Graphic Wallpaper and Sculptural Chairs: An LA Family Home That Wows
Forget what you know about West Coast style.
Published May 4, 2019 7:00 AM
Over the years, the term “California style” may have become synonymous with a very specific image of an interior: One devoid of color, coated exclusively in white, including a series of rattan peacock chairs and botanical leaf motifs, and potentially even featuring a neon sign with the words “Born to Be Wild” written in glowing pink. We have Instagram to thank for this cliché, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Real West Coast style follows a simple formula: Incorporating natural materials in organic shapes, topped off with a few whimsical accent pieces. It’s anything but boring, and this Los Angeles family home is the perfect example of elevated California-cool.
Designed by Chango & Co. for a family swapping Connecticut for California, this project was the company’s first venture on the West Coast. As such, they wanted to fully embrace the lifestyle. Following a renovation to create an open floor plan, Creative director Susana Simonpietri and her team went about peppering elements of the surrounding area into the 8,500-square-foot space.
“We feel that the easy-going, ‘less-is-more’ approach to coastal homes that we’ve established for many years on the East Coast has lent itself perfectly to the design in California,” explains Simonpietri. Sophisticated takes on expected West Coast staples rule: Consider the woven leather living room chairs in place of rattan, the vintage-inspired surfboards hanging in the dining room, and the incredible amount of color and pattern introduced to the home’s smaller rooms through wallpaper.
Despite generally embracing a neutral color scheme, the home features tiny bursts of graphic wallpaper and vibrant decor that make it unique. Simonpietri recommends including these accents in small doses wherever possible. “Specifically inside rooms like a powder room, where a strong pattern or texture never hurts; not to mention, it makes for great drinking party conversation,” she says.
By incorporating newer pieces that represent the best of modern California design, alongside the clients’ sentimental mementos like artwork from the likes of Anish Kapoor and Mel Bochner, Simonpietri and the Chango & Co. team created the perfect family home. We spoke to the designer to learn a bit more about bringing a breezy California feel to a space—no matter the zip code.
If you’re feeling stuck, start with the basics
California style doesn’t have to be a cliché, but sometimes, the tried-and-true elements really do work best. In this case, we’re talking about paint color. According to Simonpietri, you can’t go wrong with a neutral base. “Always start with a fresh coat of white paint—everywhere,” recommends the designer.
Then, layer in eclectic touches in smaller doses
Wondering how a categorical maximalist can marry their more dramatic style with the laid-back ethos of California design? “Our advice here would be to turn on Bravo for a few minutes,” jokes Simonpietri.
In reality, if you’re feeling tepid about going all-out with bold style in your space, test it out in lower-risk rooms. “Kids’ rooms always provide us with the perfect excuse to go big or go home,” says the designer. “We feel there’s nothing you can take too far because there will always be an appreciation for creativity.” If you don’t have a nursery, test out fun wallpaper and colorful accent pieces in rooms like the bathroom or laundry room.
Think of “modern California design” as a hybrid
Coastal style does not exist in a vacuum; it’s inspired by other movements happening in the arts-and-design sphere. The best example of this in the house is the living room. “With a combination of pieces that nod to the ’70s revival—like the sofa—along with casual leather and wood chairs, the marriage of these two dialogues feels very ‘contemporary California’ to us,” explains Simonpietri.
Don’t despair about your small space
“I think it’s almost easier to achieve this style in a smaller space. There are so many suppliers providing goods that align with the same coastal approach inexpensively,” says Simonpietri. You can achieve that coveted airy feel in any size home, but you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on investment pieces if you know your tiny apartment is only temporary. Her favorite place to shop for inexpensive California-inspired pieces? Urban Outfitters. “It almost has me wishing I was 18 just so I could do it all over again,” says Simonpietri.
It’s all in the materials
Look to natural fabrics and materials to bring home the classic coastal feel, and then choose contemporary silhouettes to make a space feel modern. Wood and leather, light blonde woods, natural-dyed leather, jute, raffia, seagrass… all these are cornerstones of West Coast style, but they can be modernized depending on how you use them (for example, a seagrass chandelier or a sculptural wooden dining table). To soften your space, Simonpietri recommends a go-to textile: “Linen—always linen,” she says. Whether included as a table runner or lightweight curtains, the fabric is the perfect finishing touch.
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