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6 Years Later, The “California Casual” Trend Gets A MASSIVE Update – Time to Deep Dive

It’s been six years since we did our deep dive into the OG “Effortless California Casual” style trend. In 2017, it was truly all the rage! It was impossible to not want to dive into that cool, neutral-toned bohemian world. Every photo looked like there was probably a little bit of sand on the ground because the beach was literally or hypothetically a mere few steps away. Guaranteed was also a piece of driftwood carefully placed on a coffee table or shelf. But now the sea breeze has somewhat settled on that version and its chic, more refined friend has entered the chat…and they are dominating.

Now this isn’t to say the old style is “out” because it’s still undeniably beautiful…but it’s been very fun seeing it evolve as every style does. So what’s changed?? Well, the same elements of neutral tones, lots of wood, and hits of black still ring true. But now, we’re seeing less boho and more classic. Replace driftwood with refined woods and cloud-like seating with structured sofas. Mainly, there’s overall visual warmth that wasn’t as apparent with those bright white walls of yore. Ok, this is starting to sound like I’m trying to write an Irish poem so I’ll stop because baby, we’re talking about west coast/Mediterranean-inspired style. Let’s start with a pretty crucial and standout element…

Limewash Walls

design by rob diaz | photo by la light photo

You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a house donned with at least some limewash paint. And I get why. IT’S BEAUTIFUL! I’m even considering it for a small room in my apartment. But not just any color works with this style, it’s gotta be a light neutral. The goal is to have walls that look “natural” and to give an effortless movement to the space.

Imagine if these wall were covered in normal, flat paint. They would still be pretty but they would feel um “less organic”?? They also add a velvety softness that is so soothing to look at. No wonder the world can’t get enough of the stuff. But in terms of this style/trend, I think it’s a significant difference. In 2017, it was all about BRIGHT WHITE walls but in 2023, the soft tans and beiges are king.

You may feel like this style leans a bit Japandi and you’re not wrong. I think it’s heavily influenced. But to me, it’s a bit more layered and cozier. But if you love Japandi, I have a feeling you are going to love this style. It’s just a hunch:)

Refined Wood

design by 1000xbetter | photo by michael p.h. clifford

When I was looking at those old 2017 photos, naturally imperfect, yet very cool, wood was the look. But I also noticed that wood in general was used more as an accent as opposed to now where tends to be the statement. The color white was so crucial to the style that even cabinets were painted white over staying natural. But today, beautifully refined wood, whether it be cabinetry, shelving, wall treatments, or furniture are A HUGE component of getting this style right.

There tends to not be a tone of detailing in the wood. Cabinet fronts are almost exclusively flat and smooth. Gotta keep it simple but visually bold (like those ridiculously beautiful columns in that bathroom above)!

Slated And Fluted Wood Details

Ok ok, refined doesn’t mean boring. Wood slat paneling (and fluting, which I’ll get into in a minute) is all over this style. I mean, look how impactful yet calming it is. Of course, you have to make sure you use a matte finish and light/medium warmth is always to good bet. I truly can’t get over how much I love that entry nook (?) in the photo on the left. The wood tone, the width of the panels, and those micro knobs (I’ll get to those later) are all perfect. Rob Diaz knows this style in and out.

Wood slat paneling’s fancy cousin, fluting, is also a heavy hitter in this style. A 1000x Better decide to double down on this detail in both the wall and the vanity making for an undoubtedly sick bathroom. Of course, all of those neutral tones, natural elements, and perfectly placed Aesop soap bottle really make this a “Refined California Casual” space when it could have easily gone hyper-modern with slightly different materials. Also, I’m kidding about the soap…but your bathroom may not be complete without it;)

Now, for that stunning hallway shot designed by Stewart-Schafer, the fluted built-in mixed with those reclaimed beams, and perfect wood-framed doorways make me want to rethink my whole home. I do want to point out that this beautiful home isn’t really a “Refined California Casual” style home. They played with color and pattern and is much more European-inspired overall. I just couldn’t help myself and had to use this photo:)

