Define the Style: Transitional Design

by Drew Henry

Welcome to Transitional Design 101!  

What do you do when you want a traditional home and your partner wants a contemporary design plan? Well, why can’t you have both? The transitional design style blends traditional and contemporary elements, allowing you to get the best of both worlds! But, what is transitional design, and how can you add transitional style to your home? Don’t worry! The LiLi Team defines the style and answers all your questions. It’s time for Transitional Design 101. Class is now in session! 

What is Transitional Style?  

The transitional design style gets its name for seamlessly transitioning between traditional and contemporary elements. While the traditional and contemporary styles exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, the transitional style meets in the middle, combining the best features of both looks. While traditional can feel too old-fashioned and contemporary can feel too cold, transitional blends contrasting details for a warm, casual, and cozy feel. This style is perfect for couples or roommates looking to blend polar opposite preferences in a cohesive and inviting way. 

In essence, a transitional style interior design infuses spaces with a carefully balanced mix of comfort and chic sophistication. It embodies an organic transitional design approach where nothing feels forced or out of place. The goal here is to strike an equilibrium between two contrasting styles while ensuring visual continuity. Think neutral color palettes complemented by textural elements; think uncluttered spaces peppered with artwork; think timeless furniture designs juxtaposed against sleek modern pieces—it's all about creating a space that exudes tranquility and poise. Transitioning towards transitional style interior design characteristics involves adopting certain principles. This includes using a restful palette dominated by neutral colors like cream, taupe, gray or white which serve as perfect backdrops for bold yet tastefully chosen accessories.

Throughout history, we’ve had design styles tied to specific eras, including the antique feel of the Victorian style and the minimalistic look of the mid-century modern style. The transitional style didn’t develop until after the mid-century period, which ended in the 1960s. In the late 70s and early 80s, homeowners began blending pieces from traditional design eras with more contemporary elements, marrying cozy comforts with polished elegance. The blended transitional design eventually gave way to other styles, like eclectic and shabby chic.  

Since contemporary design is “of the moment,” it changes through the years, meaning the transitional style changes along with it. For example, the transitional farmhouse look was popular during the 2010s. Now, the transitional style has migrated to the coast, embracing more design elements associated with the Contemporary California Coastal style. Today’s transitional style embraces curved furnishings, warm neutrals, and light-washed wood tones that speak to a sense of California cool. 

Transitional Style Characteristics

Transitional design, as the name implies, embodies the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary aesthetics. What is transitional design? It refers to the culmination of classic elegance and modern sophistication in an interior setting.
It is the harmonious integration of elements that exist on a stylistic spectrum from bygone eras to minimalist contemporary trends. Striking a balance between these two seemingly contrasting styles may seem like a daunting task, but it is this very challenge that makes transitional interior design so distinctive and appealing.
In discussing transitional style interior design characteristics, flexibility and fluidity are key components. Transitional design style integrates diverse textures, fabrics, colors, and furniture pieces from various periods without conforming strictly to one single style or era.
The result is an eclectic yet harmonious blend that strikes a visually compelling balance between comfort and luxury. The versatility inherent in transitional interior design allows for personalization while maintaining stylistic coherence.
Furthermore, the transitional modern interior design approach leans towards neutral color palettes that evoke calmness and serenity - hues of beige, taupe, cream or gray often dominate this realm. This does not imply a lack of color; rather carefully curated pops of vibrant color can breathe life into these spaces while maintaining their subtle elegance.
One cannot discuss what is transitional style interior design without mentioning furniture lines – they are typically simple yet sophisticated with a lack of ornamentation adding to their understated charm. However, when it comes to accessorizing in this particular aesthetic approach - accessories play less of a role than in other styles; they are often limited but thoughtfully selected.
The concept behind organic transitional design rests on incorporating natural elements into your decor scheme –the use of wood or stone finishes brings an element of warmth and earthiness into the mix while reinforcing its ties with traditional decor elements. Overall, modern transitional interior design believes in embracing simplicity without sacrificing depth or beauty - creating beautiful spaces that not only resonate with individual personality but also offer a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

Transitional Style Tip: Aim for Balance 

While the transitional style embraces traditional and contemporary pieces, designing a room takes more than randomly throwing furnishings and accessories together and hoping they stick. For example, a space-age light fixture may feel out of place above a Victorian settee. The key to transitional design is balance. Look for pieces that have cohesive colors, lines, and looks. While you can pair contrasting elements, make sure they make sense sharing the same space. 

8 Ways to Add Transitional Style to Your Home

Now that you know more about transitional design, it’s time to recreate the look for yourself. Here are 8 ways to add transitional style to your home. 

1. Embrace a Neutral Color Palette 

The best way to blend contrasting elements is to unite them under a cohesive, neutral color palette. Paint your interior walls in soft hues, select neutral textiles, and use color accents sparingly. Most transitional design schemes feature light and airy white kitchens, and our Glazed Tiles in Snowy White are perfect for your transitional backsplash. LiLi Tip: Lay them in a herringbone pattern for some traditional charm or a vertical pattern for a contemporary edge. 

2. Reserve Patterns for Impactful Accents

Select solid textiles and wall coverings to keep your transitional space on the contemporary side and establish a cleaner look. However, don’t be afraid to include some patterns. Instead of adding patterns to every surface, reserve them to make impactful accents where it counts. For example, you could choose a bold print for an accent chair, wallpaper, or fireplace surround. Our Florence pattern is perfect for adding a pop of unexpected pattern in a tasteful way.  

3. And Keep Your Patterns Simplistic 

Keep it simple! The transitional style values clean lines and minimalist detail. Instead of opting for intricate patterns, go for something small-scale. Subtle details like our Twinkle pattern cement tile can go a long way and add the perfect amount of cozy charm to your space. 

4. Layer in Textures for a Cozy Feel

If you’re wondering how to add interest to your transitional space without going overboard on patterns, we have your answer. Instead of opting for patterns on all your surfaces, create interest by layering in different textures for a cozy feel. Mix chunky weave textiles, leathers, woods, and metallics for visual appeal.  

5. Furnish With Clean Lines and Oversized Pieces  

Traditional furnishings typically have intricate details like carved woods, while contemporary furnishings have sharp lines. Look to the middle ground and select furniture pieces with clean lines and soft curves for a transitional space. Opt for oversized furnishings, like plush sofas, for a cozier and more inviting feel.  

6. Limit Accessories for a Cleaner Look

The traditional style turns some people off because it looks cluttered. For your transitional home, limit accessories and embrace negative space. Instead of overloading shelves and surfaces, create a curated selection of vases, natural elements, books, and art that have room to be appreciated.  

7. Go Contemporary With the Lighting 

This next idea is so good a lightbulb just went off! When designing in the transitional style, lean into more contemporary lighting choices. Embrace a cleaner architectural look and save the traditional elements for furnishings and textiles.  

8. Add a Little Shimmer With Brass Accents

Brass is a fantastic finish for transitional spaces because it blends old-world charm with modern sparkle. You can incorporate brass hardware, fixtures, and lighting into your room, or you can go with something unexpected like our Brass Insert tiles that add a slight shimmer to your backsplash or floor.  

Transitional Style is All About Comfort 

While traditional designs can feel stuffy and modern designs can feel cold, transitional design is all about layering cozy comforts and embracing the best of both worlds — welcome soft fabrics, oversized furnishings, and warm neutral tones. For your tile, select simple designs that showcase your unique personality and flair. Now, kick back and enjoy your new transitional home!

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