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Achieving the ‘Effortless Expensive’ Style: Furniture


Today we are touching back on that oh so casual, “Effortless Expensive California” look that we chatted about a few weeks ago. In case you missed the post be sure to click here to read through the intro post before scrolling down. But, to give you the readers digest version. The casual, easy-breezy, relaxed, “I just threw this together” style is gaining popularity on the web and for a good reason. It is a beautiful look, feels sophisticated and collected, doesn’t feel stuffy, and looks totally attainable which is exactly the allure of it. But, just because it seems easy to achieve and pull off doesn’t mean that it is. So, due to popular demand (although you asked nicely in the comments so I am not sure if demand is the right word) we are breaking the style down even further to show you how it can be achieved in your own home while showing you some of our favorite products that fall into this style.


Today we are covering all things furniture in the “Casual California” style and we are starting off with some of our favorites sofas. When it comes to sofas in this look you will notice that they almost always are white, cream, or tonal in color. Some of them will have some wood or metal accents, and all of them will be relaxed, cozy, and upholstered in a linen, cotton, or canvas that allows for easy lounging. Steer clear of anything too ornate, scrollwork, turned accents, excessive tufting, or anything that feels too firm or like you wouldn’t want to binge watch your favorite show on it.


1. Urban Outfitters Couch | 2. Sixpenny Couch | 3. Anthropologie Couch | 4. Amber Interior Design Couch | 5. West Elm Couch | 6. Urban Outfitters Couch | 7. Ikea Couch | 8. Shop Horne Couch | 9. Article Couch | 10. Finnish Design Shop Couch | 11. Interior Define Couch | 12. Clad Home Couch 


Next up is Sculptural chairs. No “California Casual” room is complete without at least one of these guys. This could be an all wood variety, something with leather straps, slung leather, or a woven rattan. Typically these sculptural chairs are not the type of larger lounge chairs that you want to hang out in, but they help to add depth and character in the room which makes it more interesting. They are beautiful, can stand on their own, can be slightly unconventional (like the hand chair below), and have a simplified utilitarian look.


Here are a few of our favorites.


1. Urban Outfitters Chair | 2. CB2 Chair | 3. Target Chair | 4. Target Chair | 5. Anthropologie Chair | 6. West Elm Chair | 7. Urban Outfitters Chair | 8. Wisteria Chair | 9. Tnk-NYC Chair | 10. CB2 Chair | 11. Urban Outfitters Chair | 12. Ikea Chair | 13. Wayfair Chair | 14. Rose and Fitgerald Chair | 15. Serena and Lily Chair | 16. The Citizenry Chair | 17. Overstock Chair | 18. Fenton and Fenton Chair | 19. Jayson Home Chair | 20. Urban Outfitters Chair | 21. Third Life Design Chair

Moving on into the dining category we have dining chairs and tables. As far as dining tables go, you can stick with the classics like a Saarinen Tulip Table, or you can go more rustic like a farmhouse or shaker style table. They will definitely all have a lighter wood finish to them and nothing that is too glossy or ornate.



1. West Elm Table | 2. CB2 Table | 3. Ikea Table | 4. Wayfair Table | 5. Shop Candelabra Table | 6. Target Table | 7. Chairish Table | 8. Restoration Hardware Table | 9. West Elm Table | 10. Amazon Table | 11. Amber Interior Design Table | 12. Ikea Table


For the dining chairs in this style you will always find some of the classics (churner, thonet, windsor, ladderback style) and you can also get away with pulling in some of the more modern and Scandinavian styled chairs. Bonus points for mixing and matching like they did above or below.


Here are a few of our favorites.


1. Rejuvenation Chair | 2. DWR Chair | 3. CB2 Chair | 4. Ikea Chair | 5. Ikea Chair | 6. Target Chair (set of 2)  | 7. Anthropologie Chair | 8. CB2 Chair | 9. Anthropologie Chair | 10. CB2 Chair | 11. DWR Chair | 12. Chairish Chair | 13. DWR Chair | 14. West Elm Chair | 15. Ikea Chair | 16. Rejuvenation Chair | 17. West Elm Chair | 18. Danish Design Store Chair


Next up the ultimate hallway or end of bed accessory, the bench. Every “Casual California” home needs a few of these. Steer clear of too much upholstery, anything ornate or decorative, and anything that feels too industrial. Woven, caned, or leather benches work perfectly in this style and you can also use the more modern and simple wood versions as long as they aren’t too dark or have a glossy finish.