Travertine

design by rob diaz | photo by la light photo

Ah yes, the cool girl stone! Oh, you didn’t know that the “cool girl” aesthetic included a travertine coffee table?? Well, now you do. But I promise if you don’t identify as a “cool girl,” (I definitely don’t ha) I promise this stone is still for you. It’s warm, looks like it came straight from the earth’s core, and costs about half of what marble costs. Win/win if you ask me.

design by 1000xbetter | photo by michael p.h. clifford

You don’t just have to use travertine in slabs for permanent elements. Look at the tiles above and the beautiful texture they add to the space. A small but special moment that is organic and natural.

photo courtesy of house of leon

But maybe you are more into the coffee table version of incorporating travertine. We can all be cool girls:) Well, this beautiful coffee table from House of Leon is a beautiful option. It’s not inexpensive but given how special it is and that raw edge, it’s a forever piece (maybe just when the kids get a bit older so bumping into it is less hospital-inducing:))

Marble With A Lot of Movement

design by miranda & co., photo by christian torres

Now just because marble is more expensive than travertine doesn’t mean it isn’t as important to this style if it’s within your budget. That white statement marble is another element that takes this new version of California Casual away from the more boho look. It definitely makes it feel more “refined/elevated”.

design by sarah sherman samuel | photo by nicole franzen

This bathroom by Sarah Sherman Samuel is nothing if not a showstopper. That elegant marble, the natural matte vanity, terra cotta tiles, stop it!

design by rob diaz | photo by la light photo

I really love how the marble in this bathroom is still a statement but a slightly quieter one. This bathroom also has those gorgeous limewash walls, simple, flat front cabinetry as well as micro knobs and aged metals:) Wanna guess what we’re going to talk about next???

Structured Seating

photo courtesy of house of leon

Did you guess furniture? Thought so:)

The new style of furniture is still light and textured but less “cool but falling apart” neutral vintage pieces or cloud-like seating. They are now chunky and structured which I honestly prefer. I’ve only heard complaints that the cloud sofas never hold their shape and can easily look messy.

design by miranda & co., photo by christian torres

See what I mean?! There’s just more structure and dare I say, refinement:)

design by 1000xbetter | photo by michael p.h. clifford

This doesn’t exclude them from having some fun personality. While that Insta-famous sofa’s comfort is controversial, I love that Crate and Barrel media cabinet! Vintage-inspired and designed with Athena Calderone whose Amagansett home is another perfect example of this style.

Also notice the depth in dark, warmer neutrals that make me fall for this style over its former version. Do you agree??

Decor Details

design by rob diaz | photo by la light photo

OOOk now let’s talk micro knobs. If you look back at these photos you’ll notice them in a handful because nothing says “refined” than tiny small ball knobs, amirite? They let the wood of the cabinet fronts be the star while adding the perfect amount of visual interest. I adore them. A small detail that makes a big impact.

design by rob diaz | photo by la light photo

Another decor element you may have noticed is the use of aged brass and/or bronze fixtures, both plumbing and lighting. Using those materials adds instant soul and for the lights, there are extra points if you use vintage French Mid-century modern pieces:)

design by 1000xbetter | photo by michael p.h. clifford

And this last one definitely leans more Japani but those simple, yet perfect wood inside frames make for the prettiest “permanent” detail. It adds dimension and warmth and is really something to consider if you want to try to achieve this style at home:)

So that’s it from me! There are some other clear heavyweight designers for the style like Amber Lewis (duh) and Jake Arnold who have really helped to make this style wildly popular. I am a huge fan even if I like a little more color in my own home. Why? Because this “rebrand” of California Casual is undeniably beautiful and nearly washes a sense of peace as you look at an example of it. While this style may change again in another six years, much like the original it will still stay timeless. No question. Thoughts???

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Design by 1000xBetter | Photo by Michael P.H. Clifford

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9 months ago

It’s nice to see travertine and beiges come back so tastefully. Less of that Sonoma/Tuscan vibe from the early 2000s, more restrained and edited. I love warm whites and the softness of all this; thanks for the style summary, Jess. I love these posts on trends— and also when you introduce us to wild outliers who break all the rules!

