What is the California Cool trend? Designers explain how to achieve this calming, contemporary look

Soft neutral tones and a calming coastal feel epitomize this latest interior design trend. Here's how you can get the look

A living room with white furniture and blue arched panelled doorway
(Image credit: Lauren Pressey)

A little getaway to the west coast wouldn't go amiss right now, but thankfully the growing California Cool trend is here to offer all the escapism we need. This chilled, coastal style is all about bringing the essence of the SoCal beaches into your own home with the help of a calming color palette, some soft fabrics, and plenty of natural materials. 

Synonymous with natural tones and an elevated yet laid-back aesthetic, California Cool has been cropping up across some of our most revered designers' looks lately. The interior design trend is all about using furnishings to create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, but with all the elegant clean lines and on-trend curves of a luxury space, and it's a pairing we can't get enough of. 

To understand more about where this cool, contemporary trend originated (no prizes for guessing), as well as how to execute the elevated look in your own home, we spoke with a few designers who are embracing California Cool head-on. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to sharing articles that help readers embrace emerging trends and keep up-to-date with changing styles. For this piece, she spoke with leading designers to learn how to achieve the California Cool trend in your home for a taste of the west coast. 

What is the California Cool trend?

A living room with white walls and blue sofas

(Image credit: Lauren Pressey)

As the name would suggest, California Cool is all about bringing the carefree vibe of the Cali coast into your interiors. The concept is more than just creating a beachy feel - it's about speaking to an entire lifestyle. Think laidback surfer, hot tan, sandy toes, and the Golden State's eternal sunshine. 

'California Cool is deeply rooted in the West Coast's relaxed lifestyle, the love of the outdoors, and overall casual nature,' explains Noelle Isbell, founder and principal of Noelle Interiors. 'This design trend is often interpreted with a mix of an earthy color palette, focus on natural light, and layers of textures to create the perfect lived-in and sophisticated space.'

According to Noelle, some characteristics commonly found in this distinct style are light-filled spaces with white or neutral walls, natural materials such as wood or rattan, and modernist furnishings. 

The look might be familiar to some. Somewhere between the Coastal Grandmother trend and a Coastal Boho feel, California Cool brings a more elevated, modern edge to your home but with the same calming and natural feel, just a little less rustic. 

As Noelle summarises: 'With a neutral palette and natural materials, California Cool manages to blend in other styles such as minimalism, often found in Scandi-inspired spaces, pops of blues and organic shapes and textures adopted from coastal styles, and eclectic patterns and laidback styling found in bohemian-style spaces.'

How do you create a California Cool color palettte?

A banquet seating area with a round dining table and bay window

(Image credit: Lauren Pressey)

While the entire concept elicits a certain amount of creative freedom, a staple part of this look is the cool color scheme - in particular, the white walls. They're used to create a fresh, airy feel that evokes a cool summer breeze and brings summer inside. Choose a white with a pink undertone, like Farrow & Ball's Great White, for the warm feeling of the west coast's white sands.

'I suggest sticking to a neutral color scheme and bringing in warm-toned whites, creams, greys, and browns as the primary colors of the space,' advises Noelle. Of course, turquoise blues and colors inspired by the ocean are integral to achieving a cohesive look. 

'For pops of interest and contrast, I lean towards blue tones or darker browns and blacks in the forms of accent pieces like wallpaper, artwork, ceramics, and throw pillows,' says Noelle. 

How to recreate the California Cool look

A neutral bathroom with curved bath and shelving

(Image credit: Molly Rose)

So, how do you go about replicating this look in your home? There are no hard and fast rules, but it's really all about letting nature inspire your designs, then adding touches of luxury through textures and materials. 

'We consider our style and aesthetic to be contemporary in nature,' says Jeremy Graef, Principal Designer at Connate Home, an LA-based atelier studio and furniture brand. 'We appreciate clean lines, modern architectural detailing, and soft curves, and we employ a simple color palette where every hue is reminiscent of the various California landscapes.'

Underpinning the nature-inspired look, though, is an interior that exudes elegance and classic charm. 'Our aesthetic merges design, function, and art to embody a Californian aesthetic in a new and sophisticated way,' explains Jeremy.

To grasp that element of sophistication use soft, warm textures through your use of materials. 'I recommend dressing up the larger pieces like the sofa or bed with some cozy linen or chenille,' explains Noelle. 'These fabrics introduce softness to contrast the room’s surrounding furniture.'

Noelle encourages integrating mixed materials and textures into a space. For example, the softer, richer textiles mentioned above contrast excellently with more solid organic textures like natural woods, woven wicker finishes, and rattan inlay which all bring a relaxed bohemian feel to the space. 

'To keep a space visually interesting, applying contrasting wood textures, wallpapers, or fabrics to the walls or main furniture pieces,' she adds. 'What's unique about the California cool aesthetic is that it achieves such a great balance of hard materials like timber, leather, and ceramics alongside wools and linens to create a lived-in and effortless looking space.' 

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.