1. West Elm Bench | 2. CB2 Bench | 3. Terrain Bench | 4. Ikea Bench | 5. West Elm Bench | 6. Fenton and Fenton Bench | 7. Overstock Bench | 8. Rejuvenation Bench | 9. Shop Horne Bench | 10. Rejuvenation Bench | 11. Amber Interior Design Bench | 12. Etsy Bench | 13. Consort Design Bench | 14. Rejuvenation Bench | 15. All Modern Bench


Now that you have the right bench, you need the perfect bed to go behind it. Clean lines, upholstery, and leather accents are all appreciated when it comes to the beds in this category, and you will also find some updated versions of the classic windsor and four poster style.



1. Urban Outfitters Bed | 2. CB2 Bed | 3. Living Spaces Bed | 4. Rejuvenation Bed | 5. Ikea Bed | 6. Urban Outfitters Bed | 7. Amber Interior Design Bed | 8. Fenton and Fenton Bed | 9. West Elm Bed | 10. CB2 Bed | 11. Living Spaces Bed | 12. Amber Interior Design Bed | 13. CB2 Bed | 14. South First Home Bed


Next up a place to kick your feet up, or a place to put your drink. The coffee and side tables. They both go hand in hand and in this category and have the same general characteristics. You will find tables that work well with this style that have a live wood edge, mid century lines, woven materials, or rattan.


Here are a handful of our favorite side tables.


1 Wayfair Side Table | 2. Jayson Side Table | 3. West Elm Side Table | 4. Anthropologie Side Table | 5. Urban Outfitters Side Table |  6. CB2 Side Table | 7. Jayson Home Side Table | 8. Urban Outfitters Side Table | 9. West Elm Side Table | 10. Ikea Side Table | 11. Wayfair Side Table | 12. Neustadt Studio Side Table | 13. Viva Terra Side Tables | 14. Shop Horne Side Table | 15. Wayfair Side Table | 16. Wayfair Side Table | 17. Shop Horne Side Table | 18. Rejuvenation Side Table

And our favorite coffee tables.


1. West Elm Coffee Table | 2. Anthropologie Coffee Table | 3. Shop Horne Coffee Table | 4. West Elm Coffee Table | 5. Target Coffee Table | 6. Chairish Coffee Table | 7. Chairish Coffee Table | 8. Target Coffee Table | 9. All Modern Coffee Table | 10. Shop Horne Coffee Table | 11. Shop Horne Coffee Table | 12. Amber Interior Design Coffee Table | 13. Ikea Coffee Table | 14. Anthropologie Coffee Table | 15. Chairish Coffee Table

Did you catch all of that? Now that you have the basic ingredients of the “California Casual” furniture and we broke it down for you a bit do you think you could make some selections for yourself if you were looking to incorporate this style into your own home? We’ve got Art, Lighting, Textiles, and Accessories coming up so stay tuned for that but in the meantime let us know below if you have any questions on the style or how to make it work in your home.


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101 thoughts on “Achieving the ‘Effortless Expensive’ Style: Furniture

  1. Whilst this isn’t necessarily my ‘style’ this is such a useful post! An amazing amount of inspiration photos and product sources, well done! x

  2. Love these! I got so excited to see the Amber interiors bed was only $588, but when I clicked on the link, it is $5800…soooo…that’s a no go for me (so beautiful though!).

    1. That bed is very similar to the Mid Century bed at West Elm. You could buy it and have the cushion custom made. I will save you at least $4000!

  3. Love this roundup! This is exactly my style and it’s perfect timing as I’ve been searching for a new bed.

  4. This is amazing!! Will you also be including wall paint color recommendations? I’m guessing ‘white’ will be in there somewhere 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Just reading this post and looking at the photos was calming and relaxing! These are beautiful items. I especially love the photo of the headboard with the upholstered cushion hung on the posts. How clever.

    1. I know I have an old gate that is the width of my bed and I’ve kept it hanging around becuz i keep seeing it as my headboard but couldn’t quite make it work, (in my head) until I saw this bed. I can make that buttoned , leather hanging baby and voila!