Caroline
9 months ago

Fantastic article! Thank you so much!

Cris S.
9 months ago

That coffee table looks like it will take you OUT. Always an interesting look at the trends, even when this is the antithesis of what I have in my home, so thank you for keeping us up to date even if we chose not to implement. I think it takes both wonderful, consistent, California/sunny clime light to make this work as well as both high end bones and skilled labor. There is a very fine line in that unfinished doorway/baseboard trim and drywall between “perfect deliberate unfinished lines” and “my brother in law said he could drywall but was clearly drunk on installation day.”

Stassy
9 months ago

I really like when you do trend posts too! I like the ‘new California casual’ – especially all of the warm wood. I went back and looked at your 2017 post – while boho beach shack is definitely a little tired/not on trend anymore, it certainly was more approachable than its new iteration featured here. To achieve the 2017 trend, you needed to paint your walls + cabinets white, buy some plants, cover your old sofa with a sheet, and get a hook for your fedora. To achieve the 2023 trend, you need to visit the stone yard, buy a $$$ statement chair, and re-clad everything in oak.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

“…in 2023, the soft tans and beiges are king.” They were queen in the 90’s, along with rag-rolled textured walls, not dissimilar to limewash. Limewash is much nicer tho.
I don’t ‘get’ heavily veined marble. It’s in no way calm, rather heavy on the eyeballs and steals from other features.
I really like the increase in natural wood finishes and tge preference for golden wood – my all-time favourite wood is o-l-d, golden oak or English pine. Effectively French provincial style pieces with a ‘scrubbed’ farmhouse edge.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

O….and well-written, Jess. 😏

9 months ago

Wow, this is so beautiful! I love how simplistic yet so elegant it is. The colours pair so well together!!

Amy
9 months ago

It’s funny how reading this article after reading Arlyn’s Gen Z interview gave me a totally different take on it. Back when EHD did the original Cali casual style break down post, I really gravitated towards some of the design elements, but it seems like this new version is out of my budget to get the look. Travertine, custom paneling and fluted woodwork, specialty wall applications to create texture and softness…all pretty pricey! I do have to giggle at all the white furniture though. In what world besides a designer showhouse is that actually practical?! I don’t see any slipcovers that can be bleached when muddy pawprints make their way on the couch, or when the boucle gets matted down and dirty looking after a few uses. At any rate, it is interesting to see how trends evolve but also serves as a great reminder to do what YOU love in your own home!

Kellie
9 months ago
Reply to  Amy

I have a white sofa in my home and two white boucle swivel chairs in my cabin. I also have two young boys and a big dog. Our cabin is in the middle of the Colorado mountains and gets MUDDY in the off season. It takes a combo of good fabric that is stain resistant (very important) and well-trained family members (equally important). We keep food and drinks away from upholstery, and we wipe down the fluff ball after he has outdoor adventures. Definitely doable for anyone.

7D4DA7A7-23FB-4476-BA8B-9DAC00C9934E.jpeg
Jeanne
9 months ago
Reply to  Kellie

When my tuscan gold upholstery needed to be changed out, I got white cushion and slipcovers instead. They are preshrunk heavy cotton twill and I can bleach & dry them in the machine. (Note: @nancy.birtwhistle on ig has A-mazing stain removing ideas) They’re still white after 10 years of kids & pets! It’s a really nice feeling when they are just out of the wash…like having freshly laundered sheets.

Kimberly
9 months ago
Reply to  Amy

Kellie, your home looks beautiful and tasteful but I am definitely with Amy on this one—white chairs and couches are not for me! Even the gray sofa in my kids’ room (that we call the “story couch” because it’s where we read together every night) is looking grimy and I’m not sure how because we don’t have pets, only eat in the kitchen, and don’t have pets. That is great you make it work but white furniture is not for me! 🙂

Michelle
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

I think it’s just body oils that eventually collects dust. I was recommended to use Folex (after testing). Just bought a light colored couch so haven’t used it yet but it gets good reviews. https://folexcompany.com/

rachael
9 months ago

Does anyone have real life experience with travertine? I love it, but I’m worried about its durability for countertops, flooring since it’s porous and textured. So pretty though!

