What is transitional design? Get the scoop on the trend from a local expert

If modern design feels too cold or stark, but you still seek the open spaces, clean lines and a mix of color palettes, meet your new favorite style.

transitional interior design room with white chairs and blue pillows
Photo courtesy of Asha Maxey of Asha Maia Design

Designing and redesigning your home can be fun and creative, but it can also be overwhelming and filled with indecisiveness. “What actually is my style?” you might be asking yourself.

To get an in-depth look on interior designs in 2020, we are interviewing local experts on what you need to know, and how you can transform your home to feel fresh in the new decade. 

Asha Maxey is the principal designer at NoVA-based Asha Maia Design, and spoke with us about her go-to design: transitional. Learn all about this modern-yet-traditional method in our conversation below. 

How would you define transitional design in 2020?

Transitional design is the intentional blending of traditional and modern/contemporary design styles. Here at Asha Maia Design, we love transitional design because it is a best of both worlds approach to interior design. It’s an answer to those fears that modern and/or contemporary is too cold and stark, and that traditional design is too stuffy. The iconic characteristics of modern design like clean profiles, sleek lines, open spaces and the use of metallics are uniquely blended with those of traditional design like warmth, comfort, richness and elegance. Transitional design is layered and all about unexpected mixes of old and new, and feminine and masculine.

What should readers know about how transitional design has changed and transitioned to become what it is in 2020?

Transitional design can change with the times as it incorporates contemporary design. Contemporary design, by definition, is of the here and now and is always changing. Trends of the present day will always be considered in contemporary design. Transitional design, because it’s derived from modern/contemporary, also evolves over time. Although there are elements that evolve, there are also elements that are tried and true in traditional design. The neutral color palettes that centered around grays over the last 10 years are moving back to beiges and whites. Color is also playing a more significant part in transitional design in moody color palettes, with deep rich colors being applied to things like kitchen cabinetry or washing an entire room.

What are some common myths about transitional design that people should know are not true?

A common myth about transitional design is that it can be drab and boring. A neutral color palette is a staple when it comes to transitional design, but that does not mean it has to be boring or that you can’t include punches of color. If you can’t live without a bit of bold color, don’t! Accents are the perfect place to incorporate color, things like a statement piece of art, accent chairs, throw pillows or even a pair of lamps. While an abundance of color is not a specific characteristic of transitional design, one element that keeps things interesting is texture. A blend of matte and glossy finishes, natural fibers, woven textiles and textural elements, when combined, add visual interest and personality. Transitional design can be what you make it! There is more freedom with transitional design as the spectrum is so broad when it comes to the ability to accomplish great design.

two transitional design rooms with a bedroom and dining room
Photos courtesy of Asha Maxey of Asha Maia Design

If someone were looking to put a transitional-design influence in their home spaces, where should they start?

Start with furniture with cleaner profiles and gentle curves and then contrast your prominent furniture with accent pieces that have a modern take on traditional silhouettes. Transitional style uses a lot of neutral colors, so create a base color palette filled with neutral colors and textured materials. Styling is essential because that’s what makes a home a home, but keep the accessories minimal and intentional.

What are some of your favorite transitional-design elements?

Abstract art, moody colors, mixing metallic finishes, textural woven rugs and statement sofas with sleek lines.

If you were to design the ideal transitional home, with any color palette, furniture style and other aspects, what would it look like, and what unique features would it have?

I’d start with the big statement furniture pieces like the sofa, beds, dining table and chairs. I’d love to see the sofa upholstered in a beautifully rich slate blue fabric. The overall color palette would be balanced against a neutral backdrop. One of my favorite neutral paint colors is Reserved White by Sherwin Williams. I would use lots of layers and textures to add interest. The sofa would have a collection of throw pillows that vary in pattern and color. I love to include throw pillows in my projects that look collected versus matchy-matchy. These also can carry into the bedrooms to add style and personality to the bed. I’d style the home with layers and include plants to bring life to the space. Overall the home would feel collected, warm, inviting and modern while also feeling timeless.

If there is anything else readers should know about transitional design in their home, what would it be?

Transitional design can be what you make it. Because it is a blend of modern/contemporary and traditional, there are a multitude of combinations, and no two spaces have to be alike.

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