No matter where you live, the California style is and always will be perennially popular. It combines clean lines, natural elements, and just a touch of color for a fresh and cool look. Like Californians themselves, this trend brings in elements of what’s “all the rage” right now and adds a sophisticated flair by knowing just when to stop so it doesn’t go over the top.
When I use California style as my design inspiration, I start with a clean canvas and paint with lots of layers, textures, and lighting options to create a style that’s as timeless as the Painted Ladies in San Francisco.
White, White, and More White
California interior design always begins with a blank canvas, and to me, that means white paint. Okay, maybe you can get away with a creamy beige! The point is to use as many variations of white in your color palette as possible because at the heart of California style is tons of light.
When using this style as design inspiration, think about the set of a Nancy Meyers film. White walls, white furniture, white cabinets.
There is a caveat, though, and that is to always include a dark contrast – dark window frames, an unexpected wrought iron light figure, dark granite countertop, or a mirror framed in a strikingly dark color.
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Layer for Additional Texture
With all the lightness in the design, you must bring in dimension and warmth with layers of texture. The easiest way to do that? Rugs!
I love adding rugs to my designs and the California style is very accepting of rugs. Most California-inspired designs will use hardwood and tile flooring, so rugs are both stylish and practical. And layering rugs is a great way to achieve a California feel.
You can keep things neutral or add a pop of color with your rugs. Whatever you do, make sure it feels relaxed and cool. Vintage-style rugs are perfect because they’re casual and worn-in, but just stylish enough to show off your personality.
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Layering decor and art is another favorite California style trick of mine. You can do this with coffee tables, book cases, and entryway console tables, but my favorite is a mantle.
Start with a blank mantle. Lean a large framed piece of art in the middle. Then, prop other pieces of art in varying sizes against the main photo in the back, making sure you can see most of each piece. Add a plant and you’ve achieved the perfect casual-and-cool layered decor look.
Ground Your California Style Design with Natural Elements
Every California style picture on Pinterest shows white walls, tons of light, and leather or wood accents. With all that light decor, you must bring in elements to anchor the look. Wood, leather, and other masculine materials add some much-needed depth to the light California look.
Consider leather club chairs or ottomans, a mid-century modern console table in a gorgeous natural wood, rattan rug, and wicker accents to add the perfect balance of masculine and feminine. As I said: Balance!
In the kitchen, you can ground the look of white subway tile and light upper cabinets with dark bottom cabinets, a butcher-block-topped island, leather-backed bar-height stools, or uniquely-colored appliances.
Bring in the Outdoors
Along with natural elements like leather and wood, California style brings as much of the outdoors in as possible. After all, when you live in California, you could get away with living outside 90% of the time!
Californians love to add striking plants and live, lush foliage to their home designs. Fiddle leaf figs, monsteras, and other tall tropical plants are on-trend and perfect for a Cali-inspired look.
Just make sure you’re giving plants the right amount of light and water they specifically need. Californians do not tolerate dead plants in their homes. It’s bad for the feng shui. (And it just looks atrocious. The key here is live plants!
Use Trends – But Not Too Many
Round mirrors, monster plants, and mid-century modern… oh my! Californians love trends. It’s 75 degrees all the time. Why do they need Ugg boots? Because they’re trendy, that’s why!
Good California style takes the trends just to the edge without going overboard. You don’t want to have so many pieces of matching mid-century modern furniture that your living room looks like the set of Mad Men. Bring in one or two trends as an accent to make your design fresh and cool.
Again, rugs are a great way to use trends without being “trendy.” You can layer them on top of each other, then just roll them up and donate them when you’re done with the look.
They key with trends is to buy the best quality item that you can afford, otherwise the look will come off more “something’s gotta give” than Something’s Gotta Give.
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California style is fresh, clean, and modern. When adding the California style to your home, think about investing in quality pieces and only showcase what you love to keep your room as sleek and clutter-free as possible. By all means, show off your personality in your design with the accents you bring in, but do so thoughtfully and intentionally.
At the heart of California style is a gracious way of living that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a feeling as much as it is an interior design. It isn’t a fussy look, and, as I’ve mentioned many times in this post, “casual” is a key element. The look is inviting and welcomes you to prop your feet up with a glass of white (no red wine with all that white upholstery please!) and get comfortable.