Learn the differences between these two similar home decorating styles and which characteristics define them.

Trying to understand the difference between transitional and traditional home decor is like attempting to decide which came first, the chicken or the egg. Because in actuality, some of the characteristics of these popular decor styles are arguably one in the same. Wait, what?

It’s true! So much of home decorating really is subjective and what the designer (or home owner in this case) decides. Think about the last home decor accessory you purchased – maybe it was a throw pillow or vase? When you perused the aisles of the store, you may have had a trending style in mind because the world tells us that everything belongs in a category.

But in actuality, a gold framed mirror purchased by a French Country styled gal could also serve the same purpose for someone who considers themselves more Transitional. The point is, try not to get so stuck in one specific home decor category that you fear venturing away from it and purchasing someone you might really love.

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And this is why the Transitional and Traditional styles work so beautifully. Because they’re like a married couple! Individual in many ways but work perfectly well when blended together. The lines are more blurred when merging these two styles, which allow for more fun and creativity during the decorating process.


So if you think this classic yet modern style might be the one for you, but you aren’t quite sure how to couple both as one, keep reading. I’ll be spelling out why I love transitional style so much and what traditional characteristics to look for when decorating your own home in the same way.

How to Decide Between Traditional and Transitional Home Decor

Not to be boring, but the first step in defining how these two styles might work for you is to separate them and understand how they compliment one another. 20 years ago, my guess is there was one style of home decor. And traditional was king! Whatever photo appeared on the cover of Better Homes and Garden magazine was THE look.

Today, home decor has really evolved! Farmhouse, coastal, mid-century modern – are all birth children to the timeless look of traditional.

What Exactly is Traditional Style Decorating?

Think of traditional as classic (no, I didn’t say old!). It’s the roots from which the accompanying style, transitional, can flourish. If traditional is the main course then transitional as the dessert/appetizer. Anyway, enough analogies for now! What’s important to understand is the fine balance between timeless and old fashioned – because it’s easy to fall into this trap and have your home starting to look like Grandma’s!

Traditional embraces classic patterns and fabrics, stately wood furniture, bold statement pieces but not a ton of color. Homes are warm and inviting with touches of luxury without being boastful or over-designed. Ornate and elaborate lighting fixtures are common and lines are typically curvy or detailed.

What Exactly is Transitional Style Decorating?

A transitional decorating style blends traditional and modern interior design. So perhaps you have traditional furniture pieces with modern molding and trim work throughout. Or traditional cabinetry in modern colors and hardware. The combinations are limitless to how one can incorporate traditional and modern together. The important thing to always remember is that the elements are fluid and complimentary.

How I Do Transitional in My Home

Years ago, I was all about the Tuscan style. Remember this back in the early 2000’s? Wrought iron everything, reds and browns, lots of details. Oh how we’ve grown!

Today, I’ve taken some of my favorite pieces from that era and tried blending them into our new transitional styled home. It still works and we’re not nearly finished. Here are some early photos from styling my midwestern home in the transitional look.

I knew we couldn’t spend a ton of money so I did my best to add modern accessories and decor. Faux branches, metal planters, neutral curtains for example, all gave the home that transitional feel while still embracing the home’s traditional beauty.