Furniture Styles Explained: A Guide to Transitional Style

by Jane K on June 5, 2019

With so many different furniture styles, it can be hard to find the look that best fits your personality and needs. If you think the transitional style might be right for you, this guide covers everything from the history of transitional furniture to how to decorate each room in your home in the transitional style.

What is Transitional Furniture?

Transitional furniture blends traditional and modern contemporary design elements, creating a look that’s classic yet modern. It tends to create a moderate look that’s neither too stuffy and traditional nor too trendy and modern. In terms of transitional design, many describe it as a balancing of masculine and feminine style, wherein each room in your home incorporates a combination of sleek, straight lines and ornate, curved lines.

History of Transitional Furniture

Gaining popularity in the last twenty years, transitional furniture is a fairly new furniture style that marries the traditional with the modern. Its traditional roots go as far back as 17th century Europe and is most heavily inspired by Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, and Neoclassical styles. Transitional furniture’s modern roots can be traced back to modernism, which originated in the 19th century and served as a rejection of more traditional aesthetics in favor of more impressionist, abstract, and minimalist styles. While these two styles can seem at odds with one another, in transitional design, modern and traditional furniture complement each other, creating a room that borrows from both traditions to create something classic but fresh. In other words, transitional furniture takes the best from both worlds to create a style all its own.

Major Elements of Transitional Furniture

More than with other interior design styles, the major elements of transitional furniture are more varied, borrowing elements from both traditional and modern contemporary design. While the elements are more varied, they rely more on thoughtful combination to create a balance between the two extremes.

Mixture of Curved & Straight Lines

In the transitional furniture style, there’s a pairing of furniture with sleek, straight lines and furniture featuring rounded curves and soft edges. While one piece of furniture can display both curved and straight lines, you can also get the same effect by pairing two or furniture pieces together.

Simple Silhouettes

Transitional furnishings tend to have crisp profiles and straightforward style, which comes in part from combining curved and straight lines. While the furniture and accessories may have decorative flourishes, they tend to be less intricate than more strictly traditional furniture, and the gentle curves and rigid lines work together to create energy and texture.

Tone-on-Tone Palettes

If you love creating vibrant color patterns, the transitional design style might not be for you. In fact, most transitional design incorporates mainly warm neutrals. That said, both traditional and modern design offer opportunities for strategic accents, which can include brightly colored or bold patterned furniture. While monochromatic design can feel boring, utilizing shading variations and accent pieces helps keep the room lively and exciting.

Complementary Textures

Since transitional furniture tends to rely predominantly on neutral tones and colors, texture is where much of the visual variety comes from. When decorating in the transitional style, you’ll want to pair complementary textures, including wood, glass, fabric, and metal. Pay special attention to layering these different textures together to create a visually interesting and inviting look.

Minimal Accents & Accessories

Minimalism might seem at odds with traditional style, but transitional style adopts the minimalism of modern design and applies it less on the furniture itself and more to the use of accents and accessories. While accent pieces may be bold and bright, they tend to lack heavy ornamentation. In terms of wall art and other accessories, the transitional style favors a less-is-more approach, in which accessories are limited but carefully curated.

Warm & Inviting Atmosphere

Like traditional furniture, transitional furniture prioritizes warmth and comfort, creating an inviting and welcoming ambiance in your home. This warmth and comfort can come from plush fabrics, soft edges, overstuffed sofas, and upholstered ottomans.

Symmetry & Balance

When decorating in the transitional style, it’s important to prioritize symmetry and balance, both in the furniture placement and in the furniture itself. Be sure to keep furnishings similar in scale, which can create a certain harmony, especially when dealing with furniture in a range of styles.

Medium Scale

In interior design, scale is the visual representation of size and how different objects interact with one another in a given space. Different styles of furniture can have different scale, and transitional furniture tends to have a medium scale, meaning that the furniture tends to be neither too large or too small. This makes transitional furniture a great option for any size room in your house.

Examples of Transitional Furniture Styles

While traditional and modern design include a wide range of niche furniture styles, transitional style tends to borrow from both trends to create a few, broad categories.

Classic Contemporary

Contemporary furniture is a blanket term that describes any furniture that is currently in style, and the classic contemporary furniture style can best be described as transitional, as it pairs a more traditional look with a modern flair. Common characteristics include complementary colors, simplified shapes, rounded edges, curved furniture, plush fabrics, warm tones, and varied textures.

Casual Contemporary Design

Perhaps the most familiar contemporary look, casual contemporary takes the hard edges of mid-century modern styles and softens them, creating a more relaxed, softer look. Like transitional design, casual contemporary furniture is quite neutral, which makes it incredibly popular across the country. In addition to rounded edges, casual contemporary design tends to feature medium wood tones, complementary textures, and soft, overstuffed sofas.

