Transitional style offers the best of both worlds: the comfort and class of traditional style and the smooth and crisp look of contemporary style. And living rooms make great candidates for this style. That’s because you can create a flexible space that works for formal get-togethers and more casual, everyday living. These five living rooms show the versatility of the approach.
Transitional Living Room 1: Aliza Schlabach Photography, original photo on Houzz
1. Comfortable and Casual
Designer: Larina Kase
Location: Devon, Pennsylvania
Size: 330 square feet (30.6 square meters); 15 by 22 feet (1.5 by 6.7 meters)
Homeowners’ request: Casual, comfortable and child-friendly. Also, they wanted a yellowish stone fireplace surround replaced. The main challenges for designer Larina Kase were bringing in adequate artificial lighting and figuring out how to arrange the furniture in the long, rectangular room, which has three points of entry.
Special features: Large drum chandelier. Large, hardworking coffee table. Extra-long (105-inch) leather sofa.
Why the design works: “This room design is a balance of opposites,” Kase says. “Soft versus hard edges, modern versus classic, organic versus industrial, form versus function, masculine versus feminine, light versus dark values, organic versus geometric shapes. I find that the balance of opposites adds interest in a space.”
Designer secret: “I love the tip from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, to ask whether an object brings you joy,” Kase says. “We found some fun, whimsical objects, like the little wood bird on the glass bookshelf, that brought joy. One of their daughters named the bird and likes to play with it.”
Transitional Living Room 2: Aliza Schlabach Photography, original photo on Houzz
“Uh-oh” moment: “Just when everything was moving along smoothly, we had several upsets to our timeline,” Kase says. “After lining up someone to install the fireplace tile, when he came to install it he said that it looked like the wrong amount. It turned out that the person at the tile shop had accidentally ordered half of the amount, and it was special order — six weeks. One of the chairs arrived missing a leg. It was a semicustom piece and took 10 weeks to arrive. Everything was remedied, and fortunately the homeowners were very patient and understanding. I try to let people know upfront to expect that there can be challenges in the process. It’s not always smooth sailing when there are so many variables in the process, and it all works out in the end.”
Also on the team: Aliza Schlabach Photography
Wall paint: Revere Pewter, Benjamin Moore; rug: custom-made from a remnant; coffee table: Restoration Hardware; sofa, white media cabinet and striped chairs: Pottery Barn; round side table: Houzz; dark wood cabinet: homeowners’; large drum chandelier: CB2; glass console table: Wayfair; arch floor lamp: Pier 1 Imports; table lamp, round rose gold-framed mirror and basket next to striped chair: West Elm; wood shutters: custom; paintings over sofa: Art.com; blue-and-white pouf: Joss & Main; basket at fireplace and vases on wood cabinet: Crate & Barrel; accessories on glass shelves: West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie, Wisteria and antiques
Transitional Living Room 3: Frusterio Design Inc, original photo on Houzz
2. Open and Flexible
Designers: Frusterio Design (house plans); Jenna Jackovich (interior designer)
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Size: 400 square feet (37.1 square meters); about 20 by 20 feet (6 by 6 meters)
Client’s request: Open-living concept on spec, for formal gatherings and casual everyday living.
Special features: Natural white oak floors. Two large sofas in cornflower blue velvet. Rug with tribal motif.
Designer secret: “I love painting the window mullions black,” designer Jenna Jackovich says. “It creates such a subtle pop and gives a nod to the European details that I love so much. Also, you can’t forget about the impact of the ceiling beams and the dimension they bring to the room.”
Also on the team: John Jackovich of Grande Custom Homes (builder)
Paint by Benjamin Moore: Moonshine (walls), Winter White (trim) and Twilight Zone (window mullions); rug: Loloi Rugs; fireplace tile: Tile Collection
Transitional Living Room 4: Werner Straube, original photo on Houzz
3. Flexible Fusion
Designer: Teresa Manns of Peabody’s Interiors
Location: Fox Point, Wisconsin
Size: 510 square feet (47.3 square meters); 17 by 30 feet (5.1 by 9.1 meters)
Homeowners’ request: Fuse their opposing styles — she’s contemporary; he’s traditional — to create a beautiful, functional living room that’s also kid-friendly.
Special features: Leather-top coffee table. Limestone mantel. Scaled dentil moldings. Traditional-style rug in contemporary colors. Furniture scaled right.
Designer secret: “The room originally had dark drapes with valances that covered the top portion of the windows, a very literal interpretation of Tudor style,” designer Teresa Manns says. “We replaced them with full-height curtains that frame the view; the color references Lake Michigan beyond. The less formal presentation allows the room to feel relaxed.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “Because the fireplace is such a focal point, the clients had latched on to the idea that they would need large, expensive pieces of furniture flanking it to balance it out,” Manns says. “That concept did not sit right with me once I got to know them better. I suggested bright, modern lamps, but they were not sold on the idea. While we were installing the furnishings that they did agree with, I went ahead and placed the lamps and tables ‘on approval.’ Once they were able to see everything in the space and how [the lamps] brought the room together, they decided to keep them.”