  6. What a great roundup! Your lists are always so comprehensive! I have a question about this style: what do “California Casual” kitchens generally look like? As far as cabinet style, color, and tile?


  7. Nitpick–the Amber Interiors bed is actually $5400, not $588. Update to prevent budget heartache like mine! 🙂

        1. Also it’s Cherner not Churner chairs. I want to make sure people looking can find them as they are a American produced family owned company that have been producing these amazing chairs since the mid 20th century.

  8. Great roundup! Love so many of these pieces.

    Does anyone know the source of the nightstand in the second bed inspiration photo? The black metal one? Thanks!

  9. This reminds me of how The Bungalow is decorated lol. Not enough color for me personally, but I do appreciate how chill the look is!

  10. Emily,
    This is definitely my style but I’m stumped on the coffee table. I have one open space so my round white pedestal dining table would sit roughly 20ft from the coffee table I’ve been eyeing, option #4 above. Is that weird?A round coffee table with a round dining table so close in proximity? There are two casual chairs between to break up the space.


    1. Since one is wood and one is white maybe it won’t look strange?

      I think I’d go for it if I were you – it’s on sale right now! If it looks weird you could always return it :)(unless the return policy is crazy, I didn’t check)

      1. Thanks for all of the suggestions! I like the idea of cubes but need space for my little one to spread out. I’m gonna go for the round and hope for thes best!

  11. Adore this post. Can’t wait to see the ART post, since I find that the hardest piece of this look (which I can’t help loving). Thank you!!

  12. I love elements of this style but I can’t help but desire much more color in my space. Some of the furniture pieces are beautiful though. The Target coffee table is amazing!!! I might have to get that for my patio.

  13. Perfection! Just my style and very inspiring In achieving the look and lifestyle I’m going for.

  14. AWESOME! I love round-ups! I noticed a huge part of this style is the plants, particularly really tall established trees (such as the one in the picture about the coffee table round-up) and I was wondering what your sources are for tall indoor trees? and possibly how to care for them? Thanks!

  15. Such an interesting post!

    Maybe what makes this style especially elusive for the masses is that it generally requires good architecture – beams, high ceilings, wood floors, and big windows to let in all that LIGHT. I am actually lucky to have some of those elements in my own home, but I know so many people who would love help incorporating this style into their very builder basic homes with textured 8′ ceilings, carpet, brass doorknobs, and linoleum. (Is it just impossible???) You always have such a good/sensible perspective on these things, and I think it would make for a ton of good blog material.

    Also, you may be planning to touch on this in the next post, but could you talk a bit more about white walls (which seem so integral to this style)? A while back you did a post making a strong case against bright white walls (warning that many spaces don’t have the light to handle them) and offered up some nice neutral alternatives.

    I guess what I’m saying is that often people work hard to copy a specific style without actually paying attention to the period/style/limitations of their homes and it leads to bad design decisions and a space that feels awkward and forced.

    Is there a way to tweak this style so that it looks natural in any space, even one with carpet and small windows? I suspect it’s more complicated than just filling your home with the right furniture. (Is this kind of what you were getting at in your first post?) If anyone could bring this info to the masses, it would be you, Emily!

    1. Samantha- this is such a good and REAL point. I actually think good architecture plays in a huge role in most if not all designs styles. It takes a skilled and creative person to figure how far you can push the average “builder cookie cutter” home into a certain style. I think the first thing you have to do is admit (and even mourn a little bit) your limitations whether that is the stucture of your house/apt or your budget (or both). Obviously there is not a one size fits all answer to this question because so much of it depends on what you currently have to work with. However I think it’s safe to say (for most homes) that you can purchase more style neutral furniture and bring in your desired style through the art, textiles and accessories. Not sure if this makes sense or is helpful but it has been helpful to some of my clients with limited spaces/budgets.

    2. Ditto to what Samantha said! Very interesting points to be explained by you and your team, Emily 🙂
      And why, oh why, do new builds have such lower ceilings?!?!

  16. I love the (seemingly) simplicity of these deeply curated spaces. I can get lost in each photo so easily. Wood, leather, wool, rattan, and linen are definitely my jam. With small kids that have the freedom to run around, I can’t wrap my head around the white white fabric. It looks gorgeous, but I can only manage restoration hardware’s wheat linen (cleans beautifully) and that’s probably a little too light for us.

