Drawing inspiration from the state's relaxed coastal lifestyle, California's design aesthetic is all about balance and wellness. With its warm, light colours and natural textures and lines, California homes feel effortlessly chic. In this article, we will dive deep into understanding the essence of California's interior design identity and explore the main elements that make it so unique. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more professional interior design content.
What is California style interior design?
California's interior design embodies modern elements within a relaxed atmosphere, integrating natural textures, neutral tones, and organic materials. This aesthetic aims to capture the natural beauty of the West Coast, blending sophistication, bohemian vibes, and Southern California cool seamlessly. You can find coastal products on our curated directory.
The history and evolution of California interior design
California's interior design industry boasts a dynamic history that traces back to the early 20th century, spurred by a surge in demand due to population growth. Pioneered by designers like Elsie de Wolfe, the sector underwent notable transformations during the mid-century modern movement, exuding Hollywood glamour, and embracing postmodern trends. The late 20th century witnessed an eclectic fusion of styles, followed by a 21st-century shift towards sustainability, wellness and technological integration. Shaped by the diverse influences of California's multicultural population, the industry has become more regulated, emphasizing education and licensing standards. Throughout its evolution, the California interior design scene has consistently reflected innovation and a deep connection to the state's diverse cultural identity.
Californian interior designers and studios
Renowned for capturing the essence of the state, Californian interior designers infuse sophistication and a hint of bohemian charm into all of their creations. Here are some of the most powerful California-based or California-raised designers operating in the industry right now.
Kelly Wearstler: Based in Los Angeles, Wearstler is celebrated for her bold and eclectic designs. Her work often combines different styles, and she is known for her use of vibrant colors and luxurious materials. Wearstler has worked on various high-profile projects, including hotels, restaurants, and residential spaces.
Nate Berkus: Born in California and now based in Chicago, Berkus has become a prominent figure in the California design scene. He gained widespread recognition through his appearances on television shows, and his design philosophy emphasizes creating spaces that are stylish, neutral and functional.
Barbara Barry: Known for her elegant and timeless designs, Barbara Barry is a well-established interior designer based in Southern California. Her work often incorporates a sense of simplicity and sophistication, and she has now translated her talents to brand consultancy and product development.
What are the main elements of the California aesthetic?
Prioritising natural light
Maximizing natural light within a space is crucial for capturing the essence of California interior design. It creates an inviting and airy ambiance, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living. By embracing natural light, designers enhance the overall openness and connectivity of the living space, infusing a bright and welcoming atmosphere into homes.
The role of warm colours and textures
To capture the California's signature interior design style, it's crucial to embrace warm, neutral colors and textures. Designers do this by limiting their colour palettes to warm neutrals like beige, terracotta and balmy whites, and adding natural elements like wood, linen, and wool. This combination creates a cozy and relaxed atmosphere, embodying the welcoming vibe of California's sophistication and comfort.
Coastal elements, like beach-inspired decorations and natural accessories, play a significant role in enhancing the California interior design aesthetic. Nautical artwork and coastal textiles infuse living spaces with the relaxed and tranquil vibe of the West Coast. Designers often integrate these coastal accents to bring a touch of the beach to interior spaces, creating a sense of natural beauty and calm. The incorporation of coastal elements, ceramics and natural materials adds depth and character to the overall design style, making homes feel inviting and connected to the coastal ambiance. If you are translating California's style to a colder ambiance, make sure to incorporate local artisanship instead of importing California's. This design style is all about authenticity and flexibility, so don't feel too forced to adhere to this point.
Vintage shabby chic elements are a fundamental part of California's unique sensibilities. With notorious brand Magnolia Pearl showing the region's devotion for "shabby chic", it is important for designers to confront their own limitations and allow for more distress in their furniture choices. A scuff on the dining chairs or a lived-in home decor will do more to achieve the California vibe than anything else on this list. It's not "Beverly Hills" chic we're talking about, but true, raw, beautiful Californian style.
Wellness as the guiding force
Incorporating a focus on well-being and tranquility, California interior design emphasizes creating spaces that promote balance and relaxation. Designers prioritize infusing wellness elements to foster a harmonious and serene ambiance, reflecting the holistic approach embraced by California designers. To create a modern interior design that feels like an oasis, we suggest taking inspiration from hotels, spas and other places that represent wellness to your clients.
Space, space... and more space
Embracing a sense of spaciousness is a key characteristic of California interior design (and American styles over all, with the exception of aesthetics local to New York City). Maximized space usage is a priority for California designers; open layouts, a big living room and expansive + interconnected living areas reflect Cali design's emphasis on space – a domineering feature which is scarce in the rest of the world.
Bringing the outdoors in
Bringing the natural environment indoors is a fundamental principle of California interior design. The incorporation of greenery and natural textures plays a pivotal role in establishing a seamless connection with nature within the confines of a home. California style effortlessly integrates outdoor elements to curate a harmonious living environment that encapsulates the essence of the region's lifestyle; fitness, relaxation, beauty.