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What is a Transitional Style House?

Blend Contemporary and Traditional Design for a Timeless Look: Transitional Style


A big hit with Baby Boomers, millennials, builders, and interior decorators, the transitional style is perhaps one of the hottest trends in today’s architectural landscape. While it’s becoming one of America’s favorite designs, there’s still some confusion surrounding it.

What is a transitional style? And why are homeowners and designers very excited about its aesthetic?

Defined as the merging of one style with another, transitional home design is a mix of the classic and modern, the masculine and feminine – a contemporary twist on the traditional. It is also described as a design that “borrows from the best of both worlds to create a balanced and sophisticated space attuned” to the needs, tastes, and lifestyle of the homeowner. This includes older homeowners who may be transitioning from one stage of their life to another (think empty nester), who appreciate traditional design but also want modern home features like main-floor master suite and open floor plans. It’s all about creating a cohesive fusion of different styles in one space.

So if you’re a homeowner eager to add new touches to the “old” place to give it a reinvigorated design, here’s your opportunity to go “transitional.”

Transitional style Craftsman home with contemporary details

This 1-story transitional home with Craftsman detailing features varied roof lines and a glass-pane door and windows. The floor plan shows 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms (Plan #117-1128).


Why Transitional Design Is a Hot Trend

For Baby Boomers and other people who already own homes, the interest in the transitional style is more focused on “updating their classics.” At some point, they may want to upgrade their Colonial, Farmhouse, Craftsman, cottage, and traditional house plans with new materials and a new look.

A number of younger buyers – on the other hand – want a modern contemporary home but with the touches and some elements of the classic styles.

To achieve the updated look, experts recommend creating color contrasts (darker roof and lighter siding or vice-versa) and simplified building forms. They warn against tinkering with the original roof and changing the key element of the architectural style. This means retaining the proportion, massing, scale, and roof slopes in traditional designs. As long as you stick to these basic concepts, you can introduce transitional décor accents to the exterior and interior of the home to get that transformed look for your classic.

Traditional style architecture with  contemporary design elements yields transitional style house plan #147-1116

Without changing the roof lines and other structural elements of this 2-story, 4-bedroom Contemporary style home, color contrasts are used – light tones on the roof and shades of orange and brick red for the siding (Plan #147-1116).


Elements of Transitional Home Exterior Design

While borrowing from a variety of styles and eras, the transitional design has unique features that distinguish it from other house plans. Think traditional Colonial style or Craftsman style with different materials, cleaner lines, and exaggerated features like wide roof overhangs and lots of glass.

Look for open floor layouts; simple, clean lines; and these distinct qualities:

1.    Industrial elements such as metal roof, grid railing, and vertical siding can be used to change/update the exterior of classic plans like farmhouses and cottages.

2.    Color details – Contrasting shades and tones in both the exteriors and interiors add depth.

3.    Oversize glass windows – Usually asymmetrical, these windows allow plenty of natural light into the home.

4.    Concrete blocks may be featured in the exterior façade.

5.    Horizontal awnings further reflect the modern/contemporary flair of the home.

2-story, 4bedroom Transitional House Plan #161-1086

On display in this 2-story, 4-bedroom Transitional home plan are some distinct features like the metal roof, horizontal awnings, vertical siding and large glass windows (Plan #161-1086).


How to Achieve Transitional Design inside the Home

Now that the exterior of your home paints the picture of a transitional style, it’s time to bring the design indoors – into the rooms. Keep in mind that in “mixing and matching” different styles, furniture, floors and walls, décor items, and other accessories must work well together. It’s important to balance elements of the disparate styles to create an inviting and integrated design.

1.     Color it neutral for a clean and simple look – The best tones for the transitional style are neutral shades. Go for cream, white, beige, taupe, and tan, combined with gray and brown for contrast. These timeless colors are great for walls, floors, and cabinets.

Living room/kitchen in transitional house plan #116-1081

A clean color palette is the look in this 2-story, 4-bedroom modern beachfront home: beige walls, white floors, abd dark brown furnishings, including a brown and cream area rug (Plan #116-1081).


2.     Use different textures – For a modern and sophisticated touch, mix a variety of materials – wood, glass, leather, fabric, metal – to the rooms in your house. Choose sofas, chairs, and other upholstered items made of fabric – preferably with patterns – to add warmth to wood floors and trims in the living and dining rooms.

Great room in contemporary transitional house plan #161-1085

Sofas and chairs made of fabrics in neutral colors provide a contrast to the wood shelves, beams, and other accessories in this Great Room of a 1-story, 4-bedroom Contemporary style home (Plan #161-1085).


 3.     Stick to furniture and furnishings with simple lines – Forget elaborate and ornate when it comes to the Transitional style. Think of furniture with simple shapes and lines: straight lines instead of curves; rectangular shapes instead of rounded ones. For example, you can modernize the master suite by enhancing some of its classic furnishings with sleek metal accessories and color accents. Use streamlined side tables, metal lamps, and artwork in metal frames to give the room a livable and contemporary feel.

Master suite in house plan #161-1081

Simple elegance is defined by sleek accents in the master suite of this 2-story, 4-bedroom modern beachfront home: color contrasts in the textured bedspread in beige/throw pillows in shades of lavender, along with the metal frames with purple flowers; and a pair of black side tables with white metal lamps (Plan #116-1081).


4.     Keep décor accents and accessories to a minimum – Continue the simple, uncluttered look throughout the house. The rule is always “less is more” when it comes to accent pieces. And remember to carry out the same color scheme with the accessories that you choose for your rooms.

Contemporary bathroom in house plan #161-1085

An accent mirror with antique touches is the central focus in a bathroom of 1-story, 4-bedroom, 4-bath Contemporary style home (Plan #161-1085).


5.     Choose an art piece that highlights a room – As with accessories and décor touches, artwork should be the focal point in a room. Any painting or framed art must be a statement piece that creates a huge impact and becomes a topic of conversation. Interior decorators recommend abstracts, geometrics, and vivid photography for the best dramatic effect.

impressive living room in transitional Prairie style house plan #153-1808

An impressive and eye-catching art canvas with bold and vivid colors is the centerpiece of this living room in a 2-story, 3-bedroom Prairie style home with contemporary and modern influences. Take a look at the mix of textures – leather chairs, cushions, throw pillows, and ottomans made of fabric, plus an area rug with a geometric pattern (Plan #153-1808).


The Transitional plan may be a mix and match of disparate styles. However, understanding its basic elements can help a homeowner fashion an appealing and cohesive, timeless look that is not only elegant and sophisticated but also livable and comfortable.


So are you ready to reinvigorate your home with the fresh new look of Transitional design – or create the look for your new home? With some imagination – and maybe a little help from your interior decorator – you can push your adventurous side to take on this creative endeavor.


Footnote: The bottom left photograph in the lead image of this article is a stunning 2-story, 5-bedroom modern Transitional house plan. For more details, click here (Plan #161-1048).

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