5 Designer Tips for How To Nail ‘California Cool’ Decor

Jerome Powell

Need a fresh, relaxed take on your home’s decor? “California cool” decor will do that for you, just like a cool breeze from the sea.

“California cool decor is one of the best options for a gorgeously curated space,” says Southern California native Breegan Jane, a celebrity interior designer and Legrand brand ambassador. “It epitomizes the laid-back, carefree, beachy sensibility of the region while mixing in a bit of the glamour Hollywood and L.A. are known for. California cool is eclectic and chic without trying too hard.”

You’ve probably run into California cool interiors while scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through your favorite shelter magazine. The classic attributes are creamy white hues, natural textiles like linen and jute, and a vintage rug (likely sourced from the local flea market). But if you’ve ever been interested in capturing this aesthetic and making it work in your own home, here are the top tenets you need to follow.

1. Go airy and light

Photo by KM Design Co.
California, especially Southern California, is synonymous with surf and sun. So it only makes sense that California cool decor embodies a warm, open, airy atmosphere.

“We achieve this by creating light-filled spaces and using bright and uplifting colors,” says Mary Maydan, founder and principal at Maydan Architects.

Embrace the natural light in your space by hanging flowing curtains in linen or cotton that’ll filter—not block—the light.

Also, choose fabric for your sofa and other upholstered pieces that feels comfortable and inviting.

“We also like to incorporate linen, preferably performance fabric that looks like linen but can be cleaned easily,” says Maydan.

“Think Hamptons meets Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein—linens, natural oak tones, layers of texture, and raw materials—where old meets new,” says Eilyn Jimenez, founder and creative director of Sire Design.

2. Buy local

Photo by Electric Bowery
Take a stroll through your neighborhood flea markets, farmers markets, and estate sales to find affordable items like beach-themed artwork, woven baskets, or pottery to enhance your decor.

“I am a strong believer in purchasing pieces of quality that can evolve with time. This is why I urge my clients to shop vintage and find furniture and accessories with character,” says Jimenez.

Hunting for treasures should also land you at antiques shops where you can discover great finds.

“I believe that luxury can and should be attainable for everyone, and items don’t have to be expensive to look elegant,” says Jane. “I love going antiquing for unique and special finds that you just can’t find on the shelves of big-box stores.”

3. Be eco-friendly

Photo by SHAPESIDE

Many Californians are all about reducing their carbon footprint, and that principle is also reflected in California cool decor.

“We only have one Earth, and it’s important that we all do our part to keep it healthy,” says Jane, who is a Sustainable Furnishings Council ambassador and helps bring awareness to environmentally sustainable practices across the home furnishings industry.

Smart home products can help you live a more energy-efficient lifestyle.

“Legrand’s adorne energy-saving on/off wall outlet ($24.98, Amazon) allows you to cut the power to the outlet when you’re not using it in order to conserve energy. Devices like this make it easy to go green,” says Jane.

Also, consider saving your kitchen scraps and getting into the habit of composting. You can use the finished compost mix to revitalize your garden or lawn.

4. Invest in livable luxury

Photo by Amber Interiors
“Rather than fast furniture, like Ikea, look to purchase pieces of quality that can evolve with you and your homes,” says Jimenez.

Although they won’t be cheap, a vintage Turkish rug or a custom-made, reclaimed-wood coffee table will last for years, so they’re worth the investment.

“Investing in a rug that can hold heavy foot traffic is very smart. Any design selection that adds beauty and style, and is durable and doesn’t have to be guarded and make the space feel like a museum, is worth spending money on,” says Maydan.

She also recommends splurging on a sofa since it’s a dominant item in the living room. She suggests a neutral-colored sofa that won’t go out of style and can be accessorized with colorful pillows and throws.

Jimenez encourages putting your budget toward focal points like artwork, a wall hanging, or a mirror.

“Vintage pieces, found items, and family heirlooms are definitely trending,” she says.

5. Bring the outdoors in

Photo by Lorin Hill, Architect
Nailing California cool decor means fostering a strong indoor-outdoor flow throughout your home.

“Since we spent so much of 2020 indoors, feeling connected to nature is more important than ever. Bringing nature into the home—or creating a better view of nature through the windows and doors—helps create a calm and uplifting space,” says Maydan.

For example, Jimenez uses bifold slider doors that open to the backyard to create a seamless transition between nature and the inside of the home.

Jane suggests using natural elements to bring the outside in, including stone in countertops and backsplashes, as well as rattan and wood in furnishings.

“Search for items that have earthy qualities and feel as if you’ve picked them up from your travels,” says Jane. “These tips will give your space an organic, lived-in feeling each time you enter the space.”

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