7 Ways to Bring Relaxed, California-Cool Design to Your Home

L.A.-based interior designer Lauren Soloff is inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s famous Ghost Ranch in New Mexico—by the property’s particular mix of strong minimalism and easy, breezy bohemian vibe. As she explains, “My aesthetic is casual, very relaxed, and organic.” Her design work epitomizes the of-the-moment interiors that so many are trying to achieve—a chill, California-centric feel that might be punctuated by macramé and rumpled linen, and maybe some terra-cotta pots and a cow’s skull. But this bohemian style can so quickly be overdone—a parody of itself—and Soloff is one designer who understands the delicate balance needed to make it work.

If L.A. had spokesmodel for these types of perfectly serene interiors, Soloff might just be it (for further proof, check out her Instagram feed). She has designed a gorgeous bungalow in Malibu; a large, art-filled home in Holmby Hills; and several other local residences that are distinct and utterly desirable. She also does smaller projects for her dear friends, among them fashion designers Clare Vivier and Jenni Kayne. And even for those of us who don’t live near the beach or in the California sunshine, and particularly for those in tiny, urban apartments, Soloff—who grew up in New York and later moved west to study architecture at UCLA—believes that the look of cool and calm can be achieved anywhere.

Here, she explains how.

When it comes to fabrics, keep it clean.
“For spaces that are small, I tend to stay very light and neutral in palette and use fabrics like woven linens and pure cottons. Layering these materials in shades of white and ivory is a great way to achieve texture and subtle contrast without overwhelming the room. This will help open up a space and create more of that airy feel. For a bed, try to do all shades of white and layer them: cotton sheets and a linen duvet cover with pillows and shams.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Soloff

Be smart with shades.
“It’s always nice to select window fabrics and coverings that play with the way light is being filtered. This can be tremendously effective and create an amazing atmosphere. Belgian linen and linen sheers are go-to fabrics for me. I also really like using white Mecho shades with 5 percent opacity to let the light in. Lately I have been using woven wood shades, and I really like the effect these give off in a room at different times of day.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Soloff

Incorporate handmade originals.
“Finding items woven of natural fibers, like an oversize basket or something handmade such as pottery, always adds a bohemian touch. One trick is to not overuse them. A large basket or small and curated collections of unique pottery pieces are both nice touches. For artwork, an interesting line drawing is a pleasant detail and doesn’t interrupt the serenity.”

Remember: The clearer, the better.
“Less is always more when it comes to furniture, even in bigger spaces. For a smaller living room, having ample seating is important, but be realistic about how many people you will actually be having over at one time. Keeping a space clear is essential.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Soloff

Spend on a great rug.
“A rug is the one item that I always ask clients to splurge on. Rugs are a wonderful way to use color and pattern, and they’re very important in creating a room’s vibe. I tend to go very neutral and simple in everything I design, and then pop in color and pattern on the floor. Vintage rugs add an important layer and can give a room real life. Vintage Moroccan rugs with Berber motifs and Turkish kilims are two of my favorites.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Soloff

Adopt a houseplant.
“Houseplants give life to any space, and if you have a greenish thumb, adding some Mother Nature can make a difference to the overall look. It might be a bit of a pseudo-science, but I do believe they are naturally de-stressing and a functional decor. They also have elements of the ’70s and ’80s, which were very influential design decades. Rubber trees are a great choice since they don’t need much light and are considered an easier plant to take care of.”

Stick with natural and organic materials.
“Natural materials have a tendency to make a space feel clean and pure. When a home is small, those are important things to strive for. Woods, woven materials, linens, and objects found in nature are all great elements to incorporate.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Soloff

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