Transitional style refers to a decorating style that bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary design. It combines elements of classic furnishings with cleaner, sleeker lines and a more neutral color palette. When it comes to lighting, art, and accessories, transitional style strikes a balance between formal and casual aesthetics. This versatile look allows for both elegance and comfort in the home.

Characteristics of Transitional Style

Some key characteristics that define transitional style include:

  • Mix of traditional and modern elements – Transitional design often pairs classic silhouettes and materials like wood with sleek, contemporary finishes like metal and glass. This creates a timeless blend of old and new.
  • Neutral color palette – Light neutrals like white, beige, gray and tan tend to dominate the transitional color scheme. These muted backgrounds allow for punctuation with bolder accessories.
  • Clean lines – While not as starkly minimalistic as contemporary style, transitional design favors streamlined, uncluttered shapes and forms. There is an understated simplicity.
  • Textural interest – Natural fibers, woven textures, and subtle patterns add visual depth and dimension. Common textiles include linen, wool, jute, and cotton in organic weaves.
  • Comfortable furnishings – Plush upholstery, padded headboards, and cozy textiles bring comfort into transitional spaces. The look is livable and family-friendly.
  • Subtle ornate details – Occasional ornate carvings, turned legs, and antique finishes connect to traditional roots but are used sparingly.

This blend creates a soothing, welcoming environment suited to many tastes. When thoughtfully curated, the look is both stylish and timeless.

The Role of Lighting in Transitional Style

When designing a transitional space, lighting plays a key role in enhancing the aesthetics. Proper illumination sets the overall mood while accent lighting draws focus to specific furnishings or architectural details.

Ambient Lighting

For general lighting needs, transitional style often relies on:

  • Pendant lights – Suspended lighting adds warmth and a decorative focal point over kitchen islands, dining tables, sitting areas, and more. Glass, metal, and woven pendants work well.
  • Chandeliers – Grand chandeliers make elegant statements in entryways and living rooms. Look for transitional styles with clean lines, simple silhouettes, and little embellishment.
  • Sconces – Mounted bedside or by furniture, sconces provide ambient illumination. Transitional sconces have an understated profile with a curved arm and an unadorned shade.
  • Table lamps – Sitting on end tables and nightstands, table lamps emit both task lighting and mood lighting. Ceramic, glass, and natural wood bases suit the transitional aesthetic.
  • Recessed lighting – Discreet recessed lighting offers unobtrusive illumination for kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms. The subtle glow is ideal for transitional spaces.

Accent Lighting

Strategically placed accent lighting adds dimension through visibility and shadow:

  • Track lighting – With adjustable heads, track lights can spotlight art, architectural elements, bookcases, and collections. The metal tracks keep fixtures minimal.
  • Picture lights – Discreet picture lights illuminate paintings, mirrors, and gallery walls. Opt for simple designs that blend rather than distract.
  • Table lamps – In addition to ambient lighting, decorative table lamps make excellent accent lights. Position strategically to highlight objects.
  • Floor lamps – Direct the glow of a floor lamp to shine on seating areas, sculptures, architectural details, and more.
  • Rope lights – Hidden under shelving, rope lights create subtle illumination to highlight displays.

Putting It All Together

The most effective transitional lighting employs a mix of fixture styles. Pendants in dining spaces combine with recessed kitchen lighting. Table lamps work alongside sconces in bedrooms. Chandeliers make a statement tempered by accent track lighting. The overall effect is cohesive illumination that flatters the entire interior.

Selecting Transitional Artwork

From sparking inspiration to tying the whole room together, art choices make a big impact. When incorporating art into a transitional interior, keep the following guidelines in mind:


The transitional aesthetic benefits from a mix of traditional and modern artistic styles:

  • Landscapes – Serene landscape scenes in oil, watercolor, or photography bring natural beauty. Tranquil colors and familiar vistas create a peaceful ambiance.
  • Botanical – Vintage botanical prints as well as contemporary floral photography add organic flair. Abstract petals and stems make artistic statements.
  • Black and white photography – Architectural details, nature scenes, and people depicted in black and white photography add a classic yet clean-lined sensibility.
  • Impressionism – The softened palette and brushwork of impressionist paintings complement the transitional mood. Claude Monet is a fitting choice.
  • Geometric abstracts – Angles, shapes, and color blocks add pops of modernity. Sculptural pieces also suit the transitional genre.


