California Contemporary Defined

As a Laguna Beach-based interior designer, I am often asked what people mean when they say California contemporary. My take on the style is a softer approach than what you would see, for instance, in Texas. When I’m designing a California contemporary home, I use cleaner lines and a minimal color palette that usually includes monochromatic furnishings, very minimal accessories, and larger scale pieces of art. 

As I so often say, one of the key aspects of this style, particularly here along the California coast, is letting the view be a dominant presence in the spaces, as they will drive so many choices. Large-scale windows help in this department if it’s possible. One example of a home I designed with a living room and dining room looking out to the watery swath of the Pacific Ocean as it disappears over the horizon line had large windows along the west-facing wall. My team and I made quite a determined search to find a chandelier for the dining room that had a commanding presence but “read” to the eye as transparent so as not to interrupt the incredible vistas. 

A California contemporary home with interiors by Payton Addison.

Fabric choices are also important in the California contemporary vernacular. I prefer linens because the lifestyle is surprisingly casual in coastal communities like Laguna Beach. Even if you have a few elements that are formal, they will trend casual, will be comfortable, and will feel approachable. After all, coastal California is all about coming in from the beach and not being afraid to walk across a room or touch something. I’ll use linens for upholstery because they breathe and for bedroom draperies because they provide the clean lines I prefer. This is also true of roller shades because they tend to disappear into the backdrop.

I always lean toward keeping finishes clean and monochromatic—less is best, I say. With the California contemporary style, nothing is overdone or overstuffed. There may be antiques, but they won’t usually be heavy unless it is one piece to be used as a dramatic focal point. If a renovation is significant and exterior walls can be opened up, I always specify bifold doors that make the home at one with the natural elements. That’s the wonderful thing about living on the California coast: the weather makes it possible to throw the doors open most any time so you want to make sure the surfaces and materials you have in the interiors can hold up to the luscious air drifting through your rooms. We go into more detail in this post titled Designing for the California Coast if you’d like to have more specifics. 

A bedroom designed by the team at Payton Addison Interior Design Atelier.

Payton Addison Interior Design Atelier was founded in 2009 by Payton Addison. Located in the heart of the HIP district in Laguna Beach along the Southern California coast, the firm’s interior design services are sought after in the region and beyond. In all aspects of  residential interior design, Payton Addison is a name synonymous with creating luxury oceanfront homes and elegant residences with canyon views for an elite clientele. Click through to see a selection of her portfolio, and take a look at her design philosophy to see if working with her and her team is a good fit. Visit Atelier 1444 to peruse the beautiful candles and pillows designed by Payton Addison, and art painted by her to experience her ability to transform daily life into a sumptuously vital experience.