I know exactly when it happened: a hot summer day in August 1998. That particular day I had experienced a three-hour long hot commute from DC to my town home in Northern Virginia. A car and truck accident had occurred on Interstate 95.
When I finally walked in the door to my home, my eyes fell on a jewel-toned burgundy and royal blue flowery sofa and two low-sitting burgundy slipper chairs. In the adjoining dinning room, a highly polished dark cherry Queene Anne dining table with shapely cabriole legs and matching chairs shinned back at me.
The misery of that long hot commute intensified in my blood and I felt old and tired. Thus, began a five-year road-winding decorating project. It covered browsing and reading countless magazines and books on decorating filled with glossy-page examples of decor styles written in adjective laden language; and even more countless hours of online searches. I had made frequent and periodic trips to one furniture store after another; and fabric and home decor stores.
Have you been on that road? I had a huge yard sale, moved to a single family home and simply started over. Okay, that was a bit extreme! But haven't you ever felt that way: get rid of your furniture and start over? I later retired and have now downsized--yep, downsized--to an apartment with plans to push my transitional style even more. That's why I'm here to tell you the reason I love transitional decor style.
Traditional + Contemporary = Transitional
In the transitional style, you get the best of both design worlds.
Did you think transitional style was boring? Did you read the article on (it will remain nameless) that stated twice, transitional style is a lack of color!
Regardless of what style you love, I suggest when you see the style, color is the first thing that strikes you--even if experienced subconsciously.
Warm neutral colors (and these are legitimate colors) are used abundantly in the transitional style; that is, primarily creme, taupe, khaki and grey. Black and dark brown, such as espresso are fabulous for punching in a contrasting accent color. And this is true if you want to add some other color, such as the yellow found in that stylish bedroom above. Contrary to what was stated in that nameless article, neutral colors are not entirely without "color" but carry an undertone or hue of another color. Creme has a yellow hue. Taupe has a brown or gray shade, depending upon the amount of black pigmentation.
A traditional palette includes those colors, as well as beige and tan. Deeper colors of red, green and blue are also found in the traditional. While, contemporary includes an abundance of white and a more monochromatic scheme.
Neutral colors make us feel relaxed. Need I say more.
2. STRONG LINES AND SOFT CURVES
Lines are cleanly defined but where curved, the shape is soft and rounded like "simple silhouettes."
Dear heaven, I do so love the cool, sophisticated grey and blue in this next room. Can you just see yourself sinking into that velvet sofa and forgetting about the world? I can. Just give me a book too. Warmth in the room is captured in the red of the carpet and draperies. Yellow is a happy color and its rich hue stands out in the lamps. There's lots of interest to capture your attention in the wall gallery and the tulips(?) simply seals the deal for making this a stylish and comforting setting.
The image above shows an updated traditional sofa. Note how the curved lines are more defined and the more plumpness of the seat cushions.
3. FURNITURE DESIGNS HAVE CLEAN LINES
With the exception of the last photo, as you can see from the examples above, transitional style incorporates "strong furniture; clean-lined pieces that have a sculptural air." You see that particularly in the example seatings and in the shapes of the cocktail and side tables below. Both are contemporary pieces.
Note the mix of materials (wood and metal) found in the cocktail table. The side table is a beautifully hammered brass. Remember, transitional combines traditional and contemporary. So please don't confuse contemporary with transitional. They are different although you will almost certainly read about them as being synonymous. They're not.
4. VARIETY OF MATERIAL FINISHES
Again, as shown above, transitional brings together various types of materials found in both traditional and contemporary designs. This would include an array of woods, such as walnut, cherry, mahogany and oak from the traditional style to chrome, steel, lacquer, glass, plastic and tile found in the contemporary style. When combined, the warmth of the woods juxtaposes with the sleek, elegant appeal of glass and metal.
The excitement now found in plastic or rather polyurethane is fabulously interpreted in translucent furniture pieces. See my post on Designs That Fascinate: Translucent Furniture.
5. CLEAN WALLS BUT NOT NECESSARILY BORING WALLS
It's been suggested that a bank of art on a wall does not fall within the transitional style. The image below contradicts that rule. Tastefully done, and rules are often bent in such designs, a bank of art on the wall is stunning--and quite acceptable.
I love the presentation of one dramatic, stunning work of art on a wall. It certainly meets the overall principle in transitional style that less is more.
6. SIMPLE FLOORING
Transitional flooring follows the general color scheme of the room in selections of "natural woods, stone, tile, carpeting and more." Warmth and textural, however, adds additional interest.
As for me, I go straight to the hardwood and sisal department!! While I do love oriental rugs, especially the antique ones or even a carpet piece, I'm happier with the layered look of medium to dark hardwood floor, a neutral taupe or beige sisal area rug, topped with a smaller white flokati rug. Attention to this color palette and texture combination gives an air of elegance, glamour and softness.
There are seven more reasons why I love the transitional style and I will share them with you in Part 2.
In the meantime, I would love to hear what is your style. Oh, please do share!! Even if you are shy, you can let me know if you found the post useful and informational with a like right here.
Sources for this post came from my 14 years of experience on the path to a transitional decor style and several articles and references:
- Three excellent articles written by Lisa Federick: So Your Style is Traditional ; So Your Style is Contemporary ; and So Your Style is Transitional
- Wikipedia: Modern Furniture
- HGTV Transitional Style 101
- Home Decorators What's Your Style?
To discover the remaining reasons, see my post Part II 13 Reasons Why I Love Transitional Style.