Tackling Transitional Style

(above) Photo by Med Dement

Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS, is the owner and principal designer of Haskell Interiors, located in historic downtown Cleveland, Tennessee. Visit online at haskellinteriors.com.

Transitional design is a contemporary blending of modern and traditional elements – essentially, combining two styles in one space, resulting in a cohesive look. It is not scattered and eclectic, but rather a balance between the ornateness of traditional pieces and the simplicity of modern design.  The best transitional designs allow you to experience a space that is rich with texture and filled with beautiful, natural materials. And it should still allow you to focus on just one or two special pieces in the room due to clean lines and lack of clutter.

The Art of Mixing

While there are many ways to interpret transitional styling, certain recommendations remain the same each time. Here’s a guide to help you achieve a well-blended look.

Stay neutral with your color choice, allowing the furniture lines to take center stage. Use bursts of color only when and where you want to draw the eye.

Incorporate textural elements such as wood, glass, lacquer, rattan, fabric, steel, and other metals. A variety of textures and finishes can help a calm and quiet palette be visually interesting. Work with texture rather than patterns and color.

Limit the use of accessories. Transitional design is all about lack of clutter. Select only items that truly have meaning to you and serve a purpose: if you don’t use it or love it, eliminate it!

Choose impactful art, but use it sparingly. In most cases, one large piece on the wall is more effective than an arrangement of small pieces.

Room by Room Inspiration

Creating a cohesive transitional room can be challenging. Here are some ideas for mixing transitional elements room by room.

Dining Room – Use a modern dining table and chairs, but upholster the chairs in a traditional fabric. Alternatively, use traditional furnishings and offset them with modern lighting, like steel pendants with exposed lightbulbs.

Bedroom – Upholster a tufted, curved headboard (a traditional element) with a steel-gray fabric (a more modern element) and flank it with modern cube side tables and sleek metal lamps.

Kitchen – If your kitchen cabinets are already traditional in nature and you don’t want to replace them, consider adding modern pendant lights over your island. Steel countertops can also add a modern look to an otherwise traditional kitchen. Or replace a traditional backsplash with a more modern pattern or textured tile; and add new sleek hardware for the cabinetry.

Living Room – If you have traditional architectural features such as trims and moldings, add a glass or acrylic coffee table, metal lamps, and a more modern light fixture. Choose a few pieces of new furniture with clean, simple arms and modern legs rather than skirted bases. Finally, replace heavy drapery treatments with simple cornice boards
or shutters.