    Emily, how is the fabric on your dining chairs doing?

  17. Awesome post! I didn’t realize the aesthetic I was drawn to had a name and you hit the nail on the head, haha!

  18. Who makes that neutral button cushion bench ? Looks like 2 of them pushed together in the pic where you’re showcasing the upholstered bed.

    Great tips.

  19. great post emily! seriously, this, and the other california post you just did are honestly two of my favorite posts youve ever done. i mean, dont get me wrong i love it all! but you’ve really found a topic that is super relevant right now and i think everyone wants a piece of the california look. i also love your little descriptors in here about how the style is defined and what to look for in each piece. thanks for this post!!! love it!!!

  20. love this! i just designed two California inspired apartments a few weeks ago. wish this was out then. -I spent so much time sourcing! do you happen to know who makes the bed in the second feature photo for the bed guide? (the wood with upholstered hanging). It is beyond. Thanks for great content!

  21. Great roundup Emily. Thank you for breaking down this look and sourcing it on different $ levels.

    I just bought a new house in this crazy LA market and am trying to figure out how to incorporate a similar vibe into our new space. The California Casual look has a calm about it that is so appealing – especially these days so full of information noise via gadgets and political drama.

    But here’s what I don’t get – where’s the stuff? I have 2 teenage boys, 2 dogs and a writer husband. We have a serious book situation. I am a magazine hoarder. There seems to always be a baseball bag and bats blocking my front door. Am I alone here? I just don’t get where these people are putting their stuff. I have to think somewhere in these houses is a back room stacked to high heaven with boxes of books, clothes and small appliances. I hope they have something else going on other than that artisanal pottery (as lovely as that is).

    Keep the wonderful round ups coming please – I need them more than ever. Must renovate and move in by September. I will have to kick into serious Emily Henderson gear for that to happen. You are my inspiration!

  22. I needed this line up in my life. Thank you for making the list and putting in the work.

  23. I’m in desperate need of counter height BARSTOOLS!! My home style is very similar to this, and would LOOOOOVE if you could send some ideas for barstools?
    Thank you times a million, your posts give me LIFE.

  24. I think the real challenge comes in when you need to incorporate new inspiration and style into current furnishings and objects. Most of us do not have the financial means to wipe the slate clean and go full out California style or whatever the current trend happens to be.
    I have definitely had to retire some pieces and decor that just don’t speak to me anymore, but generally I have found that it takes real restraint to be subtle in blending different styles. It helps if you really stay true to what you love and also find inspiration from designers who mix it up!

    1. Yes to this! I love this style, but other styles too, and each post is so inspirational and full of good stuff, I obviously can’t start over. Telling myself to calm down now and choose pieces to create a subtle blend as Robin said. Great round up in a wide range of prices.Waiting for the accessories roundup!

  25. For those of us with a small budget, are there any king size headboards you would suggest? (Cannot afford an entire bed)

    1. Target (?!) has a large selection of nice headboards on line. I’ve got one which is upholstered in a
      linen-look fabric with white piping. I’m very happy with it.

    2. You can make a simple headboard pretty inexpensively. We bought some plywood, foam, batting, and used a paint drop cloth for ours. It’s comfy and a pretty neutral for under $200.

  26. Great round-up! I moved from the “California Casual” style when I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area back to Texas. Once back home, the old Southern Traditional style took hold. However, I do have some pieces that actually work for both styles. The bench section and table section are my faves! Thank you for sharing. Have a lovely rest of the week! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  27. Great round up!! Love all the options and range of price points 🙂 Can’t wait to see what’s to come with the textiles etc. I’m having a serious blonde moment with choosing a rug and need all the inspo I can get!

  28. Do you realize most of the pictures still say “source”? And that the first paragraph says “read THOUGH the post” but should say “read THROUGH the post? Aside from that it’s a really helpful post and I’ve bookmarked it. Love everything but the uncomfortable statement chair!

  29. Love this round-up because I love this style. Two ?’s
    1) could you add rugs to your round up for this style?
    2) has anyone bought the new IKEA sofa yet? The look and price are fantastic, but wondering about the comfort level and durability?

