Transitional Design

By Architect and Interior Designer Paushika Gupta, founder of Paushika Gupta Architecture+Design

Tradition meets new-age interior design: Transitional design

Architecture and design are an ever-present form of visual storytelling. When tradition meets design, they have the ability to capture the history of a place and tell that story through the space. Design forms a visual, spatial link between the past, present, and future, becoming a point in the timeline of a place and culture. Transitional design weaves traditional with the contemporary to achieve a new vocabulary. A reflection of tradition is what makes a space deeply personal and yet relatable. The result is an elegant design that is both comfortable and classic. It strikes the perfect balance between the two. Transition is achieved by seamlessly combining a mix of modern and traditional. While there are many interpretations of this style, the following are a few pointers.

Neutral or colour?

Furniture is king in transitional design. Keep the tone neutral in order to accentuate the furniture, and add colour in terms of accessories and art. Transitional spaces bring about a clean and serene surrounding by using neutral hues, for example, ecrus, vanillas and whites paired with grey to add depth, similarly, tans and vanillas paired with browns for depth. Bedding can add colour and style, the exact dimension to the room’s palette.

Use it all

Apart from mixing and matching furniture, thinking of the shape and silhouette is important as well. If the furniture is all straight lines except for a single curvy piece, the space will look unbalanced, even if the aesthetics are paired well. Because curves and straight lines are plentiful in both modern and classic design, mixing aesthetics 50/50 is insufficient. One needs to know which pieces match well with the other. Trust to use different elements since its transitional design. Wood, glass, lacquer, rattan, fabric, steel and metal – incorporate some elements sparingly to form a storyline.

How many accessories is too many accessories?

Going overboard is always welcomed, however, one should limit the use of accessories since there is enough play with texture and furniture styles. This transitional home office demonstrates the less-is-more approach to ornamentation that characterizes transitional spaces: carefully-selected accessories like a small potted succulent, a photograph in a silver frame, a tone-on-tone geometric decor and matte black-and-white images on white floating shelves give visual interest to the room without drawing attention to themselves. The white desk chair’s chrome arms and the lacquered white campaign desk’s legs provide a sense of lightness to the area.

Art that stands out

One large piece on the wall speaks volumes about a space and adds that pop of colour to the room. One can have multiple such pieces, to add in depth colour confidence. Since the palette is mostly neutral on neutral, it’s best to go wild with canvas on the walls. Instead of using multiple small paintings to fill a wall, it’s always nice to go bold and big.

Textures add multiple dimensions

Transitional Fabrics Are Tonal + Textural – one can pair grey-on-grey with a pop of pattern or colour. To preserve the refinement that the design portrays, transitional style limits pattern mixing to a minimum. Biggest and boldest pieces should be solid texture and simplistic and the smaller pieces to add a pop – either in print or colour. Largely keeping a solid base, mixing textures among your upholstery and pillows is key. Most furniture pieces are contemporary, one can swap them out whenever the taste changes.Bridging the gap

Leather is a key element in bringing everything together. Be it in an ottoman, or a chesterfield sofa, or a centre table done in leather – it softens the boundaries between the cosiest and sleekest of pieces. A tufted leather armchair, based on its silhouette, can look both modern and traditional, and a leather ottoman could do the same. Cohesion is keyCohesion is key in transitional interior design. The elements have to marry each other and combining various styles from different periods can be a task, here are a few ways one can do this:

Living area

A modern living room with modern clean-lined furniture can be made transitional by adding mouldings and cornices on the walls and ceiling, along with adding trims to curtains in neutral tones. Adding traditional art can also turn the living area around to make it warmer and elegant. Alternatively, a traditional living area can be made modern by adding neutral clean sofas in a self-neutral palette, for example, grey on grey.

Dining area

Using a modern dining table and chair setup, offset it with a traditional crystal chandelier and wooden panelling in the backdrop to make a space more transitional. Another traditional accent in an otherwise modern dining space can be classic wood wainscoting. Alternatively, use a traditional dining table and chairs, but upholster the chairs in a modern fabric – geometric prints or plain weaves.


Incorporate a modern bed and add a traditional piece on the bed – and add traditional accessories to make the space more transitional. For example, the use of pop coloured cushions on a daybed. Persian carpets can be a great way to add tradition to any modern room. Blend it together using multiple elements in terms of texture – one can add a traditionally crafted side table with a modern sitting paired with traditional accessories.


Traditional kitchen cabinets can be offset with modern accessories, for example, modern straight lined pendant lights over the central island counter or replacing the island with a lacquered piece. Steel or lacquered glass countertops can also add a contemporary look to an otherwise traditional kitchen. Alternatively, a modern top to bottom kitchen can be turned around by using traditional tiles on the backsplash.


A modern powder bathroom can be turned around by adding an Indian traditional wallpaper and adding a modern touch by using a bold mirror frame. A traditional clawfoot tub can be offset by making the floor underneath pop – a chequerboard flooring or chevron flooring. For a modern bathroom, simple clean lines are key with modern touches of glass, ceramic and wood.

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