K
9 months ago
Reply to  rachael

Prior owner put filled and honed travertine floors in all our bathrooms. It’s horrible, do not recommend. Etches, stains.

Kristyn
9 months ago
Reply to  rachael

We have a travertine bathroom that gives me nightmares. Travertine tiled shower walls, floor and wall behind the sinks. So much of it and the floor seems to be a slightly different kind. Not sure when this bath was created but it’s at least 15 yrs old because it’s part of an addition around that time. We inherited this design choice when we bought our home. Travertine needs to be properly sealed. I think it’s a type of limestone. Our travertine bath was not properly maintained over the years and parts of the shower have eroded, mainly the little niche for shampoo bottles which is always splashed with water. The stone is very porous. It can be polished and some of the littles holes can be filled. I don’t really recommend it for bathrooms because the textured surface makes cleaning a challenge. We don’t have a budget for reno so I’m going to make it work. Just completed a thorough cleaning and it it helped brighten the stone a bit. Next I’ll seal it and I’m going to paint the floor (gasp!). It’s only two people using the bathroom and since it’s porous stone I think the paint hack will… Read more »

Karyn Meadows
9 months ago
Reply to  rachael

My sister had it on her floors and you would not believe how much it pitted with the kids and dogs on it. She hated it!!

Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  rachael

You can do a higher end porcelain tile, honed finish, that looks like travertine for floors or walls, and something else for countertops. Low end will look fake and will have a repeating pattern. Higher end can be really nice and the pattern won’t repeat that frequently. I have something like that in the bathroom, but in a different stone pattern. It might trick some people into thinking that it’s real, it’s that good. But it’s not about that for me. I’m just amazed how beautiful it is.

Roberta Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  rachael

I have travertine tile floors, shower walls and countertops in my ensuite bath. The floors and shower are holding up well, but the counters have all kinds of marks on them that won’t clean off, from the various liquids that inevitably get on them. I still like the warm feel of the room, though.

Lucy
9 months ago

I love these themed eye candy posts.

donna
9 months ago

Can you say where the rug is from (on the House of Leon photos)?

KA
9 months ago
Reply to  donna

Try searching for “braided rug + the color/material/size you want” to find similar ones.

Cici Haus
9 months ago

My house was renovated in 1990 so while it’s dated it was a HIGH-END renovation and everything is really high quality. Master bath is all travertine and I’ve been telling my husband it’s the lowest priority because it’s definitely coming back. Whoo!

Lin
9 months ago

Can anyone tell me about the “lamp on the counter” trend I keep seeing? I find it interesting.

Admin
9 months ago
Reply to  Lin
Jeffrey C
9 months ago
Reply to  Lin

I think it fits with the trend to make kitchens feel less kitcheny, but it has been around for a long time. Since much of the major lighting in a kitchen tends to be task-focused, the lamp on the counter is a nice way to offer a less intrusive light source. We often leave outs on at night when we have guests staying with us as a sort of nightlight. Or if your overhead lighting is on a dimmer, turning those down and turning on a counter lamp has a nice feel for entertaining.

Donna
9 months ago

Thanks, Jess. Your breakdown of the trends and images sourced are so well done!

Kate
9 months ago

Love the micro cabinet knobs & wooden inside door frames!

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

I guess this is why I cringe every time I see one of my neighbors changing out their warm neutrals for grays? These are beautiful spaces! I love Japandi, too..

Michelle
9 months ago

This headline jogged my memory. I discovered this blog when researching California style six years ago! I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. (Haven’t had cable in decades so didn’t know HGTV Emily). Anyway this style update is just as helpful and spot on as the first one. I don’t think it has to be in a Cali setting but can certainly see why it’s popular there. I love the images and prefer my home to be serene, but not bland. It’s always interesting to see how to make it’s beige but not boring…. And to understand how to think about the updates we’re seeing in AD, insta and magazines. Great work! Look forward to the next six year review.