How to Pull Off Transitional Design Style Like A Pro | Fireclay Tile
Donate Today! Architecture Scholarship for Black Women
Donate Today! Architecture Scholarship for Black Women

Design Trends

How to Pull Off Transitional Design Style Like A Pro

By Blair Hagensen

How to Pull Off Transitional Design Style Like A Pro

If you feel that classic traditional style is a little too formal but modern design is slightly too austere, allow us to introduce you to the beauty of transitional style.

This fluid design style takes the best of both worlds, old and new, to create spaces that are casual yet polished. Popularized by brands like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, transitional design is approachable and inviting–and easy to adapt!

Transitional dining room with modern dining table and modern dining chairs, traditional built in cabinets with Star & Cross Tile backsplash, and modern light fixture

Tile: Star & Cross in Frost // Design: KJ Design Collective // Image: Vanessa Diaz

Follow these five simple rules to pull off transitional style in your own home like a professional.

1. Blend the Past with the Present

The very first thing to know about transitional style is that it’s a combination of modern and traditional design. Although traditional and modern styles may seem opposing at first glance, these two styles complement each other beautifully–and are surprisingly easy to blend.

Modern design is softened with the addition of traditional elements, while traditional curves and soft edges shine when placed next to clean-lined modern pieces.

Kitchen with green cabinets, white Chaine Homme Tile backsplash, modern light fixture, and large original wood windows

Tile: Chaine Homme in Magnolia // Design: Brownstone Boys // Image: Nick Glimenakis

The trick to blending traditional and contemporary styles is to not go too extreme with either style. Choose pieces that balance well–a transitional living room may include a grander sofa with a modern light fixture, or sleek accent chairs next to a classic fireplace.

White living room with tiled fireplace flanked by sleek accent chairs

Tile: 2x6 in Feldspar // Design: HIR A+D // Image: Kevin Scott, Willie Cole, Hannah Robertson // Installer: Tallman Segerson Builders

2. Craft the Perfect Palette

Transitional’s color palette consists of warm neutrals and lighter shades, often accented by pops of color such as rich brown, deep blue, or verdant green. Transitional spaces are often tonal and toned-down, but not always.

This kitchen is a great transitional example. Warm white cabinets are accented with pops of slate blue from the horizontal tile stripe running through the backsplash and coordinating island. And notice how the backsplash turns a classic tile pattern on its head–literally–with a playful row of horizontal tile.

Bright white kitchen with blue accents in the tile backsplash and kitchen island

Tile: 2x8 in Tusk and Nautical // Design: Colossus // Image: Stephanie Russo

The bathroom below incorporates more color into its transitional palette with a tub surround of soothing green tile. Next to the modern tub, built-in shelves display a curated assortment of traditional-style decorating pieces including an antique stool.

Modern tub surrounded by soothing green tile next to white built-in cabinets

Tile: 3x6 in Rosemary // Design: Sarah Montgomery Design // Image: Margaret Rajic

The great thing about tile is that you can use it as a neutral element in your transitional space or as a pop of color, so we’ve put together our favorite transitional tile picks that include an array of soft neutrals and complementing accent colors. Sample them all here!

Transitional tile picks: Driftwood, Feldspar, Pumice, Peabody, Blue Velvet, Nautical, Magnolia Patine, Rosemary

3. Don’t Forget Texture

With its streamlined silhouettes, pared-down decor, and a general lack of busy prints, transitional leans on the minimal side–so it needs visual interest in order to stay out of bland territory. Enter: texture.

Cozy couch and textured rug in the foreground, with open kitchen in the background featuring soft green cabinets and sandy Star & Cross Tile backsplash

Tile: Star & Cross in Sand Dune // Design: The Blooming Nest // Image: The Blooming Nest, Regan Mauck

Incorporate texture through transitional decorating elements, like boucle accent chairs, chunky blankets, and glass side tables, or more permanent aspects like crown molding or, you guessed it, tile installations.

We love how the transitional kitchen below uses texture in two major ways, first with the wood accents on the island and then again with the gorgeous light green Mosaic Tile backsplash.

Open kitchen featuring light green mosaic tile backsplash and large island with textured wood accents

Tile: 1x6 in Eucalyptus // Design: Annabode // Image: Brandon Lopez

4. Get Comfortable

Transitional spaces should feel warm and polished, but more than anything they should feel comfortable! This style is especially popular for living rooms and bedrooms since traditional couches and beds tend to be on the grander side.

The living room below features an inviting, rounded couch while the sleek lines of the accent chairs are softened with thick cushions (and don’t miss the splash of regal evergreen from the Star & Cross backsplash in the adjoining kitchen!).

Open living room with large white couch, sleek accent chairs, and emerald green Star & Cross Tile kitchen backsplash in the background

Tile: Star & Cross in Evergreen // Design: Megmade // Image: Erin Konrath Photography

Of course, comfort doesn’t have to mean fluffy, oversized furniture. Creating a space that calms your senses and allows you to relax thanks to the design choices is another way to bring transitional style home, like the cozy herringbone tile nest that surrounds the soaking tub in this bathroom.

Soaking tub surrounded by blue-green herringbone tile floor and wainscoting

Tile: 2x8 in Flagstone // Design: Banner Day Interiors // Image: Laurey Glenn

5. Make it Your Own

The beauty of transitional design is that it’s an incredibly dynamic and adaptable style. Since it incorporates ever-changing contemporary elements, transitional design evolves with current trends–meaning there are endless ways to express it.

Play with palettes to find your perfect color story. In the space below, the classic oval dining table and slipcovered chairs are strikingly paired with a soft purple backsplash of modern Hexite Tile for a one-of-a-kind transitional result.

Bright dining room featuring traditional dining table and chairs, and a soft purple Hexite Tile backsplash

Tile: Hexite in Dust Storm // Design: Regina Garcia Design // Image: AIR Design Photography

Transitional done right: we love how this kitchen pairs traditional marble countertops with a modern stacked tile backsplash, while light wood cabinetry and contemporary pendants beautifully tie the room together.

Warm-toned kitchen with grey-blue tile backsplash, light-colored wood cabinets, and modern light fixtures

Tile: 2x8 in Driftwood // Design: Evgenia Merson Design // Image: SEN Creative

Because transitional is so personal, it’s easy to fall in love with. Simply pick and choose your favorites, like the bathroom below that created a traditional tile rug with modern elements like black hardware to create a space completely unique to the homeowner.

Neutral bathroom fully tiled in warm white tile with a grey and handpainted tile rug on the floor

Tile: 4x4 in Shetland Wool, 2x2 Sheeted and 6x6 in Ivory, 3x6 in Tusk, Seville in Neutral Motif // Design: K.Squared Design // Image: Sierra Ann Photography

Have you fallen in love with transitional design yet? Bring home up to 5 free samples to preview transitional tile in your space. And don’t forget, we can help bring your transitional dreams to life with our free design assistance.

You Might Also Like: