A cozy living room with a beige, curved sectional sofa, a stone coffee table, and a brown leather lounger. Warm brown curtains cover the windows, and a red, retro-style lamp sits on a side table against the wall. The California design elements add laid-back elegance to the neutral-toned room.
Tiffany Howell’s project in Koreatown, “Hemingway’s Mistress.” The mood board she asked the owners to create featured images of the Chateau Marmont in fog. A vintage Steve Chase sectional and a ’70s marble coffee table anchor the living room.

How to Design a Quintessential California Home

Text by Suzy Exposito
Images by Tim Aukshunas and Pablo Enriquez

Encapsulating dramatic, verdant slopes, breathtaking coastal views and liminal desert spaces, all in one state, the Californian landscape is a miracle of cosmic design. As such, many denizens of California have attempted to match the grandeur of its natural world in their personal living spaces. 

There are few states like it in that regard—ones that have such a distinct personality and aesthetic that they’re instantly recognizable. What makes California interior design California? To some it’s the effortless elegance, the blending of casual comfort and sophistication, relaxed yet refined. Others may note the indoor-outdoor living the climate invites, the use of natural materials, or sunlit spaces. There’s a Mid-Century Modern thread that runs throughout some California looks, while others embrace an eclectic mix of styles and cultural influences—Spanish, Mediterranean, Asian, and Scandinavian.   

To help answer this question, we looked to two designers working at the top of their game in Los Angeles. Their work with private clients and businesses exude a California cool that’s unmistakable. 

Lighting is the jewelry of the home… beautiful earrings that glow and can completely make a room.

Tyka Pryde Edwards of Tyka Pryde Interiors, and Tiffany Howell, founder of L.A. design firm Night Palm, both have their own ideas and tips about capturing the magic of the Golden State at home.

Edwards is a visionary interior designer and style icon known for her innovative flair and trendsetting designs. With a rich background in television production design, including eight seasons as Art Director on Queer Eye, she’s collaborated with top networks like HBO Max, Amazon, and HGTV. In 2022, she launched her own design firm, catering to both private and commercial projects with a collaborative approach. Her passion for interiors and set design, cultivated in film school, has led Edwards to transform countless homes, restaurants, and television sets worldwide, curating spaces that authentically reflect her clients’ personalities and aspirations.

With Night Palm, Tiffany Howell has become a renowned American designer celebrated for her lush, moody interiors that merge fashion, music, and storytelling. With expertise in high-end residential, commercial, and retail spaces, Howell’s background spans directing, styling, and production design. Her signature aesthetic blends vintage European furniture with modern elements, creating spaces that evoke emotion and transport individuals through time. Named an Elle Decor A-List designer, her latest venture includes the design of the West Hollywood location of the iconic Parisian restaurant, Caviar Kaspia.

The first step to designing a quintessential California space, says Edwards, is “bringing the outside inside.”

Originally hailing from New Hampshire, Edwards headed west to integrate more sunshine into her daily life. Now based in Hollywood, she’s found inspiration well beyond the star-studded Walk of Fame, and combines earth-sourced materials with metallic accents and vibrant splashes of pop-art colors.  

A luxurious bathroom showcases California design with a white freestanding bathtub and gold fixtures beside a large window. Double doors open to a green garden. The vanity, with its maroon finish and gold accents, features a unique mirror and elegant lighting fixtures, while a plant adds a touch of nature.
Howell’s “Lovers Rock” project in Los Feliz.
A cozy living room with a large window offering a scenic city view. The room features a plush green sofa, a brown leather chair with a matching ottoman, and a chaise lounge by the window. Embracing California design, a palm plant stands tall while beige curtains frame the view perfectly.
The living room at Lovers Rock.

“California has this spirit of innovation, creativity and inclusivity,” she says. “And through my work, I try to channel the spirit of that into my spaces—its diversity of mountains, oceans [and] deserts. Using materials like wood, stone, linen and other woven textures, helps create this organic, rustic elegance. I love to add skylights when I can, because natural lighting plays a big role.”

Howell echoes the importance of natural light; after all, she declares, it’s one of L.A.’s greatest assets. 

“Lighting is the jewelry of the home,” she says. “It’s these beautiful earrings that glow and can completely make a whole entire room, but also can light my clients to look beautiful. I think about how my clients’ skin tone looks against the wall colors. How would they wear the light?

I’m a golden hour, driving down Sunset-Boulevard kind-of-girl,” Howell says. “That’s my California color palette: a warm, late afternoon glow, but a little washed out.” 

Having once produced videos for Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, Howell also recommends starting projects with a song in order to accurately assess the mood of a room. The sounds of Leonard Cohen, Lana Del Rey and the Velvet Underground have all inspired the dusky, rock ‘n’ roll romance that imbues Howell’s spaces. “I kick off every project with a soundtrack,” she says. “You start with the feeling, then you lean into the aesthetic.”

Now in her ninth season of Queer Eye, Edwards observes that the arid, open layouts she sees in many California homes—perhaps a reflection of the state’s vastness—is not suitable for everyone’s needs. “People want walls to create more intimate moments within their home, and to give each room more personality. For a roomy California home, I’d recommend dividing the space and going maximal with textures and layers — brown wooden slats and ceiling tiles make great details, and give it that beachy feel.”

A cozy living room with California design features two white plush chairs in front of a lit fireplace. Built-in wooden shelves on either side of the fireplace display decor items. A round black table with a candle sits between the chairs, and a large framed artwork hangs on the wall to the left.
The cozy living room of Tyka Pryde Edwards’ Woodland Hills residential project.

Howell, who splits much of her time between Silverlake and Italy, takes inspiration from vintage fashions by Yves Saint Laurent, as well as ancient art history, to introduce more personal touches into the scenery. “I love raw and lacquered brasses,” she says. “I use a lot of lime wash and Roman clay on the walls, which is natural. I love a living finish that patinas over time, and doesn’t feel so phony. 

“Using natural materials never goes out of style,” Howell adds. “You want things to look like they have a soul!”

That makes sense. Afterall, soul and style are two things California has in abundance.

Waves is an immersive media platform developed exclusively for the Edward Thomas Collection, founded in 1982 by Edward and Thomas Slatkin, who follow in the footsteps of two previous generations of proud family hoteliers and continue to develop and redefine the role of successful ownership and operation of luxury hotels.