That cool, indoor-outdoor aesthetic — think: breezy fabrics, natural textures and plants galore — is coveted around the world. But nobody does it better than the Californians, so we asked interior designer
Ohara Davies-Gaetano, who lives in Laguna Beach, to tell us how to get the coveted Cali-cool looks she gives her clients. Scroll down for her best tips!
Ohara is a rising star, appearing on magazine covers with profiles in
Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Veranda. While her firm is California-based, Ohara divides her time between homes in Laguna Beach, Los Angeles, Montana and the Caribbean, while her projects take her around the globe. She finds inspiration from her travels (take a look at her Instagram @odginteriors) to achieve her calming, breezy aesthetic.
A Plant-Filled Entrance
Create a smooth segue from the garden to the indoors with multiple planters that lead visitors inside. Beds filled with lavender are an extra-sensory note in this new Orange County beach house. “This was a ground-up construction on the ocean that I worked on with architect
Homer Oatman,” says Ohara. “My client asked for a beach escape vacation home well-appointed for entertaining, but also very livable. We wanted the house to feel as if it belonged on the French Riviera.”
Exposed Architectural Elements
Stonework around the window and beneath the range hood has an outdoor feel. Look for timeless, rustic materials like rough-cut limestone and unhoned counters. “I encourage my clients to use a skim coat plaster on their walls — in a soft white tone,” she says. “This is a subtle move, but the way the light plays off the surface is magical. There is no other way to emulate that emotion within a home. I also really love lime-based paints when plaster is not an option. My go-to paint color is
Decorator’s White from Benjamin Moore.”
Casement Windows That Open
It’s easy to get plenty of fresh air from the old-fashioned iron windows in this kitchen. Reclaimed limestone block flooring has a softly worn surface, and is a cool kiss on bare feet, while the mineral sheen of gypsum plaster walls is a calm backdrop.
The Beauty Of Brick
A barrel vault ceiling over a window nook has a rustic vibe, while white walls and a vaulted ceiling underscore the serene quality of this living space. “This spot is used daily for coffee, conversation and quiet moments to sit and overlook the ocean,” says Ohara. “That space has an incredible view perched above the beach looking out the picture windows. I also love the ceiling there — it is barrel vaulted with antique French brick that we applied.”
The stone flooring continues from the indoors to the patio for a seamless transition from this living area with French white oak coffered ceilings. Motorized doors retracts into the wall, enabling a complete indoor-outdoor experience and making this a true extension of the indoors.
Skip The Drapes
If privacy allows, don’t put up barriers between you and nature. “I love the dramatic effect that an arch window will have in both traditional and contemporary design,” she says. “The soft curves are both elegant and striking and can add a unique design element to any style of home.”
Natural materials — such as wood, wicker, rattan and stone — look great indoors or out. “I am a big believer in investing in high-quality for outdoors, especially for projects that are so close to the ocean,” says Ohara. “I prefer, whenever possible, to use fast dry cushions so that there isn’t a buildup of moisture. You also need to consider shade and how light will affect the outdoor space and furnishings.”
Sliding doors allow for a seamless transition between the spaces. When support columns are positioned far from each other, the view isn’t interrupted and homes retain their sightlines. “People are looking for design that offers comfortable and comforting experiences, at all times of the day,” says Ohara. “The beauty of designing homes in California is that we don’t necessarily need screens — there are not many bugs. After this year, design is celebrating the ability to open our homes to the exterior and to offer a seamless indoors and outdoors experience. “
Rustic wood ceiling beams add a farmhouse feel to this home. Accented by a stone floor and fountain, this games room is dressed in tonal neutrals (including the pool table) so it doesn’t overshadow the subtle texture and beauty of natural materials. “The beams are antique French oak that are waxed so the coloration has a weathered look.”
Nothing blurs the lines between inside and out better than expansive glazing. The graceful arched mullions enhance the shape of the windows and are spaced apart so they don’t obscure what’s outside. “We design a lot of coastal homes that are influenced by Classical and Mediterranean architecture; considering windows and what they bring to the interior, and the light, is always hugely important,” says Ohara. “The architect on this project,
Richard Krantz, came up with a stunning design for these windows.”
Often florals or tropical-style fabrics are used to inject a garden feel, but consider swapping busy patterns on upholstery in favor of letting nature supply the color. “I did not use slipcovers for this project,” she says. “All the fabric is high performance (this is a busy and big family!) so spills are easy to clean.”
A staple in boutique hotels, lounge chairs signal the ultimate in relaxation. “The outdoor furnishings are equally as curated as the interior,” says Ohara.
Upholstered Outdoor Furniture
Dress up an outdoor dining area with polished upholstered pieces. “Consider the positioning of the outdoor furnishings and how the space relates to the house,” she advises. “I always strive for an authentic connection to the environment the house inhabits.”
Comfy pillows, throws, accent tables: lavish your outdoor spaces with as much as you do indoors. “Paying attention to the details matters,” says Ohara. “It could mean anything from creating a coffee or reading nook outside with one comfortable chair in your exterior space to placing a basket of throws outside for guests when the day becomes a chillier evening.”
Outdoor lighting has become even more stylish, so there’s no reason not to splurge on a statement piece. “I love decorative lighting,” says Ohara. “It’s an opportunity to accentuate the architecture and the foundation of the home. I curate the lighting to the design of the home, and it can become very artful. I do love lanterns and think they can add a beautiful layer to outside spaces.”
Water features like this spa are serious stress reducers, and there’s a nearby loggia with fireplace for lounging after a soak.
Unlike a pool, outdoor kitchens don’t require a large amount of square footage. A countertop, grill, sink and under-the-counter refrigerator makes outdoor entertaining safe and convenient for party hosts.
Studies have even shown that simply seeing green lowers stress levels and increases alertness, so it makes sense not to cover it up. These drapes add a dose of polish but seem to melt into the walls. They can be drawn for privacy, but when not in use, it’s like they disappear. “Arched windows look beautiful from the exterior but also add softness to the light coming into the home,” says Ohara.
Furnish exterior spaces with same amenities as indoor rooms. This outdoor living room beckons with an impressive fireplace, large screen and comfy upholstered seating: everything needed for a relaxing night in (or out!).