Transitional Style

Mixing it up

Share this MCMD post with your friends!

Above picture: A two arm wall mounted light designed by Serge Mouille in 1954 keeping company quite nicely with a new sideboard from B&B Italia, all against a classic French Second Empire backdrop. Photo: Roger Lum. 

There is no such thing as purity in design. To suggest that design is ‘pure’ is to say that an object exists without influence or to say that it is not the product of the ongoing evolution of design and its various manifests. All design is very much a product of that which has come before and to suggest otherwise is nonsense. The only thing that is pure in design puritanism is that it is purely academic. Even within the umbrella term of ‘Modernist’ design there are many schools of thought and design approaches but when these various schools come together under one roof the result can be impressive, striking, and sometimes shocking.


In the Paris home of musician Lenny Kravitz the bedroom showcases a broad range of styles and periods from the 1970’s Pace bed, an ‘Elda’ chair designed by Joe Colombo in 1963, and a Paul Evans ‘Sculpted Front’ wall-mounted sideboard. Photo: Elle Decor

Sometimes called ‘transitional style’ this term is often ascribed to rooms featuring Modern designs from different periods, a tradition home furnished in Modernist design, or a home with an eclectic collection of design, mass-market items, and found objects. The cohesion of this approach lies entirely with the collector as these mixed style rooms perhaps best show the design ‘gestalt’ of the individuals who live in these wonderful spaces.

Here are a few examples of those who know how to mix it up.

A Marco Zanuso Lady chair, first made by Artflex in 1948, mixes well with a Victorian rug so worn as to have become an abstract graphic over a classic 19th century herringbone floor. Photo: Marie Claire

A perfect example of mixed styles with classic mid century modern pieces in a French Provincial room. Shown are an LCM chair by the Eames’, side table/fruit bowl and ‘Papa’ Chair by Hans Wegner, and floor lamp by Arne Jacobsen.

A Charles and Ray Eames lounge, a pair of Eames’ LCW chairs, and the classic Noguchi coffee table seem right at home in this early 20th century Arts and Crafts home. Photo: Herman Miller

A Finn Juhl ‘Poet Sofa’ (1941), a White Verner Panton ‘VP Globe’ (1969), and an Arne Jacobsen floor lamp (1958) lend civilivity to this former late 19th century New York office/warehouse. Photo:

A ‘Kite’ floor lamp, designed by Pierre Guariche and made by Disderot of France, (1952), and a model ‘M 141’ desk , designed by Pierre Paulin and manufactured by Thonet, (1954) works well in this 19th century apartment. Photo:

The decor of this house designed by Richard Neutra in 1957 seems a testament to 1960’s op art and plastic fantastic futurism with the rug, wall light panels, and ceiling lamp designed by Verner Panton (1960’s) but it’s tempered nicely with the simple wooden elegance of Hans Wegner’s dining table with 3-legged chairs which were designed in 1949. Photo: Architectural Digest

A home office in an 8,000 square foot Central Park West penthouse, with a pair of Yrjo Kukkapuro lounge chairs (1962) in front of a Fabricius and Kastholm desk (1960) in a room that seems to be a mash up of early 20th century American Craftsman meets Edwardian Baroque.

Mixing it up nicely with Eero Saarine’s ‘Tulip’ chairs (1956) and a ‘Bubble’ Lamp designed in 1952 by William Renwick, of George Nelson and Associates, in this late 19th century apartment in Paris. Photo: Stephanie Ross

In this collector’s home, is a Danish 1950’s teak credenza sharing the space with a brightly colored chair designed by Joe Colombo and produced by Kartell of Italy in 1964.

It is perhaps the French who have mastered the mixed style look and while the furnishings of this home stay within the same time period, they beautifully compliment the Haussmannian interior of this Parisian home.

Loosely hung batik art over a (slightly) Baroque fireplace keeps perfect company with the classic Charles and Ray Eames lounge and a Grant Featherston (green) chair – both 1950’s. Photo: Fears and Kahn


Check out these great books!

0 0
Article Rating
oldest most voted
9 years ago

As always, your posts and articles are well researched, thought provoking and provide beautiful examples. This article on transitional style is one of my favorites yet as it provides great inspiration for exploring style outside of the so called defined ‘design boxes’. Well made pieces, irregardless of who/when can be fantastic when mixed with care & personal touches. I’ll take an eclectic home with real character & personally curated pieces over a ‘showcase’ design any day. Thank you & I look forward to reading MCM daily on a regular basis.

9 years ago

This article on “transitional” style was super–inspirational and enlightening. For one, it help clarify for me all of the usages of the term “transitional” within contemporary design jargon. The examples given really showed the different depth of where the style can be taken, and that the consistency of this “style” relies as much or more on the methods of choosing and arranging than the objects themselves.

DC Hillier
9 years ago

Thank you, Hari!

9 years ago

You are welcome, and I also want you to know how much I really like all the French influence that you cite in this magazine. After reading a recent article in the Telegraph on the contemporary French designer/stylist Jean-Baptiste Moutte, I have taken a particular interest in the French attitude and approach to modern design. curates an amazing collection of French designs, including some truly epic mid-century pieces.