  30. Thank you so much!! I LOVE THIS SERIES… please keep ’em coming! (And the budget-version pieces are great to see here.)

    Hoping that you’ll talk about wall colors/paint and floor colors, too. Thanks so much!!

  31. Wow, great photos, and I think I have most of the basics pretty much nailed, but pulling it together is why I come here. I have been looking high and low for a boulder like that shown in the second photo (sofas) and again next to the black strappy leather chair, but alas, no luck.

  32. You guys are killing it with these California Casual posts! So practical and beautiful–and I love the helpful commentary. I would also love some feedback about pulling off this look in a lower light situation or in areas of the country where it’s overcast at least half of the year…my living room isn’t terribly dark, but it seems the beiges, taupes and whites get lost when there isn’t a flood of bright light like in other parts of my home. I know contrast and richer tones is key in lower light situations, but incorporating more than a little bit of contrast and darker tones kind of kills the monochromatic chill vibe of this look. Anyway, thanks for these awesome posts!

  33. LOVE this post – my favorite you have ever done! Incredibly useful. Can’t wait for the follow-up on art, textiles, etc. I concur with the other comment about art being the most difficult to tie down with this look.

  34. Amber from Amber interiors does a great job with this “style”. I think It’s super easy to obtain it If you thrift shop and have some patience?

  35. All pretty pieces – you really can’t go wrong with an olive tree planted in a boulder – but I’m sick of this look already. Maybe it’s bc I live in California ; ) Or I spend too much time online.

    That said, I’ve had an Albini stool for 15 years and a slouchy caramel Ligne Roset loveseat that just gets better with age. I prefer more European mix -w/ a few French and English. antiques. Less of a “look” – more personal.

  36. Thank god! We are long overdue for some new style, I cannot take ONE. MORE. FREAKING. MID CENTURY. THING.

  37. Thanks for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I’m just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

  38. Great post!
    Aaaand you unintentionally gave me the solution for my dining table lighting. We cannot hang anything above the table, but the lamp in the first picture after the chair round-up may just be the right thing for us. Could you point me to the source?
    Thanks for this blog, Emily and team, I really enjoy it. Greetings from Austria.

      1. That’s a Serge Mouille. Google that and ye shall find. They are $$$$$ if you buy the authentic but there are some good “copies” out there too. I am doing the three arm overhead light for my living room (a copy tho because the authentic price is just so far outside my budget).

  39. Love this cool, laid-back style! Thanks for the inspiration and for including products in a variety of price ranges!

  40. I don’t know that I’ve ever commented here before (?) but want to note that the content these past months has been amazing. I’ve always loved your styling and the ‘secrets from a stylist’ 😉 but the effort to provide content that’s appealing at all budget points is so evident! I love these round-ups and the willingness to name a booming aesthetic and not pretend like it’s personal brand. Your team is always transparent in noting the various styles used in each room and giving nods where nods are due. This is my go-to and ONLY site that consistently has impeccable and inspiring style that is attainable for my lifestyle. Thanks so much for all the hard work and creative juices Emily and team! You all are doing awesome work:)

  41. Just reading this post and looking at the photos was calming and relaxing! These are beautiful items. I especially love the photo of the headboard with the upholstered cushion hung on the posts. How clever.

  42. Excellent round up! Thank you!!! I live and breathe CA casual and I will be referring to this point ☝️ many a time as a research reference!

  43. This post! I have read it and re-read it like 5 times already. I love the pieces you have selected to showcase the look and I am so grateful for the various price points. I am sooo excited to see the art pieces you choose for your upcoming post. This trend is definitely a favorite of mine. Looking forward to more posts on it to come.

  44. So I’ve been reading your blog daily for many years now and this has to be one of my all time favorite posts. Bravo! ?? You are just so generous in providing such consistently great quality content! Cheers to you Emily. ?

  45. A complete room refresh has always been too intimidating for me; this totally made it more accessible and fun! This look will be perfect in Nantucket too. Thank you!

  46. I love this! It would be great to have a round-up of home office furniture that works with this style. Desks and office chairs. Thanks!!

  47. This was one of the best interior posts I have ever seen!
    Such well-researched options for each type of furniture and the images are just beautiful.
    I feel so inspired now.

    Thank you so much for all the hard work!!!!

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