A Style Guide to California Coastal

“What’s your interior design style?” Do you know? I mean, do you really know? This question always seems so straight-forward. And it is…until you sit down to find it. Chances are you like and dislike lots of elements from lots of different design styles so picking just one may be harder than you think. Determining style direction and design preference is one of the first things we do with new clients. It often surprises them to learn that what they thought they liked isn’t exactly what they want. It’s also a surprise to learn that the person you thought didn’t have a design style (ahem, husbands), do, in fact, have strong ones. Quite often there are several design preferences from several different decision-makers. Our job is to understand how we’ll merge those preferences and how we need to translate it all into a single home. No pressure. That’s why starting with a solid understanding of design preference is so important.

To put everyone on the same page about what design style they prefer, I begin by pointing clients to Pinterest and Houzz where they can create ideabooks and boards. This is a good start, but it’s just that, a start. We do ask for notes on “likes” and “dislikes”, but without a sit-down meeting to review what was pinned and why, a client’s boards can be misleading. We might infer something from a photo that you may not have noticed or overlook something that was critically important. To help us “speak” the same design language, I created style guide boards so that clients could point to a style and its specific qualities to “see” what I see and determine if they like not just the overall look, but many of it’s smaller components.  Here’s our California Coastal board and a breakdown of what I define that style to be.

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Every region has a different take on a coastal theme. California Coastal is not the same as a Carolina Coastal or Florida Coastal style. For me, California Coastal follows its West Coast stereotype of laid-back and casual: pillows without piping, slip-covered sofas, rough-hewn wood surfaces and lots of sisal elements. Carolina Coastal pulls from its southern roots which tend to be more formal.

Like most artistic endeavors, interior design styles are steered by loose guidelines but open to interpretation. There are few “rules” about what can and can’t be included. Rarely does any one of our projects follow a single style. So much of the client’s preferences, existing furniture or collectibles influence the final design direction. But that’s the goal and joy of custom spaces: creating client-specific styles. The style boards are just the conversation starter.