A transitional style in interior design beautifully bridges the gap between traditional and modern aesthetics. It takes the best elements of classic and contemporary styles to create a look that feels fresh yet familiar. With a transitional interior, you get a space that is both elegant and inviting.

What Defines a Transitional Style?

The hallmarks of transitional style include:

  • A blend of traditional and modern furniture pieces. Transitional interiors mix timeless silhouettes like wingback chairs with sleek, unadorned tables and sofas.
  • Neutral color palette. Lighter neutrals like beige, gray and taupe provide a soothing, welcoming backdrop. Pops of color come from accessories and artwork.
  • Natural materials and textures. Woods, leathers, linens and stone add organic depth and interest.
  • Clean lines with curves and soft finishes. Transitional spaces have simple, streamlined shapes but often round off edges or add subtle patterns.
  • Updated takes on classic decor. Traditional elements like window treatments and wall molding feel current, not stuffy.
  • A casual yet refined look. The overall aesthetic is elegant but not overly formal. Comfort takes precedence over ornate details.

The Appeal of a Transitional Interior

There are several reasons the transitional style has become a mainstay of modern interior design:

  • It’s highly livable. Transitional rooms have an intimate, welcoming vibe perfect for everyday life. They feel dressy yet relaxed.
  • It suits any space. The versatile look works for open-concept great rooms, formal living areas, bedrooms and more. It adapts well to any home.
  • It’s universally appealing. With touches of tradition and modernity, transitional interiors have broad allure across ages and tastes. They offer wide design flexibility.
  • It pairs well with other styles. From farmhouse to coastal to eclectic, transitional elements complement and tie together varied aesthetics. The neutral backdrop also lets you change up colors and accessories.
  • It has lasting power. Focusing on timeless over trendy gives transitional rooms staying power. They don’t feel dated as tastes evolve. You can build on the look over many years.

Key Elements of Transitional Style


The furniture mixes classic silhouettes with streamlined contemporary pieces. Possible combinations include:

  • Button-tufted sofa + minimalist coffee table
  • Wingback chair + metal and wood console table
  • Upholstered headboard + platform bed frame
  • Leather barrel chair + x-base side table

Neutral performance fabrics such as linen, cotton and microfiber allow sofas and chairs to straddle both traditional and modern. Slipcovers also lend a casual transitional vibe.

Color Scheme

Soft, neutral backdrops open up smaller spaces and provide flexibility. The palette often includes:

  • Warm whites: Alabaster, pearl, ash gray
  • Light taupes and camels: Greige, khaki, oatmeal, sand
  • Accent shades like sky blue, sage green or pale yellow

Pops of color come mostly from accent decor and artwork rather than walls. Patterned rugs and pillows add subtle interest.

Textures & Materials

Natural, organic textures add cozy appeal and keep things casual. Choices include:

  • Wood floors, beams, furniture and architectural accents
  • Stone and marble on surfaces and backsplashes
  • Linens and cottons for drapes, slipcovers and cushions
  • Sheepskins and woven textures for rugs and blankets leather and suede also lend comfortable, approachable feel. Distressed or weathered finishes on wood also help bridge traditional and contemporary.

Architectural Details

Subtle traditional touches lend familiarity:

  • Crown molding and baseboards
  • Trim work on cabinets, windows and doorways
  • Hardwood floors with area rugs layered on top

Sconces, ceiling medallions and accent lighting provide an updated take on classic details.

Windows & Doors

  • Tall vertical drapes in neutral solids or subtle patterns frame windows in a tailored way.
  • Roman shades and relaxed curtains also lend softness.
  • Unlined drapes puddle casually on the floor.
  • Wood blinds offer warmth. Curved valances soften straight edges.

Doors might feature raised panels or glass inserts. Antiqued bronze and brushed nickel hardware feels current.

Tips for Creating a Transitional Interior

When designing a transitional space, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Stick to a neutral wall color like warm white or light gray to open up the space.
  • Choose timeless silhouettes for big pieces like sofas, beds and dining tables.
  • Add warmth with natural textures and fabrics like linen and cotton.
  • Use classic lines with a simplified, contemporary look in moldings and trims.
  • Rely on lighting, area rugs and accessories to layer in personality.
  • Mix metals like brushed silver, bronze and antique nickel for depth.
  • Incorporate organic shapes and forms for visual interest.
  • Anchor the room with an overdyed area rug.

Transitional Style Q&A

What are some iconic transitional furniture pieces?

Some transitional style furniture classics include:

  • Tufted leather sofa
  • Button-tufted accent chair
  • X-base coffee table
  • Upholstered platform bed
  • Wingback reading chair
  • Mirrored console table

What colors work well in transitional rooms?

Neutral backdrops like warm white, light gray and soft tan allow flexibility in transitional spaces. Accent colors like pale blue, sage green and coral work nicely. Stick to subdued tones over bright primary colors.

How do you mix traditional and modern elements?

Combine traditional silhouettes like curved arms and cabriole legs with clean-lined bases and upholstery. Choose classic moldings or medallions with an updated, simplified look. Mix metal finishes for a current feel. Use traditional window trims on sleek geometric furniture. The blend of old and new creates balance.

What makes a space feel transitional?

Natural textures, an overall casual refinement, neutral backdrops, and a timeless mix of classic and contemporary elements give a space a transitional feel. Details like linen drapes, accent lighting and distressed wood lend cozy appeal. Nothing feels too formal or stuffy.

What are some differences between transitional and traditional style?

Transitional style takes a pared-down approach to traditional details like moldings. It also incorporates more contemporary and globally inspired furnishings. Colors are lighter versus rich jewel tones, and fabrics lean more casual. Details feel fresh instead of ornate.

Achieving a Memorable Transitional Interior

The beauty of transitional style lies in its versatility and variability. Every space can reflect the homeowner’s personality. The neutral backdrop allows you to switch up colors and accessories seasonally or when tastes change. By focusing on quality craftsmanship and timeless details, you create a transitional interior with lasting power that can evolve gracefully over the years. The look provides comfort without sacrificing style, giving you the best of both design eras.