What is Transitional Style?

J. D. Kenrich

When it comes to interior decorating, some people are simultaneously drawn to traditional, ornate lines and sleek, contemporary shapes. They seem to straddle the divide between the old and the new, with neither style completely winning the day. A middle ground capable of satisfying both the classicist and the modernist elements within such people does exist. Transitional style is a design hybrid that blends traditional themes and shapes with newer, more minimalistic choices, resulting in a sophisticated and timeless collection of textures, hues and materials.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Furniture serves as the foundation for any interior design theme and can play an important role in the creation of a living space with transitional style. Transitional furniture is marked by both its curving lines and its streamlined execution, reinforcing the style's commitment to both the old and new. While these pieces typically lack the intricate detail of truly traditional pieces, their shapes unmistakably incorporate classic themes. The major pieces commonly found in transitional style interiors are generally substantial in size but are meant to appear comfortable and inviting.

The color scheme of a typical room done in a transitional style tends heavily toward basic, neutral tones. The vivid, saturated colors that characterize other schools of design are largely absent. Ivory, beige, and countless variations on similar hues often combine with deeper tones of brown to create an uncomplicated tableau. The simplicity and tonal quality of the colors often incorporated in transitional rooms allows the focus to shift to the varying textures and materials used for upholstery, drapes, rugs, and other textiles. Natural materials such as leather, suede and cotton are staples in transitional design and are utilized in ways intended to maximize their sensory appeal.

Transitional style spaces feature artwork and accessories of a clearly eclectic, though deliberate nature. Careful editing of selected pieces is meant to result in a streamlined, uncluttered feel. Small collections or groupings of items often serve as points of contrast to particularly significant pieces of furniture within the space. Such accessory pieces make pointed use of texture, scale and sheen to complement the neutral yet nuanced decor.

The shapes, colors, and textures most characteristic of transitional style embody some of the most popular elements of both traditional and contemporary design aesthetics. By blending some of the most timeless visual themes with the sleek lines and textures of more modernistic products, transitional style is essentially an updated take on classic design. It is this combination of seemingly dissonant perspectives that has afforded transitional decor its broad popularity.

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