Transitional Style: What it is and how to achieve it

Transitional Style: What it is and how to achieve it

Dear Diary,

A few months ago I was approached to help with decorating renovations.   The brief was to help my clients understand what their style was, to help make their home feel elegant, upmarket yet homely and inviting.  They were not sure what of the many beautiful things they have collected over the years were worth while to keep, how to achieve a cohesive look with what they had, or did they need to start from scratch. She also hoped to embed a strong element of nature in the design. In this first installment of the reveal, we will look at their foyer and I will begin to show you what Transitional Style is, and how to achieve it.

Definition of Transitional Style

It is a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary styles. A marriage of traditional and modern furniture, finishes, materials and fabrics. Transitional Style strikes the perfect balance between the two and are anything but boring. Lines and curves play a role and pops of colour can enhance an otherwise neutral environment. 

Right, that said, let me show you how I achieved that.  We will look at the foyer first.  The original real estate photo shows a fairly plain foyer with not much interest or any glimpse of what the style of the people living there was. Only A LOT OF RED! The red tones are enhanced with the hardwood doors,  door frames and floors.

When my clients moved in, they worked with what they had, and decided to first live in the home for a period of time to understand how they as a family use the space and how the house functions for them. The foyer and most of the house was painted a muddy grey –  a colour that can be very depressing if not used right, and in my opinion not working with the floors at all.  After two years they were ready to make it reflect their personalities.

Looking ahead, your eye is immediately drawn to a cupboard on the landing of the stairs. It functions as a linen cupboard and has a weird space between the cupboard and a very high-placed window.  Obviously not easy to decorate and both occupants of the home struggled with that. The balance of the window in relation to the total space is wrong and the cupboard doesn’t feel grounded or that it belonged.

The first thing to do in such a case, is to strip it bare and paint!  For this home, it really begged for crisp white with no undertones of warm or cold.  Just very neutral.  I also wanted all the doors and door frames painted white.  Yes, some resistance from the hardwood lovers, but all that wood makes a space feel very dated and adds to the depressing mood. I also had the balustrades replaced with a more current and substantial looking white-painted balustrade.

My design concept or vision board for this space was as follows.

Change the stair cupboard into something striking; – a feature mural, using IT as the springboard for the nature inspired look.  Compliment it with a 3D artwork to balance the depth of the cupboard with the rest of the wall and window and fill that dead space with something tangible and adding some texture.  Colours were to be earth tones, using a little metallic like Gold and German Silver as accents and introduce a traditional rug to keep the rhythm and feel of the rest of the home the same.

Reveal Time!

Let me break down the elements of the process.

Her beloved Champagne table got re-used in the space.  The foyer is the first place to introduce visitors to this Transitional Style home and should be setting the mood and feel of the home.  I commissioned a local artist to make a “fluid art” painting to represent water and continue the story of the feature wall at the end of the stairs.  It needed to be striking and bold but not compete with the mural. 

I also needed the golds repeated to create a harmonious feel to the space. The South African born artist living in Perth (Elma Koster) understood my vision and gave me exactly what I envisioned.  A photo doesnt convey the feeling and look of this stunning piece but its close enough….The client and I both LOVE this!

 On the left wall of the arch way, I balanced the original champagne table with ornate lanterns.  My client LOVES candles and lights them often and they will also be used in seasonal decorating like filling them with xmas and easter decorations.  A space needs to function in many ways as I have said so many times, plus we feel better purchasing items if it could be useful too! 😉

On the open wall space above, I wanted to balance the liquid art painting resembling water;- with elements from water.  I instructed them to find shells that I can use to create a 3D art box.  A simple mirror tray that I sourced from a local shop, glued them in and covered the top with a piece of glass to keep dust out.

The Stairs….

Beautiful lead bell-shaped pendants bought online were framed with the window in the background and really pops against all the natural light pouring in.  The old thin metal looking balustrades were replaced with chunkier wood ones,  painted white to balance the bit of hardwood rails and floors and updating the space to a more contemporary look.

Another homework project I gave the clients was to find the driftwood for the 3D wall art on the stairs.  They sourced these on a Margaret River beach and after I styled them on a piece of painted board the client fastened it and loved being involved in the creation of this 3D artwork.  Fabulous don’t you agree?


Now, for the Piéce de Résistance!!!

“The linen -cupboard-turned-painting”.  The moment I saw this cupboard and heard the clients love of nature, I just knew what needed to happen here.  Paint the whole cupboard white so it virtually disappears and recedes and use the ugly duckling to my advantage.  We commissioned local artist Francesca Cary for this mural.  She is ridiculously talented and can paint anything you want!  The result was better than I could have hoped for.  One doesn’t even notice its something other than a painting and that is what a successful project should look like.

Other decorative elements…nature inspired off course! 🙂

So let me quickly remind you what the foyer looked like before

And again the After…..(Traditional style Rug was sourced from – perfect for a Transitional Style interior)

This was such a satisfying project and the clients adore their Transitional Style home – and that my friends, is what makes me tick!!

 We will look at the kitchen/ dining room next time!




Article by Teresa

Australian Interior Designer / Decorator & Photographer. I share my style, my creativity and love for all things decor.

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