, Tailored Transitional Entrance
Tailored Transitional, Westchester, NY

In this new home located in Westchester County, NY the entry provides a stunning effect. The curvature of the wall becomes more evident with moldings, and the subtle two tone effect of the staircase leads your eye to the show stopping chandelier. These details define the space.

Why Transitional Style Is for You

Determining your style can be the hardest part, and a skilled interior designer can help you find your way. Transitional decorating is for that person that doesn’t want to commit to a particular style, or likes to change things up more often. By having key larger pieces anchor the room, you can swap out pillows, accessories, and art much easier and with less commitment.

You may have also inherited pieces from one era or another, and while they may not be quite your style, you want to mix them into your space. Antiques are often great reminders of our family’s past, and can become a statement piece to your room. Not all old pieces are great, so it’s important to consider if they will really work.

If you love to mix it up, change it often, or just don’t want to commit to a style, then transitional interior design is the best style for you. Finding those pieces to blend and complement each other is an art, but this style allows you to live with what you love.

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