Living Space: At home with transitional style

By Kathryn Weber
Nov. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

While it borrows from contemporary, transitional style offers a warmer, more inviting decor.

While it borrows from contemporary, transitional style offers a warmer, more inviting decor.

If you asked most people what kind of style their home is decorated in, you'd most likely hear "transitional." That's because transitional style lends itself to interpretation. Most homeowners have a home that's acquired, meaning that they've added to their decor with time and as their budget allowed. But that's not really the best definition of transitional - one of America's favorite styles today.

Strong on tradition

Transitional style borrows heavily from traditional style, but uses a modern interpretation, particularly where color is concerned. While traditional style incorporates color, transitional leans heavily toward neutrals for a cleaner, leaner, lighter-feeling room. Yet, the bones of traditional are still there.

Some call transitional style a lighter traditional, but that's not accurate. Transitional isn't just lightening up an old favorite; it's about incorporating neutrals and making a nod to another popular decorating style.

Cool contemporary

While transitional can be mislabeled as traditional light, it can also be mislabeled as a heavier contemporary. But transitional does borrow quite a lot from contemporary, such as avoiding fussy accessories or frills on furniture. The use of simple neutrals and leaning heavily toward a singular color is one of the ways transitional relates to contemporary. It also borrows from the gender-neutral qualities of contemporary styles, but it's a warmer, more inviting decor than contemporary because of the heavy use of textured and graphic fabrics.

Total transition

If you want to create a transitional decor in your home, a good starting point is color. Chances are, you can create a transitional style in a room simply by using what you have. Think of color as a paint swatch from a home center. Typically featuring six shades of a single color, the paint chip is divided by intensity of color.

Gather together furnishings that would work like individual shades of paint on a paint chip. This will keep all your items in the same color family. Choose pieces that are amply-sized yet have clean lines. Next, select textiles or upholstered items that are very textural, such as a nubby chenille or fabric with a bold pattern, but still in the same color family.

When it comes to accessories, look for items that have similar coloring to your furniture and look for just a few distinct accents, such as a bubble crystal lamp or a mirrored chest. These work like neutral exclamation points in the room - a hallmark of transitional style.

When pulling together accent pieces and accessories, items like glass tables and metallic accents add lightness and elegance. Pull in a plant, such as a simple potted orchid or a single large silk tree to round out your look.

Transitional is a style that has a cool sophistication that's still warm and welcoming. Adding some graphical wallpaper can help you create a transitional space quickly. You'll be rewarded with a room that exudes comfortable sophistication.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website,



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