Decoding Similar Design Motifs: Eclectic vs. Transitional

ProSource | 7/5/2016 | Expert Advice

Eclectic style bravely rewrites the rules of design, mixing old and new, inviting bold and subtle elements to live harmoniously side-by-side. If you enjoy browsing antique sales and fall in love with rescue mutts, the eclectic style is for you.

By the same token, transitional style also dares to be different, but in a casual, tailored way that speaks of understated elegance. If you don’t believe in saving your wedding china for special occasions and you’re not afraid to wear opera length pearls with faded jeans, the transitional style is for you.

Before you decide which your preference is, read on to decode the differences in these two popular design trends and get to the bottom of what makes each of them unique.


Eclectic: An eclectic design is based in a neutral backdrop, but uses a surprising pop of color to set the stage for your unique style. Pair bright colors with pale pastels, mix and match shades of the same color, or keep your palette a basic black and white.

Transitional: Transitional style starts with warm neutrals; think cream, taupe, tan, khaki, or gray. Add a touch of a darker shade, such as chocolate or espresso brown, to ground your palette.


Eclectic: Texture is an important element in an eclectic design. And eclectic rooms juxtapose smooth and rough textures harmoniously. But there is no hard and fast rule about which textures or fabrics work best. Choose what appeals to you and let your unique style shine through.

Transitional: The transitional design palette loves coarsely woven fabrics. Natural fibers such as leather, sisal, burlap, chenille and rattan have tactile appeal and will fit in well. Just remember to stick to a limited number of textures so as not to overwhelm your space. Elegance is an essential element of this style.


Eclectic: Choose a few fundamental pieces to anchor your space, and pick repeatable shapes to carry throughout a room: start with a round ottoman and side tables, then add round mirrors and frames. Throw in a contrasting shape – a modern rectangular desk, for example – for balance. Furniture is another way to tell your unique story; turn an antique ceramic urn into a side table or your great-grandfather’s work cabinet into a modern-day curio.

Transitional: Transitional furnishings have crisp profiles and straightforward style. A mix of gentle curves and rigid lines mix well together in a transitional room and work to create positive energy. Look for updated versions of antique styled furnishings and be sure to keep the scale large enough to feel inviting and the seating comfortable enough to sink into without a second thought.

Cabinets, Countertops And Fixtures

Eclectic: Stick with granite or marble countertops to add elegance, or choose concrete or stainless steel for a trendier look in an eclectic kitchen. A colorful mosaic tile backsplash adds a pop of color. And don’t be afraid to mix cabinet finishes for a modern touch.

Transitional: Blend traditional wood or stone with modern stainless steel, or pair paneled cabinetry with minimalist hardware. Transitional style borrows from other design aesthetics: an apron-front sink from a cottage-style perhaps. What doesn’t work here is ornate millwork or painted tiles. A transitional kitchen relies on more contemporary touches.

The Extras

Eclectic: Eclectic design is all about you. The accessories with which you fill your room should tell your unique story. The wagon wheel you confiscated from your trip down south when you got lost and had to hitchhike your way back to civilization; the signed print a sidewalk artist presented you with in exchange for that novel under your arm when you stopped to ask for directions; the wine caddy-turned-plant stand from your first date. Frame your favorite albums and faded concert posters for a peak into your past.

Transitional: Transitional design lacks ornamentation, preferring instead a simple purity of form. Strong, clean lines rules here. Your artwork is unadorned and your lighting is functional. Less is more in a transitional room, and as a judicious editor of accessories, you place only necessary elements in your space. But that doesn’t mean you can’t show off your own unique style, it’s just a subtler way of doing so.

You can scan completed projects in both designs to find inspiration for your home, and add the images to the myProSource Project Center.

Whether your design tastes lean towards the quirky eclectic, or more functional transitional, you can find the perfect flooring, cabinets, cabinet hardware and more at your local ProSource Showroom. Stop in and let our kitchen and bath designers help you create the perfect room to suit your favorite design preference today.

Tile Cabinet Hardware Cabinets Countertops Kitchen Sinks Basement Bathroom Bedroom Dining Entertainment Entry/Hallway Kids Room Kitchen Laundry Living Room Media Room Office Design