Framing plays an important role in the overall art aesthetic:

  • Neutral metal frames – Thin silver, bronze, or copper frames keep the focus on the art while adding a hint of shine.
  • Wood frames – Natural wood frames complement the transitional look. Keep frames simple with clean lines.
  • White mats – Crisp white matting creates negative space around artworks. The neutrality allows the colors within the piece to be prominent.
  • No frames – Gallery style, canvas wrap, or frameless art like macrame wall hangings can make the art the standout.


Thoughtfully arranging transitional art creates cohesion:

  • Groupings – Collect similarly framed or themed pieces together. Salon walls, stair galleries, grouped shelves, and clustered canvases keep arrangements unified.
  • Focal points – Spotlight standout pieces in prime viewing spots like over the mantel, behind a sofa, or in entryways to highlight.
  • Repetition – Repeat colors, frames, shapes, or content themes throughout the space for flow. The consistency ties the look together.

Well-curated art that fits the transitional style brings visual interest through varied mediums, formats, and creative displays.

Bringing in Transitional Accessories

The finishing touches of throw pillows, vases, trays, and decor truly establish the transitional style within a space. When selecting accessories, keep the following principles in mind:

Color Palette

Muted color palettes allow occasional bright pops:

  • Warm neutrals – Stick to warm whites, creams, tans, taupes, and soft grays as go-to neutral bases. Natural wood tones also blend well.
  • Metallic accents – Brushed gold, copper, and silver accessories add subtle shine. Look for ceramic lamps, metal trays, glass vases, and velvet pillows.
  • Crisp black and white – Classic color contrasts always work. Try black and white photography, printed pillows, or large decorative prints for bold graphic impact.
  • Earthy tones – Mocha, light teal, slate blue, and dusty rose offer subdued color. Terracotta vases also bring an earthy vibe.
  • Pops of color – Cautiously choose one vibrant hue like cyan, yellow, or emerald to highlight as an accent. Limit pops of color to avoid overwhelming the neutral backdrop.

Materials and Textures

Natural and tactile textures complete the look:

  • Wood elements – Incorporate wood through furniture, decorative bowls, trays, cutting boards, textured baskets, and trivets. Distressed finishes work well.
  • Stone and marble – Cool travertine, marble, concrete, and other stone finishes complement wood warmth. Use for vases, lamps bases, decor and countertops.
  • Metallics – Brushed brass, nickel, and copper offer an elegant sheen on accessories like candlesticks and trays when mixed with wood tones.
  • Natural fibers – Incorporate jute, rattan, seagrass, linen, cotton, and wool through baskets, pillows, throws, and table runners.
  • Leather – Leather upholstered ottomans, tufted pillows, and desk accessories add supple texture. Look for earthy tans and browns.

Collections and Vignettes

Thoughtful arrangements create visual impact:

  • Bookshelves – Style shelves with framed photos, artful stacks of decorative books, sculptures, and other accessories grouped by color, theme or material.
  • Console tables – Curate vignettes across console tables, sideboards and dressers by coordinating candlesticks, trays, boxes and art objects attractively.
  • Coffee tables – Make coffee tables visually interesting with carefully grouped trays of ceramics, decorative bowls, sculpture, greenery and coffee table books.
  • Mantels – Create charming mantel vignettes using a mix of candlesticks, urns, artwork, clocks, greenery, and sculpture symmetrical or asymmetrical groupings.

When thoughtfully curated, transitional accessories strike the ideal blend of casual and elegant. Their addition puts the finishing touch on beautifully balanced, welcoming interiors.

