What is Transitional Interior Design?
One of the most sought-after looks, transitional interior design has been popular for decades. As a response to the bare minimalism that Mid-Century Modern spaces tend to embrace, transitional styles are warmer, more collected. They marry the traditional with the modern in an unexpected way that looks effortlessly timeless.
Many of my clients will point to a transitional interior for design inspiration. There are many wonderful interpretations of this style, that today I’m giving my thoughts on how we pursue it at Laura U. I’m also detailing the looks of two of my favorite designers who produce stunning transitional spaces: Victoria Hagan and Thomas Pheasant.
What is Transitional Interior Design?
Transitional interior design is a mixture of the traditional and modern styles. Bringing together pieces from various design styles creates a singular design that updates the classics with a cohesive, modern feel. It balances luxury with comfort, masculine with feminine, and antiques with new pieces.
These contradictions create a sense of tension in a space, much like black and white battle and blend so well together. The result is simple sophistication. Rather than prioritize form over function, transitional interior design emphasizes comfort and softness. Here are the key components of a transitional interior:
- Comfortable, functional furnishings
- Neutral color palettes, like gray and cream
- Minimal accessories (pops of color OK!)
- Soft, high-performing fabrics
- Natural textiles and materials
- A blend of masculine and feminine styles
Transitional interior design bridges the gap between traditional and modern without feeling too stuffy or stark. Perfect for growing families, this style is practical, using larger scale furnishings in plush, high performance upholstery and focusing on neutrals.
Keys to the Transitional Color Palette
A transitional design color palette is serene and soothing. Whites, creams, grays, and tans create a clean backdrop and ground the design. Adding deep blues, rich browns, and verdant pops of green add depth and activate the design. The space should feel soft and subtle. You won’t find black walls in a transtional interior. The focus on neutral colors allows designers to focus more on texture and layering, key components of this style.
Transitional Interior Design Accessories – Think Functionality
For transitional interiors, you must select accessories that create visual interest, tell your story, and fit your lifestyle. The goal here is to incorporate meaningful pieces that have a purpose. Think area rugs, decorative pillows, plants, and trays. Of course, you can never go wrong with layering in some metallic pieces. A statement light fixture, side table, or a piece of sculptural art give the room a sophisticated, glam feel.
Using and Layering Textiles
Instead of using color to create contrast, transitional design uses texture and tone. Fabrics like suede, chenille, and leather are common. Other textural elements like wood, glass, and rattan, add interest without taking away from the rest of the design.
There are no strict rules to designing a unique space, but transitional interiors typically rely more on layering than colorful patterns. For instance, you may have suede against leather against wood against glass, all of which are within the same color family. If all were in a lovely shade of cream, they would be perfect in a transtional living room. Pops of color do come in, but more as decorative accents, like the pillows and art pieces below.
Selecting Transitional Furnishings
Transitional furnishings maintain the classic lines of modern styles, but are updated with sumptuous fabrics. They rely on soft lines and curves to make a statement instead of extra embellishments. Unexpected touches like lacquered finishes or graphic fabrics make them feel fresh and modern.
Traditional wood furniture and antiques play a central role in traditional interior design. Pairing a classic statement piece like a wood dining table with curved dining chairs is a gorgeous interpretation of the transitional combination.
Oftentimes furniture is grouped together to create conversation zones. Large sofas and roomy accent chairs make the room feel intimate and cozy. Furniture grounds the design, creating a useful focal point without interrupting the flow.
Key Transitional Interior Designers
The beauty of transitional design is that you aren’t limited to one certain design style. It blends styles that are client-specific and unique to you. Here are a few designers I love that are practicing this style right now.
I love how Victoria Hagan uses materials, refined color palettes, and pieces with striking silhouettes to create her transitional interiors. Her designs are grounded in a neutral color palette but touches of rich, bold color add personality and a modern touch. Intimate seating areas of traditional style sofas paired with unique accent chairs make for warm and welcoming spaces. Her designs are relaxed and comfortable, yet luxurious and timeless.
Thomas Pheasant does a stunning job of creating simple, elegant transitional interiors. I love the way he makes traditional elements like ceiling designs and millwork feel fresh by painting them white. He combines curved and straight lines to create beautiful lines of symmetry that gently move your eye around the room. And his use of neutral color palettes is anything but boring! He proves that neutral colors are actually quite statement making.
The Beauty of Transitional Design
I may be a little biased, but I think the Laura U team does the transitional design style very well. Since transitional design focuses on blending traditional with modern, understanding our clients’ family history is an essential part of our design process. Layering family heirlooms or memorable pieces with modern ones is what creates a timeless, collected interior that tells your unique story.
In this Creekside residence, we wove our client’s collection of antiques in with clean-lined sofas and chairs. We chose a neutral color palette of whites and creams to complement the exposed brick and traditional hardwood floors. Cobalt blue accents create a serene and relaxing space while adding visual depth. Metallic accessories, chic light fixtures, and colorful art infuse personality into the design without taking your focus off the furnishings.
Our client had a fabulous collection of textiles and fabrics that we used throughout her MacGregor home. Bold, colorful upholstery on classic style chairs in the dining room and kitchen give the space a modern feel. Touches of black and brown add contrast to the design’s white color palette. Accents of wood, natural stone and brick add warmth and depth. Layered metallic accessories give the design a glam, feminine feel and soften the strong, masculine lines.
For our Whitehill Estate project, our client’s wanted an interior design that modernized the home’s traditional architecture. Antique accessories and traditional ironwork on the stairs feel fresh and timeless thanks to the black and white color palette. Colorful accessories soften the crisp lines of the furniture and add dimension. I love the richness the touches of navy and green add to this relaxed, yet elegant space. Cozy seating arrangements in the living room and family room provide plenty of seating without interrupting the flow.
This Willowick home needed a complete renovation, but the open concept floor plan allowed us to turn it into something classic and chic. The double height library with wood paneling and corridor overlooking the gardens gave the home a very traditional feel. By refinishing the wood panels and turning the corridor into an art gallery, the space took on a fresh, modern feel. Updated crystal chandeliers and striking marble floors and counters pay homage to traditional design elements in a Classically Current way. Vibrant art and metallic accessories add a feminine touch to the more masculine and geometric designs.
Transitional Design is the Perfect Middle Ground
Transitional design is about blending opposing styles in a way that matches your personality. It’s perfect for those whose love elements of both traditional and modern decor. With transitional design, you aren’t tied to one design style. You have the freedom to incorporate pieces from different design periods to create an interior design that’s truly unique to you.