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Homes That Define California Casual Style
15 ways to achieve the laid-back West Coast style.
You don't have to call California home (or even live on the coast) to admire this effortlessly cool style, which is warm yet clean-lined and carefully layered. Defined by a light and breezy aesthetic that calls to mind the bright California sunshine, the carefree style has a few design hallmarks: neutral color palettes, relaxed furniture in cozy fabrics, and natural textural elements. Because so much of life in California is lived outside, these laid-back interiors often blur the line between inside and out. Naturally, the right lighting goes a long way to completing the look-just ask the interior designers who dreamed up the following California Casual-inspired spaces, using Visual Comfort table lamps, pendants, wall sconces, and chandeliers to tie it all together.
Add a Touch of Drama
California Casual might be all about bright whites and subtle neutrals, but the bold black-and-white marble countertops and backsplash along with the dramatic black hood and cabinets in this Barta Interiors designed kitchen adds just enough drama to create intrigue. And with a more relaxed look, the Henry Industrial Hanging Light from Thomas O'Brien keeps the kitchen from feeling too austere. Photographer: True O'Neill
Incorporate Warm Wood
Everywhere from open shelving in the kitchen to built-in bookcases in the living room, warm wood can be used to add texture while also softening the overall effect of the space. In this Barta Interiors designed library office, for example, honey-colored wood built-ins paired with the Sommerard Large Triple Arm Chandelier from AERIN yield a room that feels both edgy and sophisticated but also creative and inviting. Photographer: True O'Neill
Set a Mood
Atmosphere is everything when it comes to delivering on the California Casual look. And in this warm and welcoming dining room designed by Tara Wahl—with its raw wood kitchen table and chairs, soft neutral walls, and the black ironwork on both the casually elegant Piaf Grande Chandelier from Thomas O'Brien and the glass-fronted china cabinet-it's easy to imagine lively dinners and lazy multi-course lunches over a bottle of good California chardonnay.
Give a Nod to Mid-Century
Embrace the clean lines and sculptural nature of vintage (or vintage-inspired) mid-century modern furniture, but keep the space from feeling like a Mad Men set or retro Palm Springs ranch by adding tactile elements and comfortable soft goods. Here, in a cozy breakfast nook designed by Kira David Design, the Charlton Large Triple Arm Chandelier from AERIN adds a touch of the twenty-first century. Photographer: Margaret Rajic
Keep It Neutral
A neutral color palette doesn't have to be boring-or cold. Instead, use it as an opportunity to play with texture and tone and create quieter moments of drama with elements like this Halo Medium Hanging Shade from Barbara Barry that anchors this bright contemporary kitchen by Serendipite Designs. Photographer: Chad Mellon
Include Organic Elements
Creating layers of organic elements and natural materials—as in this cooly sophisticated bedroom vignette designed by Kate Marker Interiors, with its mid-century-inspired rattan bedside table coupled with the primitive lines of the Nero Large Table Lamp from Kelly Wearstler is one way to bring the outside in, a trademark of the California Casual style. Photographer: Margaret Rajic
Bring In Plants
Another simple way to incorporate the outdoors into your kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, or any other interior is to bring in greenery. Ferns and potted plants, cut flowers, foraged branches, even small ornamental trees (as in this dreamy Kate Lester Interiors bathroom, which features the Beaumont Medium Tail Sconce from AERIN) imbue the room with laidback energy and a dose of life. Photographer: Amy Bartlam
Accent with Worn Leather
A great worn caramel leather works perfectly in these laid-back spaces. Its easy-to-care-for and relaxed nature exudes an unpretentious beauty and adds a touch of warmth to any room. In this graphic vignette designed by Dan Mazzarini, an antique chair with a simple leather cushion plays in perfect contrast to the playful and polished Linden Table Lamp from Kelly Wearstler. Photographer: Adam Kane Macchia
Look to Nature for Inspiration
In the natural world, inspiration is everywhere—especially in California, where the landscape ranges from redwood forests to fertile farmland to the rocky Pacfic coast to the arid Mojave desert and the soaring Sierra Nevada Mountains. So it's no surprise that the environment is a primary source of inspiration in California Casual design, utilizing many of the same earth tones and rough organic textures found there. In this Tara Wahl-designed space, the Brooks Table Lamp from J.Randall Powers provides a sleek counterpoint to the room's many natural elements.
Choose an Earth Tones
Yes, the California Casual style favors white and subdued neutrals, but accenting with earth tones (muted blues and greens as well as dusty reds and pinks) that recall the world outside helps to create serene interior spaces that are easy on the eyes like this peaceful bedroom retreat designed by Joe Lucas, featuring the Gaios Table Lamp and Mill Large Globe Lantern from AERIN. Photographer: Karyn Millet
Take a Minimalist Approach
With an appreciation for clean contemporary lines and uncluttered simplicity, the California Casual style is an easy breezy take on minimalism, where spaces feel both well-edited and warm. In bathrooms, marble and brass are popular, but take a page from designer Jaclyn Peters notebook, and drop a few more personal elements—a vintage rug, a bit of greenery, or a unique light fixture like the Clemente Double Sconce from AERIN. Photographer: Ariana Tennyson
Make the Most of Natural Light
Accustomed to more clear sunny days than not, Californians know how to embrace natural light as illustrated here in this beautiful vignette designed by Kelly Hurliman Design. Designed to reflect all that glorious sunlight, the California Casual style's signature white walls help illuminate the space and direct the eyes outside. Add stylish understated light fixtures like these Palati Small Sconce from Ian K. Fowler to augment natural light and set the mood after dark. Photographer: Ariana Tennyson
Create Intimacy with Layers
A sculptural chair. A tone-on-tone rug. A touchable collection of fabrics on soft goods and furniture. A worn leather accent or two. A really great light fixture such as this Mayotte Large Offset Floor Lamp from AERIN. Use layers to up the cozy factor in California Casual-style living spaces similar to inviting room by Pulp Design Studios.
Carve Out a Cool Kitchen
California Casual kitchens are convivial community spaces, where friends and family are most likely to gather. These are working kitchens, but they're also effortlessly beautiful like this Kate Lester Interiors example, featuring the Alborg Large Stacked Pendant from Chapman & Myers and a West Coast update on the classic blue-and-white coastal color palette. Photographer: Amy Bartlam
Mix Patterns
In the California Casual style, bold swathes of bright colors are eschewed in favor of muted neutrals and discriminating bursts of blue and green hues as well as other earth tones. But don't be afraid to mix patterns in a single colorway to create added interest as in this Kim Scodro Interiors dining nook, featuring the Cara Medium Sculpted Pendant from Ralph Lauren. Photographer: Laura Moss

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