With attention focused on California this week (the site of the BCS National Championship Game last night) and last week (the 100th Rose Bowl Game), it seems a good time to broach the subject of California style.
The sunny skies and dry weather lend themselves to outdoor living, or perhaps more uniquely, indoor-outdoor living. The kind of living that allows you to open up your doors and windows and effortlessly move between the interior and exterior parts of your home without those fixed barriers that the rest of us must tolerate nearly all the time.
Window walls were invented for California homes. Created by any number of glass panels on tracks which can be opened and moved out of the way when desired, window walls are high on my list of “Wants” in one of my future homes (of course, it would be silly to include them in my Southern home as the humidity and bugs would limit usage in the open mode). In addition to giving a vast vista on which to gaze from inside, the window wall, when open, blurs the line between inside and outside and creates one big living area.
California style is all about relaxing and being comfortable. Furnishings tend to be larger in scale and less fussy than popular styles elsewhere. Without the humidity and rain, upholstered furniture used outside in an uncovered area is the norm. Again, comfort is key and nothing beats a soft, cushy piece of furniture when relaxing is the objective.
Californians love the outdoors and so it makes sense that there is often a natural element in their namesake style. Utilizing the colors and textures of nature allows that seamless line between inside and out so that nothing seams jarring or out of place. Neutral colors in tandem with wood tones and the colors of the sand and sea bring the outdoors in and set the palette for bringing the inside out. Sure, Californians love bright colors as much as the rest of us, but usually these will be used more as accessories in small doses which can be moderated as necessary without upsetting the overall design scheme.
One often thinks of California style as contemporary and it can be. However, there are many charming older homes with lots of character which lend themselves better to more traditional styles. Often Mission in style, California traditional styling continues the desire for no fuss and no frills. Chippendale may be the darling of the South, but if found in California, it probably belongs to a transplant who moved to California kicking and screaming. In outdoor furniture, teak, sling, and wicker with straight lines (or at least large soft curves) seems to be favored on California patios.
Umbrellas are a necessity with all of that sun and California seems to be the place that adapted the European market-style umbrella for patio use before anyone else. While the rest of us were still using the domed garden and pagoda-style umbrellas, images of sleek looking umbrellas (usually natural or white in color) were gracing the patios of west coast homes in Architectural Digest. Today, market-style umbrellas are popular everywhere but it wasn’t always so and we have California style to thank for that.
Large pots filled with plants, water features, stainless steel lanterns, and great cocktails are some of the accessories you’ll need to enhance your take on California style.
Make sure you plant big-leafed plants that can gracefully sway in the breeze. When you open the house up to the outside, you will want to hear the soft gurgle of flowing water from a fountain, pond, or other water feature. Lanterns allow you to remain outside well into the night and add soft, romantic light to make everyone look good. And the cocktails? Well, think of Sinatra, Martin, Davis, and the other Rat Packers who helped create the whole Outdoorlicious! California style and made the rest of us want it too.