Vintage Contemporary Design

Vintage furniture is defined as furniture that is at least twenty years old, but in transitional design, there are plenty of items that are inspired by and made to mimic the vintage styles of the past, while still showcasing a more contemporary aesthetic. Common characteristics of vintage contemporary design include clean lines, organic materials, bold accents, and low profiles.

Modern Country Design

Modern country design can vary from a trendy farmhouse style to a more natural, rustic look. True to its transitional style, modern country design tends to have a cozy feel, prioritizing comfort and functionality. Common characteristics of modern country design include distressed wood, antique accessories, raw wood, soft colors, and understated prints.

Celebrity Furniture Lines

Many of the celebrity furniture lines we carry at Star Furniture & Mattress fall into the transitional design style. Both TV personality and chef Rachael Ray’s Home Collection and country music star Trisha Yearwood’s furniture line can best be described as transitional, as they pair more classic traditional design with modern trends to create a casual elegance.

Transitional Furniture Available at Star Furniture

Looking to furnish your home or apartment with transitional furniture? At Star Furniture & Mattress, we have a huge inventory of transitional furniture for every room in the house. Plus, with our free interior design services, we can help you hone your style, choose the perfect furniture for your look, and provide the decorating tips you need to design a comfortable, stylish home.

Transitional Living Room Furniture

Drexler Transitional White Sofa

(Pictured Above: The Drexler Living Room Collection)

In addition to combining the traditional and the modern, transitional living room furniture tends to be casual and comfortable. To that end, transitional storage furniture tends to be long, large, and horizontal, rather than tall and petite, and transitional sofas tend to incorporate neutral colors and soft upholstery. Pay special attention to layering, finding ways to balance more modern and traditional pieces into one cohesive look with similar scale. When choosing home décor and accessories, transitional style balances the minimalism of modern design with the more cluttered look of traditional design. We recommend a well-curated and subtle mix of decorative throw pillows, books, ottomans, candlesticks, flowers, lamps, wall art, and rugs.

Transitional Bedroom Furniture

Rachael Ray Home Upholstered Shelter Bed

(Pictured Above: Rachael Ray Home Upholstered Shelter Bed)

When decorating a transitional bedroom, the emphasis is always on relaxation and comfort. In fact, upholstered headboards, which are one of the hottest interior design trends of 2019, work especially well in transitional bedrooms, as the upholstery contributes to the overall feeling over comfort. In addition to large, oversized beds, transitional bedrooms are often decorated with mounds of decorative pillows, comfortable quilts, neutral colors, soft pastels, and flowing window treatments. Remember, texture is especially important in transitional design, so try layering different patterns and fabrics to make the room pop. Light is also incredibly important, so be sure to utilize large windows, mirrors, and stylish lamps to create that bright, casual look.

Transitional Dining Room Furniture

(Pictured Above: Trisha Yearwood 5-Piece Dining Room Set)

When furnishing a transitional dining room, it’s all about finding the right balance between the modern and the traditional. We recommend choosing a substantial table that’s elegant yet understated. Rather than the elaborate details of more traditional dining tables, consider choosing a more modern looking table with upholstered chairs with more casual detailing. If you’re considering buffets or china cabinets, consider large, horizontal cabinets, rather than tall, skinny ones. You might also consider mixing metals in your decorating, especially when it comes to accent pieces and lighting, and wall art should be used sparingly, with an emphasis on wood frames and country style prints.

Transitional Accent Furniture

(Pictured Above: Sophie Accent Chair)

Looking for transitional accent furniture? While the majority of transitional furniture tends to be neutral colored, with accent furniture, there is a chance to branch out with some color. Whether you choose pastels or brights, accent furniture is a great place to add a statement piece or a pop of color and playfulness to your room. Velvet furniture can also work as a great accent, as its soft fabric plays into the comfort and relaxed feeling of transitional design. Plus, it’s one of the hottest trends of 2019, which means you’ll be on the cutting edge of design. Regardless of what accent furniture you choose, remember that it’s the perfect place to incorporate some of your own personal style.

Transitional Home Décor

(Pictured Above: Joplin 2-Door Ivory Cabinet)

When it comes to transitional home décor, you’ll want to limit accessories, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a memorable, stylish look. Think about different ways to curate your accessories, curating a combination of your favorite décor while layering multiple textures in the room. Rather than grouping art all over the room, for example, choose one or two impactful pieces. Remember, in transitional décor, you want to let your furniture take center stage, so be sure that any home décor you choose doesn’t draw too much attention away from the furniture in the room. You can also use home décor to balance out the room. If, for example, your couch is more traditional in style, it might make sense to choose more modern home décor to create some harmonious contrast.

Ready to furnish your home or apartment? Visit a Star Furniture & Mattress store today. Not only do we have a huge selection of transitional furniture for every room in the house, but our free room planning tool can help you preview different furniture arrangements without the heavy lifting. Start shopping today!

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