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  • Ryan Hogue

Style Battles: Contemporary vs Transitional

Updated: Aug 4, 2023


Many people get modern interior and contemporary confused. While modern design refers to a specific period, contemporary basically means now and is always changing and advancing with the times. Especially in the day and age where technological advances seem to be coming by the day as opposed to the year. Contemporary is always upgrading and evolving. But with that change comes greater comfort, style, practicality. We live in a day and age where technology has drastically changed our daily lives. In contemporary homes these advances make your home more and more interactive and exciting as the years go on. Some may see contemporary styles as cold or minimalist but others see it as clean and spacious with no clutter or darkness.

So what exactly is contemporary design? “Fundamentally, a contemporary style of decorating is defined by simplicity, subtle sophistication, deliberate use of texture, and clean lines. Interiors tend to showcase space rather than things.” How is this accomplished? It starts with colors. Neutrals and whites are the main colors used in contemporary design. With black here and there to ground or define a room. While this may sound boring, accents are usually bright and bold and play off of the neutral walls. These make a statement and look great surrounded by neutral colors.

One of the main features is the use of lines. Whether vertical, horizontal, curved or any variation, contemporary style will emphasize lines and geometric shapes. In the furniture, the accents, everything. But with contemporary the key is less is more. Furniture is often bold but simple. And remember there is a focus on lack of clutter. Use of natural materials is common. Wood, metal glass and stone are commonly found. So furniture shouldn’t have skirts or anything that covers the wood, brass, steel legs of the furniture. Floors are usually wood, tile or vinyl. Bold rugs are often used to add flare to the floors. Recessed and track lighting highlighting art pieces or accessories.

One of the best things about contemporary is once you have it done, even though it is ever changing it is easy to update. Your house will be clean and spacious and have little clutter. You will be able to get the most out of your house with this style. It’s open and everything has its place and function. It will never go out of style and in a day and world where we are spending so much time inside and especially those working from home, a clean open space will help with productivity and organization.


With the last installment of 2020 interior design trends we take a look at transitional design. Transition design is named because it's a mixture of modern and traditional elements. Basically taking two styles and putting them in one place in a way they work together. In 2020, interior designers are finding a lot of clients don’t want to be restricted by one style and want to forget the rules and create their own space. Transitional is set apart by mixing and matching things you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see together. It takes curved furnishings and straight lined finishes and balances a both masculine and feminine look. It is not scattered or cluttered, the room should have few accessories and present a more clean open look with a neutral color as the base.

You want to keep your main colors neutral so the lines and the furniture can make the biggest statements. Your furnishings and fabrics are adding the artful details to the room and sometimes more accents and accessories can overwhelm the eye. The art you do use should be sparingly but large and impactful. One large piece looks much more cohesive than numerous small pieces.. Texture is another mainstay of this style. Textural elements such as glass, wood and metal will give you exactly what you’re looking for. Scale is important as you want to keep most of your furnishings and accessories relatively close in size, apart from a few focal pieces such as coffee tables, dining room tables or sofas.

Dining rooms mainly consist of a modern dining room table and chairs. However the cushions can be upholstered with a traditional style fabric. The furnishings should be traditional with modern lighting fixtures to offset them. Steel lighting fixtures with exposed bulbs are a great touch. In the bedroom many chose to go with a traditional headboard like a curved one and pair it with more modern bedding, side tables and lighting. Most kitchens will already have traditional style cabinets so this lets you get creative with modern accessories and lighting in the kitchen. Steel countertops are a great way to achieve this. The bathroom will most likely have a traditional shower/tub so you can use metal, glass and wood to accent the bathroom and get that perfect match of old and new.

Transitional style interior design is all about balance. You’re mixing to different styles so your decisions have to be careful to make sure they can appropriately mesh together. With the different styles, things like color, shape and size should be more cohesive. Color is a great way to make two different things blend together smoothly. This style is great because you have more freedom to be you and ignore the rules of a single style. This also opens it up to be more affordable as you have a larger array of options to choose from.

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