How to Decorate a Transitional Living Room in 2023

how to decorate a transitional living room

A transitional living room is designed to marry two separate styles: traditional and contemporary. The styles vary greatly. A traditional living room, at least in the United States, is a continuation of the interior 18th and 19th century European styles. A contemporary living room strives to be modern and more neo-European, or even postmodern. 

But what does this mean in simple terms?

In general, a traditional home will have wooden furniture, tons of millwork, and colors designed to be calm and soothing. A contemporary style is the exact opposite. It tends to use texture, clean lines, geometric shapes, and often a combination of stark and bold colors. Simplicity is ideal, while more traditional styles are complex.

Combining these two looks creates a transitional living room, which manages to be fun and exciting while still being comfortable and relaxing. This look can be difficult to create, but is definitely worth it, especially if you and your partner enjoy different styles but want to live together. 

Transitional Living Room – What to Look For

The greatest challenge in creating a transitional living room is figuring out how to decorate it, especially with so many options available. You can’t just split the room down the middle and have one half be traditional and the other contemporary, although it is tempting to save on the headache. Luckily, there are a few options that stand out for making the most ideal and visually pleasing transitional living room possible.


transitional living room colors

Color is important because it sets the entire tone of a room. People often use blue to be calming and soothing, green or brown to give an earthy vibe to an area, and red to be vibrant and dramatic. When it comes to being transitional, some ideal color is actually a lack thereof.

You read that correctly.

Because this style marries traditional and contemporary, it avoids the pastels of the old world and the vibrancy of the new by focusing instead on deep neutrals that evoke relaxation while still being eye-catching.

Some examples would be deep, dark, chocolate browns. These are comfortable because they don’t unsettle or excite, but they also stand out against more bare options like white. Gray is another popular choice, as is taupe, some dark greens, and even deep red.


transitional living room furniture

Furniture is also important. A clawed sofa definitely has an old world feel but isn’t modern enough for transitional rooms. Instead, you should look at choices that combine both sides of the geometric spectrum: curves and straight lines.

Some interior decorators call this matching the feminine with the masculine. It’s like marrying a strict coffee table with round footrests and sofa cushions. The idea is to have something soft with something harsh to combine the preferences of the traditional and contemporary.

There are no special pieces to buy to truly convey the transitional nature of furniture, so don’t be afraid to get creative. If you want a comfy leather couch with round arms, go for it. Just consider having straight tables and maybe some bookshelves to offset it. A popular piece is the recliner, which combines old world comfort with new world tech. It looks and feels great.

Potential Fabrics

The whole idea of contemporary design is incorporating texture, while the traditional favors plain fabrics. To compromise, use pieces that utilize leather, velvet, suede, or nubby chenille. These add patches of texture to the room and stay true to being transitional.

If you want, consider also adding texture to other elements of the room. Distressed woods, smooth metals, and exposed brick all work well to adding little dots of character to the otherwise neutral tone set by the colors of a transitional living room.


Accessorizing is often a person’s favorite part, and one of the greatest aspects of going with a transitional living room is that there are tons of options. The sky is pretty much the limit. The key is to focus only on a couple of pieces though to avoid giving the room a cluttered appearance.

One popular element is the use of canvas photos, which display the owner’s unique personality by showcasing favored imagery. Do you like flowers? The ocean? Loved ones? A celebrity? All can be blown up on the photo to draw the eye to what’s important in your life.

Other common elements are singular flowers, such as the colorful orchid; ornate metal candlesticks; handmade cloth coasters; even unusual pieces like decorative fire extinguishers, small figurines of animals, and glassware. Just remember to only use a couple of items to truly pull off the transitional look.

What it Conveys

When someone uses the transitional style to decorate their living room, it says they are not given to extremes and enjoy their freedom. You don’t want to invest in being too traditional or contemporary. Instead, you want to be comfortable but still have elements of the modern world that remind you of what’s outside.

Some may say the transitional is the most grounded of the styles. It doesn’t live in the past or focus too much on a cold future. It’s homey in the best way, and means you enjoy having the freedom to make your own decisions.

No wonder it’s rapidly becoming a modern day favorite.


Decorating a transitional living room is great because there are so many opportunities. Although there are a few limitations to truly create this style, it’s up to you to decide where you want to be traditional and where you would like to be contemporary. 

The freedom and power are yours. If you want a gray and white room of elephants and nubby fabrics, then it’s yours. If you want something that is dark red but filled with shiny chrome and round leather couches, then it will be yours as well.

This article has some advice to truly pull together the transitional living room in 2019, but you don’t have to follow it exactly. Remember to express yourself and see just how beautiful the room can be.

traditional living room ideas
Photo of author
Aaron Green
Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. He likes to spend his spare time with his family, and doing DIY projects in the home and garden.

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