I am regularly asked where my design style and inspiration comes from. My style is often described as ‘coastal’, even though I currently live in central Texas. My taste has been defined by the places I have lived, which include seven states and three countries. Those personal experiences have allowed me to appreciate a number of design approaches. I do have to admit a sweet spot, though, for my time in California and the homes which are there. I am going to share some of the key elements of ‘California Style’ which have influenced by design approach.
Scott and I were lucky enough to live in Orange County, which is in Southern California (south of LA, north of San Diego). We owned three houses there, probably because we had the habit of visiting model homes on the weekends and “ohhing” and “ahhing” over the great design. The homes were never very large, but they were full of usable space. The floorplans were always open and the indoors and outdoors flowed seamlessly with french doors and year round perfect weather.
The weather lends itself to that casual lifestyle- you may go to the beach in the morning and a friend’s pool in the afternoon. It is a wonderful area to walk to local shops and restaurants because the weather is sunny and comfortable year-round. There are a number of fabulous home stores in boutique settings. When we lived in San Clemente we loved to park on Del Mar Street (near the Pier) and walk to all the little home stores, including Christopher Lee Ltd.
In the Newport Beach area we loved Juxtaposition Home, Tuvalu Home, Barclay Butera and Les Interieur. It is a lot easier to decorate a beautiful space when you have good resources. These shops all carried a mix of quality items (real wood furniture), livable upholstery (even white slipcovered sofas), and interesting accents (unique lamps, pillows).
California is the residential base for many individuals that appreciate design. It is the home of many luxury automobile designers, clothing and athletic sportswear (Oakley, Roxy) and even electronics designers, such as Apple. I believe having this many creative minds in one place lends itself to the interior design culture in Southern California which places designing the interior and exterior of one’s home as a priority.
It isn’t about being ‘showy’, but it is about really enjoying life as you live it everyday. As a result, California Style can generally be described as casual, comfortable, open, airy and relaxing.
Color palettes are often neutral or inspired by the colors of the ocean: sand, sea blue, sea glass green, soft yellow and white. It was rare to see a home with bold, bright colors or even jewel tones. Floors were often sisal or seagrass covered, upholstery in durable white denim slipcovers and wood pieces often had a lot of ‘character’ (meaning not your grandmother’s precious dining table). There were never any worries about kids tracking in sand or scratching up tables that are meant to be kept perfect forever.
The laid back atmosphere allowed homeowners to kick back and just enjoy every day living, a concept which I think we could all benefit from in our hectic lives. In my interior design, I have tried to incorporate this light palette, airy atmosphere and laid back living for myself and for my clients that want that look. I would suggest you consider incorporating some of the elements of ‘California Style’ into your space to improve your happiness with your environment.