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Transitional Style in Furniture and Home Furnishings

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Avalon Heights Dining Room - Stanley

Avalon Heights Dining Room - Stanley

Photo (c) Stanley

Furniture in a transitional style combines qualities from both traditional and contemporary styles. This is a style ideal for those who find traditional furnishing styles too old fashioned and stuffy, and modern styles too cold and lacking in warmth.

The transitional style is not restricted to just the furniture profiles, shapes and sizes, but carries through to finishes and materials including fabrics.

As the word "transition" implies, this is the style that transitions or falls between a very traditional style and an ultra-sleek modern style. Individual furniture pieces in a transitional style may lean toward being either more traditional or more modern, but they stay away from both extremes.

This neutral safety zone between the two styles helps create an in-between yet pleasing furnishing style that draws upon elements from both. A transitional style does not imply that the furniture is lacking in style, only that it is more subtle.

In essence, this is what professionals in the furniture and home furnishings industry are talking about when they talk about an "updated classic" or "timeless design".

Transitional Style Features

Quite possibly the most definitive attribute of this style is that it avoids the extremes such as the ornate character of traditional styles, as well as the extreme austerity of modern styles.

  • Simple and sophisticated lines are generally found in transitional furniture, but not the sharp edges or spare and stark straight lines that you will generally find in contemporary or modern furniture. The lines do not have to be straight but may be gently curved. The curved lines are more gentle and less ornate than the ones you find in traditional furniture.
  • In keeping with its moderate tone, transitional furniture has a medium scale, so the furniture is neither overly large nor minutely small.
  • While there may be carving, it is only used for accents and embellishment, and the ornate elements do not cover any surface uniformly.
  • Generally you will find subdued colors in wood finishes and upholstery fabrics.
  • The transitional style also leans towards being less formal. The furniture is generally more casual and comfortable.
  • There is a balance of masculine and feminine elements, so you can create rooms that feel comfortable to everyone when you furnish with transitional style furniture.

Materials and Colors

There is a variety of materials used in transitional furniture. You may say it is greater in variety than either traditional or modern styles, but all material is treated with restraint.

  • Wood is generally lighter in color than traditional furniture, because the look is never dark and brooding. However darker finishes may be used, as well as painted finishes.
  • Metal, glass and wood are often used together in different combinations. But you will not find sleek metal, glass or acrylic on its own as in contemporary furniture. Very often these materials will be used to add detail.
  • Leather is one of the most popular materials in transitional furniture. Distressed leather is also used often. The idea is to have furniture that is casual and comfortable, and yet shows some semblance of formality.
  • Textured fabric such as ultrasuedes, corduroys and chenilles are often used. Since color is generally subdued, texture are often used to create interest.
  • Fabric colors in transitional style furniture are often neutral and toned down. Olives, taupes, creamy whites and tans are some of the colors that are used often.
  • Accessories

    Because the transitional style is never overly dramatic, the quiet and subdued furnishings provide a chance to show off collections and accessories. Eclectic and exotic accessories have a place here, as do more quiet and romantic or vintage pieces. The amount of flexibility is quite possibly one of the best features of this style. To accessorize in a transitional style you may:

    • Choose textured rugs in neutral colors. Stay away from very complex patterns, but geometrical patterns can work.
    • Sunburst mirrors or mirrors with simple frames can be used for wall decor.
    • Mirrored screens or Asian inspired room dividers are often used.
    • Object with a patina of age and nostalgia can be used. Take a look at the accessories in the Esquire Home Collection for instance.
    • Other accessories may include simple candlesticks in silver, or bud vases. They are never large in scale or overly dramatic.

    How to Find Transitional Style Furniture

    Furniture and other accessories in a transitional style are quite possibly the easiest to find. Stanley, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel are among good sources for this style, as is Century Furniture in a higher price point.

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