Defining a Style Series: What Is Transitional Design? (It’s the Perfect Middle Ground)

It’s a common design conundrum: For some of us, ultra-modern looks feel uncomfortable. They’re too stark and sleek to feel homey. Yet, if we focus solely on livability over style, we can end up with a room that feels like it belongs in grandma’s house. It’s easy to find yourself searching for a viable middle ground.

If you’re one of those people, we have your answer. It’s transitional design. This style embraces comfort with a modern twist. Below, we’ve outlined why it works and how to pull off the look in your own interiors. With these tips, you should be able to solve the comfort vs. style debate once and for all.

What is transitional design?

As the name probably suggests, transitional design came about by combining two opposite styles. It’s sometimes referred to as “an updated take on the classics” because it acts as a middle ground between the best elements of traditional and contemporary looks.

On the one hand, you have the warmth, comfort and balance that comes from a traditional aesthetic. Rather than being bogged down by the ornate details that can sometimes make traditional spaces feel outdated, transitional looks borrow the clean lines and simplistic nature that defines contemporary design. At it’s best, this style feels timeless with a modern twist.

Use soothing colors

The key words to keep in mind when dealing with a transitional style are “clean” and “serene.” Here, your goal should be to create a room that feels like an oasis, a respite from the hectic nature of everyday life. Selecting a calming color palette should be your first step.

As usual, you want to start with a neutral base. However, opt for subdued shades this time. Choose soft grays over harsh blacks and warm tans rather than harsher, deep browns. In fact, don’t be afraid to mix and match. If you’re a fan of neutral shades, go ahead and use them for both your dominant and secondary colors.

When you do add pops of color, make sure they drive home that serene feeling. Blues, in particular, are a great option because color psychology has shown they have calming connotations. Softer shades of greens and purples also work nicely.

Choose comfortable furniture

In transitional design, furniture truly takes center stage. These pieces are often larger and take up a commanding presence in the room. Ideally, they form the basis of your design and the rest of the room is built around them.

As far as what you’re looking for, concentrate on pieces that exemplify the clean lines found in contemporary design. They should also be plush enough to make the room feel cozy and welcoming.

Once you have the furniture in hand, focus on placement. Create lots of groupings like the one shown above to ground the space and facilitate conversation. Then, leave lots of negative space in the surrounding area so your pieces become the room’s focal point.

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