“Transitional” is probably one of the most over-used words in design today. But what does it actually mean? “Transitional” is the name for style that TRANSITIONS between traditional and contemporary design, although in general, it leans more toward the contemporary end.
In the past couple of decades, many people have reached a point where they feel the carved and embellished styles of the past are too formal for modern life, and they seek something more compatible with today’s often hectic pace. That said, they also aren’t ready to live in the Jetsons’ home. Transitional looks clear away most of the fuss and detail, leaving behind clean, simplified styles, where the shapes, fabrics, and finishes do most of the talking.
Here are a few more examples (keep in mind these are rather extreme for illustration purposes):
Most of what Crate and Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and Pottery Barn offer would be considered transitional. Ballard Designs is a good example of transitional looks that lean more toward traditional, which can be harder to find.
The word “transitional” can also be applied to a modernized version of a traditional piece, like this Mary McDonald lamp (which I ADORE) for example. It is a very traditional trophy-urn shape, but the glossy red finish and crisp white drum shade are definitely modern interpretations.
Try not to confuse “transitional” with another phrase you’re probably hearing a lot these days, which is “modern-traditional.”
“Modern-traditional” refers to a blending of the two ideas, modern AND traditional, using both within a space, rather than selecting pieces which compromise. It’s the bringing together of definitively traditional and modern pieces, and balancing them to create harmony within a design. (Which is not to say that there can’t be transitional pieces within a modern-traditional space!) This look is perhaps best expressed by many of the projects seen in Traditional Home magazine. Look at this dining room, for example:
The table, 3 of the 6 chairs, the mirror, the vases, and the area rug are quite contemporary. The sideboard, the other three chairs, the chandelier, the sconces, and the window treatments are definitely traditional, yet everything works together. (P.S. I don’t particularly agree with the use of chairs here, but it illustrated my point.)
Interestingly, in the past two years especially, I find I’m receiving an increasing number of calls from people whose taste has changed, and they want to reflect that in their home. I can certainly relate, as I just went through it myself! It will probably surprise many of you to learn that I have been VERY traditional my entire life. As in, give me some carving on my carving, with a side of gilding, and can I get that in Louis XIV to go? True story. As my business has grown and the pace of my life has reached an almost frenzied pitch, I just want LESS STUFF around me. Less fuss. Less dusting. Less to take care of. So I totally understand the movement in that direction. (Not that I can’t still appreciate a good Rococo now and then!)
How about you? Where do you fall? Traditional? Contemporary? Transitional? Has your taste evolved over time? Leave a comment and tell us about it!