Key Takeaways on Achieving Transitional Style

  • Lighting sets both mood and functionality using a versatile mix of pendant lights, sconces, chandeliers and accent lighting.
  • Artwork choices should bridge traditional genres like landscape paintings and photography with modern abstracts and geometric prints.
  • Neutral color palettes accented by natural materials and textures allow occasional bright pops of accessory colors.
  • Display collections and vignettes artfully grouped to create charming, livable transitional spaces.

The beauty of transitional design lies in its flexible, cohesive blending of styles, genres, textures and eras. By applying these tips when selecting lighting, art and accessories, you can curate a warm, timeless interior that welcomes family and guests. Experiment and have fun finding the ideal balance of classic and contemporary elements!

FAQs About Transitional Style Decor

Transitional style is popular for seamlessly blending traditional and contemporary design elements into spaces that feel updated yet comfortable. But achieving that perfect fusion does raise some common questions. Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about getting the details right in transitional decor.

What color scheme is best for transitional style?

The ideal transitional color palette relies on warm neutrals like white, beige, light tan, pale gray and cream to create a soothing, welcoming backdrop. Notable pops of color can be added sparingly through accent pillows, art and accessories. Crisp black and white elements also work well in transitional decor.

What kind of flooring works best in a transitional home?

Heirloom flooring materials like natural stone and hardwoods are attractive transitional choices that bring timeless warmth. More contemporary styles like light-toned tile, bamboo and cork also complement the look when paired with wood furniture. Area rugs are recommended to add visual interest.

What fabrics and patterns should you use?

Soft, natural fabric textures like linen, cotton and wool help achieve that casual elegance transitional rooms are known for. Prints and patterns should be understated and organic, such as subtle pinstripes, herringbone and floral. Avoid overly ornate patterns that skew too traditional.

Should you mix metal finishes?

It’s best to keep the metal finishes cohesive to maintain a collected transitional look. Warm metal tones like unlacquered brass and bronze pair well beside chrome or nickel for contrast. Avoid mixing too many different finishes.

How can you add traditional elements without looking outdated?

Incorporate traditional silhouettes on upholstered pieces, area rugs and lighting fixtures sparingly to nod to classic design without going overboard. Then update the pieces with contemporary, transitional fabrics and neutral paint colors to keep them current.

What makes a room look distinctly “transitional”?

The mix of traditional and modern elements is what makes a space distinctly transitional. Juxtaposing streamlined forms with antique finishes, classic wingback chairs with abstract art, wood furniture with metal accents all create the signature transitional blend. The look bridges old and new.

Should furniture all match in transitional design?

Matching furniture suites tend to feel too formal for transitional decor. Instead, incorporate a thoughtful mix of new and antique pieces unified by consistent warm-neutral coloring. Maintain cohesion through texture pairings like wood with linen upholstery.

How do you mix patterns in a transitional room?

Limit patterns like florals and plaids to accent pillows and armchairs to avoid looking overly busy. Anchor those statement patterns with plenty of plain neutral solids for balance. Scale down bold patterns on large upholstered furniture.

What are the best transitional design blogs?

Top transitional decor blogs include Confessions of a Plate Addict, My Style Vita, The Lettered Cottage, Driven by Decor, and Sister and Company. Follow them for beautiful, livable transitional room ideas and tips.

Keeping these tips and ideas in mind helps ensure your design choices all work together to create a beautifully coordinated transitional interior that stands the test of time.


Transitional style strikes the perfect balance between comforting and contemporary. It blends the best of traditional and modern design for timeless, livable spaces. When it comes to lighting, art and accessories, choose classic silhouettes updated through contemporary materials, fresh color palettes and tailored arrangements. Seek out decor that bridges old and new. The most alluring transitional interiors artfully mix heirloom furnishings with modern elements and pops of color. Arrange your lighting, artwork and accessories to highlight what makes your space unique. Adopt the flexible transitional approach to design your personalized retreat. With its versatile blend of styles and eras, transitional decor adapts seamlessly to suit families, empty nesters, and homeowners of all kinds for years to come.