Splurges and savings: “The upholstered pieces are all stock frames but with upgraded, custom-selected fabrics, a great way to have a room feel put-together without paying full custom prices,” Manns says.
Also on the team: Werner Straube (photographer)
Upholstered pieces: Lee Industries, with fabric from Holland & Sherry; rug: Lee Jofa; drapery fabric: Japura Mattier, Manuel Canovas; lamps: Visual Comfort; coffee table: Henredon
Transitional Living Room 5: GroupSeven Images, original photo on Houzz
4. Elegant and Easy
Designer: Alison Hodd of Catherine Alison Interiors
Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Size: 368 square feet (34.1 square meters); 16 by 23 feet (4.8 by 7 meters)
Homeowners’ request: Make a significant style update to replace 30-year-old furniture. Entertain family and friends comfortably and elegantly. “To get a transitional look, we used clean-lined furniture and employed a variety of tones, textures and colors,” designer Alison Hodd says. “The arm style on the sofas and chairs is sleek and restrained, yet the lamps have a classic shape and proportion. It is in the layering and the mix that the homeowner got a transitional room.”
Special features: Picture-frame panel molding. Oil painting. Brass and gold finishes.
Designer secret: “Adding the faceted stool and side table gave the room a more playful vibe,” Hodd says. “This helps to relax the more formal elements, like the toss pillows with tape trim, the bolsters and the glass coffee table. We didn’t want the room to read as too serious.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “The homeowner wanted to use blue, teal, sand, gray and celedon, yet her treasured needlepoints that she made herself [seen in the previous photo] did not all fit with the palette,” Hodd says. “To make it work, we advised her on the exact frame style to have them all reframed in. Because they are framed in the same frame as the focal art, they now all work beautifully in the room.”
Also on the team: Dianna Knight of Catherine Alison Interiors, GroupSeven Images (photographer)
Window treatments: designed by Catherine Alison Interiors and manufactured by Custom Home Decor; upholstered furniture: Gresham House Furniture; coffee table, end tables and mirrors: Cocoon Furnishings.
Transitional Living Room 6: Rikki Snyder, original photo on Houzz
5. Neutral in New York
Designer: Caroline Kopp
Location: Scarsdale, New York
Size: 444 square feet (41.2 square meters); about 24 by 18 feet (7.3 by 5.4 meters)
Homeowners’ request: Create a more inviting vibe and add more seating for entertaining. Combine new pieces with existing modern pieces like Victorian chairs and heirlooms. “Because we were decorating a 1920s home, with traditional architectural features, using furniture forms dating across time from 1890 to the 1950s, a transitional style felt appropriate and natural,” designer Caroline Kopp says.
Special features: Wing chairs. Pale blue and cream carpet enhances a sense of lightness and brightness. Reworked fireplace. Flexible furniture that can be rearranged as needed.
Designer secret: “The new carpet makes this room a success,” Kopp says. “It transformed the space, making it feel fresh, stylish and full of light. Light-colored carpet can be scary because of fears it will not wear well. Ask your carpet store to do a stain treatment prior to delivery to help with maintenance. If you see a carpet that you really love and you know it works, just go for it instead of fretting about wear and tear. All textiles will experience wear and tear; it is their nature. Just relax and enjoy, and have your carpet cleaned every few years. Buying better-quality fibers helps with this, and there are lots of wonderful low-maintenance carpets on the market today.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “We had reviewed many possible carpets from designer sources in the city, but after we both fell in love with this one, it looked like it wasn’t going to fit in the budget,” Kopp says. “My smart client shopped around and found the same carpet in her town at a little shop down the road, which saved her a lot of money. So, don’t give up on something great. I always find it pays off to put a little more legwork into finding the right pricing.”
Splurges and savings: The homeowners saved by using existing furniture andartwork, and splurged on new windows, refinishing the floors and repainting the house.
Also on the team: New Dimensions Remodeling (construction); Rikki Snyder (photographer)
Victorian chairs: antique family heirlooms; glass and chrome side table: Eileen Gray; mercury glass votive with flower: West Elm; stone on table: natural crystal, Mineral Store; rug: Stanton Carpet; wing chairs: Room & Board: artichoke pillows: custom; coffee table: Noguchi; accessories on coffee table: Murano glass, vintage; iron fire screen and blue throw: Crate & Barrel; vases on mantel: Bia Cordon Bleu; mirror on mantel: Larson Juhl; brown balls on mantel: Africa; black sofa: custom; blue pillows: Restoration Hardware; book tower: CB2; wall paint: Smokey Taupe, Benjamin Moore