"I love the holidays here," says designer Jill Johnson of her sun-kissed and sand-dusted neighborhood in Manhattan Beach, California. "It's an easygoing place with plenty of celebrating, but lots of simple family time at the beach, too."
Get the look: The pillow fabrics on the banquette are by Peter Dunham. The dining table is crafted of hammered stainless steel on a wood base, paired with loom and bamboo fretwork sidechairs.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Johnson mirrors the community's happy holiday vibe in the shingle-clad home she designed, just blocks from the ocean, with natural abalone and boxwood wreaths decking the windows and reflective, mercury glass ornaments dotting festive garlands.
Get the look: In the living room, Johnson hung mercury glass ornaments from a potted fiddle fig tree.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Fit for Print
"Around the holidays, I try to play off of the coastal surroundings and just enhance what's already here," says Johnson. "Natural greenery, sea-inspired colors, beachy ornaments—these all feel very right for this house."
Get the look: The interior of an antique cabinet-turned-bay is wallpapered in a Cole & Son print.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
That's because regardless of season, she balances artful details with laid-back, livable elements in the two-story home she shares with sons Charlie, 8, and Luke, 7. It's also a place where she lets her natural instincts be her guide.
Get the look: Luke's spool bed is an heirloom, and the wallpaper is printed with nautical charts.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Starting from Scratch
Get the look: Made of recycled Coke bottles, the glass bead chandelier in the master bedroom is by Ro Sham Beaux.
"The beauty of designing a home from scratch is that I didn't have to follow any rules. I just put in everything I love, and made it work," she says.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
And the decorator and avid surfer knows a thing or two about following her passion. Thirteen years ago, Johnson traded in her career as a clothing designer—she had her own line of girls' surf wear—to segue into a new line of work.
Get the look: An entryway setee is uphostered in a lime chinoiserie fabric by China Seas.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
She now co-owns a coastal design shop, Waterleaf Interiors, in the heart of downtown Manhattan Beach, just a three-minute walk from her home.
Get the look: Charlie's ship and whale bedding is by Thomas Paul.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
And while her approach to designing her own interiors often hinges on custom flourishes and embellishments—from the Moorish window details and Moroccan tiles she included at the front door to the bespoke trim she added to the living room sofas—Johnson says: "I have to remember that decorating a room is like planning an outfit. You don't want too much going on. Success depends greatly on balance and restraint."
Get the look: The outdoor fireplace is inlaid with Moroccan tiles and flakned by Century cabana chairs.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Seas & Greetings
"I put a flocked Christmas tree in the playroom, and we trim it with sea creature ornaments. My boys are obsessed with whales and sharks, so there are plenty of those hanging from the branches."
Get the look: The whale wallpaper in the boys' playroom is by Geoff McFetridge.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Switch up traditional greenery with wreaths made from these iridescent seashells. Johnson hangs them on windows and even tucks them into shelving.
Get the look: The front door and shutters are painted Black Onyx by Benjamin Moore.Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Johnson ties her palette together (and syncs it with her year-round decor) by using the same 1¾-inch turquoise ribbon on gifts, around wreaths, and in garlands.
Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong