10 Essentials of Modern Casual Style

California designer Tim Clarke shares his advice for outfitting a beach house with a fresh, laid-back look.

Outdoor porch

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #1: Cabana Stripes

Whether they evoke shady poolside lounges, chic nautical fashion, or big, soft towels, stripes are far and away the beachiest pattern out there. “For a modern spin on the classic motif, try railroading the fabric—running the stripes horizontally,” says Tim.

Shop the look: Furniture, Sutherland. Tropical Stripe cushion fabric in Cool Water, Perennials. Garden stool, Mecox Gardens. Mirror, Tower 20.

Bungalow Exterior

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #2: Beach Bungalow Details

Classic bungalow elements like planked ceilings and board-and-batten siding help establish an easy come, easy go vibe reminiscent of super-casual surf shacks dotting the California coast. “In this house, the architectural details are really modern interpretations—thanks to their larger scale—of typical coastal cottage details,” says Tim.

We love: a smart, simple plan. The living spaces occupy an open, central pavilion flanked by the bedroom wings.

Shop the look: Siding in Rubidoux (32-32) and trim in Ever Classic (32-24), Pratt & Lambert

Front Porch

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #3: A Little Bohemian Flair

Let accessories relax your space. Incorporate a few cheeky island finds, like this umbrella on the front porch. With its batik-style print and fringe trim, it sets a “don’t worry, be happy” tone for the house at its entrance. “It’s just like a tropical cocktail that comes with a paper umbrella,” Tim says. “It instantly transports me to a faraway island with no troubles whatsoever!”

We love: this twist on classic woven furniture. It’s not only sculptural and modern, but also super comfortable and lightweight for easy rearranging.

Shop the look: Farm table, Hollyhock. Umbrella, Calypso St. Barth. Sofa, chairs, and ottoman, JANUS et Cie.


LIving Room

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #4: Super-soft Slipcovers

Nothing says coastal casual like the untailored look and feel of linen slipcovers. They’re less formal and lower maintenance than tightly upholstered pieces. For the living room sectional, where everyone (including the dogs) hangs out after long afternoons at the beach, Tim chose a chocolate brown slipcover. “The dark color hides everything—plus the whole thing can be washed!” he says. For the chair, he had a slipcover made using the “wrong” side of the striped fabric for a more faded, muted look.

We love: one or two overscale pieces, like the extra-long sectional, to keep the vibe casual and inviting.

Shop the look: Vine drapery fabric in Ebony, Schumacher. Custom sofa, ottoman, chair, and teak TV cabinet, Tim Clarke. Rogers & Goffigon Shaker sofa fabric in Peat, Pacific Design Center Consulting & Buying Services; 310/360-6418. Bavella Stripe chair fabric in Driftwood, Calvin Fabrics.


Side Table

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #5: Barefoot-friendly Floors

Tim installed French oak flooring throughout the home. “The wide-plank wood feels so good on bare feet,” he says. “It’s like having a boardwalk in the house.” A simple wax finish protects the surface from sand and allows subtle imperfections to show through. Tim left several areas, such as the kitchen and dining room, rug-free to keep the mood low-key and summery and make cleanup a breeze.

Shop the look: Mirror, J.F. Chen. Rug, Decorative Carpets. Demilune table, Mecox Gardens. Vintage Bauer urns, Wells Antiques.

Dining Room

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #6: Statement-making Lighting

A sleek, 36-inch capiz shell orb creates a focal point in the airy dining room and casts warm, inviting light over the table—and identifies the house to passersby on the beach. “I always imagine my clients inviting friends over by telling them their house is the one with the giant glowing globe,” says Tim. “Every house needs an icon.”

Shop the look: Dining table, wicker chairs, and light fixture, Tower 20. Sideboard, Lief Almont.

Kids' Bedroom

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #7: Gallons of White Paint

The first thing Tim did to this house was paint all the walls and ceilings white. “I wanted to make the background light to keep the focus on the stunning views,” he says. All-white walls are vital for creating seamless transitions in open floor plans. Plus they show off patterned prints, bold accessories, and great artwork particularly well—just picture an art gallery and you get the idea. All White (2005) by Farrow & Ball is Tim’s go-to shade.

Shop the look: Interiors in All White (2005), Farrow & Ball. Seahorse vase, Tower 20. Custom bunk beds, Tim Clarke. Amijao drapery fabric in Sea, Raoul Textiles. Rug, Decorative Carpets. Pink lamps and bean bag chairs, Pottery Barn Kids.

Kids' Desk

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #8: Bold Splashes of Color

To keep the mood cheerful, try beachy-bright hues you might otherwise eschew, like citrusy orange or hot pink. “My clients wanted their beach house to be fun, modern, and not so serious, so we chose bolder colors than they have in their year-round house,” says Tim. Just a splash of the unexpected here and there—such as the orange ottoman and throw pillows in the chocolate-and-cream living room—is a great way to introduce some brightness without going overboard.

We love: bean bag chairs, an affordable accent that’s versatile and ideal for lounging with a book after a day at the beach.

Shop the look: Pink lamps, Pottery Barn Kids


Master Bedroom

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #9: Something Woven

The organic nature of woven accents lends a hint of rustic charm to even the most modern of spaces and keeps things casual by bringing beachy texture indoors. The master bedroom’s headboard bears rope detailing that references sailing motifs. “It’s nautical without being kitschy,” says Tim.

We love: that serene, restful vibe. When it comes to tranquil spaces, nothing tops a sun-drenched blue-and-white bedroom with an ocean view.

Shop the look: Four Poster Joshua Tree Bed, Ralph Lauren Home. Regello drapery fabric in Bay on Soft Blue, le gracieux.


Master Bedroom Sitting Area

Photographer David Tsay

Essential #10: Large-scale Pattern

One of Tim’s tricks for getting a modern but warm look is to take classic motifs and interpret them in a fresh way. For example, in the master bedroom, a hand-blocked fabric dresses the windows. “The damask print gives the space that traditional warmth, but the large scale of the repeat adds a contemporary twist,” says Tim. It works especially well here because it’s among the few patterns in the room. “One big print with some oomph goes a long way,” he says.

We love: wraparound windows, especially when they surround a master bedroom sitting nook and open to a seaside garden.

Shop the look: Custom sectional sofa, Tim Clarke. Castel Messina sofa fabric in Celadon, Donghia. Light fixture, Tower 20. Side table, Mecox Gardens.

Tim’s shop Tower 20 offers furnishings, accessories, and design services—including custom furniture. For more call 310/452-8374 or visit timclarkedesign.com.


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