In interior design and furniture, transitional style, which is also sometimes referred to as updated classic, classic with a contemporary twist, or new takes on old classics, is a blending of traditional and modern design styles that gives a fresh take on familiar forms. A quick perusal of interior design and home renovation sites, such as HGTV or Houzz, will return a bounty of photos for design inspiration, and the majority of those ideas reflect transitional style. Designing homes in transitional architectural styles is a growing trend and a natural progression towards homes that read as a whole from out to in.

Like transitional interior design and furniture, taking traditional architectural styles, such as Farmhouse, Spanish or Tuscan, and making them feel more contemporary by blending elements of modern design characterizes transitional architectural style. While homeowners are free to design the interiors of their home according to their preferences, most architects and homebuilders have other considerations they must address. Beyond the obvious that homes must appeal to potential homebuyers, architects and homebuilders are accountable to the design guidelines of municipal jurisdictions and the cost of materials not to mention the variety—or sometimes the lack thereof—of materials offered by vendors.

A current project of ours for Taylor Morrison in the Pacifica San Juan community of San Juan Capistrano, California, is a perfect example of this trend and some of the challenges associated with designing homes during a time in which architectural styles are changing, yet, design guidelines can get trapped in time. Sitting atop a bluff with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, we created unique floor plan designs that offer every home an ocean view in this community. Accordingly, we made use of expansive glass with rear yards and rooftop decks to get the most of the views as well as provide the indoor/outdoor lifestyle that the Southern California climate makes so appealing year round. We started with Cape Cod and Farmhouse styles for their steep roof pitches, which allowed us to tuck in a third floor while still staying within height restrictions. Because the intent is to design the house as a whole with four-sided architecture, it doesn’t make sense to have the backside of the house that looks contemporary because of the expansive glass with a front that is very traditional. We resolved this by retaining the concept of the traditional style, blending it with modern design elements, such as simple, clean line massing, corner windows, cable railings, tight eaves, barn door shutters, and corrugated metal awnings.

When our transitional designs were first presented to the City, we encountered a fair amount of skepticism. Contemporary architecture didn't fit into their design guidelines. However, when we explained both the concept of transitional architecture and the site specific and contextual reasons behind those design decisions, it made sense to them. The project was unanimously approved. 

The trend towards contemporary design styles is much larger than the homebuilding industry. From the clean, sleek lines of the technology devices that we carry and now even wear to the minimalist movement that is leading people in simplifying and decluttering their lives, homebuyer preferences will continue to shift towards contemporary design styles. It takes the whole team—planners, architects, homebuilders, interior designers, landscape architects, vendors, and municipalities—to deliver homes that are relevant to homebuyers, now and into the future. 

By Ryan White, DAHLIN

Ryan White specializes in the innovative architectural design of many building types and specializes in the design of single-family homes with a keen eye for the future families who will reside within. He has lent his efforts to domestic and international designs, and leads R&D efforts within the Southern California region. Ryan manages projects and designers within the region ensuring superior service to our existing and new clients.