best ofInteriors

13 Effortlessly Cool California Homes

by Kelli Kehler

It’s been eight years since I made my way out to California, and the wide spectrum of design, architecture and style found in this state still continues to surprise me. Stereotypical notions of California and its inhabitants’ laid-back attitude aside, my favorite homes we’ve featured from the West Coast all seem to evoke an effortless spirit. These are places where their owners bravely combine various styles all in one space, from bohemian and vintage-quirky, to sleek contemporary and mid-century modern, to rustic and refined — there’s no melange of these aesthetics that doesn’t just work.

Looking through our D*S archives, you’ll find that many of these California homes share common themes of layering lots of textures, blending styles, and celebrating the outdoors with an arms-open-wide embrace. Today, I’ve rounded up 13 of our favorite California spaces to show you why, after all these years, I’m more inspired than ever. —Kelli

Here in California, it's definitely not uncommon to make do with a small space to live in an incredible location. And Whitney Leigh Morris takes "making do" to a whole new level. She's constantly rethinking ways to elevate her 362-square-foot home in Venice -- and she's making Instagram followers swoon on a daily basis as she styles and tweaks this cottage.
Artist Amy Nathan's 1940 home in Berkeley, CA breathes a Scandinavian vibe, juxtaposing sleek, earthy materials and design with a verdant view outside.
Speaking of the outdoors, this revived cabin in Joshua Tree, CA celebrates the surrounding desert. Various textures in the form of wall hangings, colorful textiles and sheepskins make a sleek, cool interior into a cozy retreat.
You'd never know Lana and Mike had their dining room table and chairs shipped from New York; they perfectly complement this room's breezy, beach vibe in Beverly Hills.
In LA's Elysian Heights neighborhood, creative couple Casey and Ellen utilize color artfully throughout their 1912 bungalow-style house. A Modernica bed and photography by Gray Malin give subtle California vibes to this cool and calm bedroom.
Casey and Ellen's collection of found things seems to collectively represent an eclectic California mood with pops of color, earthy textures and a mid-century modern spirit. Ellen says, "I always love a nicely displayed collection of random things, and this spot in the house is a perfect jumble."
In Santa Barbara, CA, this 1903 cabin was relocated to an 80-acre fruit farm, saving it from demolition in its original construction place in Carpinteria, CA. Photographer Nancy Neil's son, who was born on the property, plays in the home's breathtaking outdoor space.
Photographers Julia and Cody harbor all things mid-century, thrifted, vintage and colorful in this Eagle Rock, CA home, a multifaceted aesthetic that is at the same time thoughtful and timeless.
One of my all-time favorite home tours we've ever published here at D*S is the Long Beach, CA home of Chelsea and Forrest. Embodying all details that Craftsmen architecture dreams are made of, their home's interior style delves into myriad design styles -- a look that's in line with today's decorating trends three years since we featured their home, and surely one that will remain inspiring in years to come.
I'd be remiss if I didn't include Chelsea and Forrest's celebration of California in their own backyard: a display of their love for the state in flag form, anchored by a DIY cinderblock succulent installation.
In San Francisco, eclectic and vintage themes unite for a look that is refined -- yet a touch quirky -- through a bold penchant for textures and patterns.
The Laurel Canyon, CA home of Derek and Kristin is the quintessential woodsy retreat, boasting bright green views from its rustic interiors. Kristin shares, "Our house is one of two properties on our street that are considered Wildlife Corridor by the city of Los Angeles. That means we have no fencing around our lot, and the wildlife (such as deer and coyote) can use our land as a thoroughfare to travel through the canyon."
The beachy and bohemian home of Julie and JT in Capitola, CA features a bathroom with a salvaged redwood slab countertop and deep navy paint -- essentially a love song for California's spirit.
The 1950 ranch-style Santa Barbara home of Caroline and Jeffrey oozes coastal comfort with rich textures and muted tones. Treasured pieces both collected through travels or found in nature complete the space that nods at nostalgic California architecture by way of arched doorways and wood-beam ceilings.
Of their kitchen, Caroline shares, "My husband and I love to cook together in this room. For my husband, it has been a place to explore his budding passion for cooking all things from scratch. I think he likes the challenge and the adventure of trying new things. The kitchen holds bits and pieces of cookware from his life and my life, combined."
Lou and Sarah's LA home's living room touches on retro, mid-century modern and contemporary design -- all centered around a stunner of a stone fireplace.

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  • Thank you for this gallery. We just moved from the west coast of Canada to California and are chipping away at setting up our new home while getting used to the unique and amazing vibe here. The inspiration is greatly appreciated!

    • I’m so happy to hear that Allie! Welcome to CA, whereabouts? I’m in Orange County, myself. It indeed is an incredible vibe here :)

  • we’re in san clemente, there are some great older homes in downtown san clemente and santa anna. the old surf towns have such an independent feel;)