3 Home Design Essentials for California Living / by Katelyn Remington

When I first moved from Connecticut to California in late summer 2017, I had many preconceived and woefully inaccurate notions about life in my adoptive state. Among my greatest misconceptions was that "California Style" was interchangeable with "ultra-modern" and  "futuristic" design.  Update: it's not. 

Although Modern/Post-Modern buildings are significantly more abundant here than in my native Northeast (and everywhere else I saw during my cross-country move), a brief survey of almost any neighborhood up and down the Golden Coast will dispel any illusions that California's residential architecture is exclusively or even mostly contemporary in its style -- or that California has any one, specific style at all.  

In fact, I quickly learned what makes a home "Californian" has little to do with its style type, and everything to do with well... being in California and how a home's overall design adapts to some of the most important and unique aspects of our diverse environment.  Continue reading below to discover three home design essentials for the optimal California living experience, and how my colleagues have used them in creating our clients' dream homes. 

 Los Angeles architecture firm Tim Barber Ltd.'s top 3 essential home design elements for the ultimate California living experience. 

1. Green Systems

Over the past few decades, California has emerged as both one of the world's foremost leaders in environmental policy, and as one of our nation's most environmentally imperiled states. As a result, we were the first state to adopt "green" standards into our building code, and some Californians even go above and beyond those requisite measures to make their homes as cost-effective, energy and resource efficient, and healthy as possible. 

Solar panels/tiles that convert sunlight into energy are particularly popular in our sunny state, as are other green technologies like laundry-to-landscape water recycling, air purification, and geothermal heating and cooling systems.  By integrating these eco-friendly and increasingly affordable technologies into their homes, owners can live large while leaving a small footprint on the environment and in their wallets. 

Homeowners don't have to compromise between getting their dream home and going green!  This Traditional style home in Studio City received the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program's Gold rating for its innovative use and discreet integration of solar panels, a rain cistern, a greywater tank, and air purification and water filtration systems.  It was also awarded an enthusiastic two thumbs up from our client. Architecture by Tim Barber Ltd., interiors by Carla McMorran and photo by Karyn Millet. 

This Classical Revival residence in the Hollywood Hills uses rooftop solar panels to source energy.  Architecture and interiors by Tim Barber Ltd.  Photo by Laura Hull. 

A Greywater Corps team member installs a laundry-to-landscape water recycling system at Tim's residence. Learn more about Tim's experience with its installation and subsequent use here. Photos by Greywater Corps. 


2. Natural Illumination

California is home to several of the nation's sunniest cities, and many Californians want to take advantage of their coveted climate, even when inside.  The obvious way to achieve this is by designing spaces with large and/or multiple windows, although this method's success is largely dependent on the windows' locations. Strategically placed windows allow daylight to infiltrate large spaces, making even the deepest rooms feel light and open. 

That airy aura isn't, however, just aesthetically appealing; it may also contribute to better psychological and physiological conditions. Sunlight's health benefits can include improved immune system performance; endorphin, serotonin, and energy levels; blood circulation; digestion; complexion; sleep cycles; productivity; and most notably, production of Vitamin D.  With all these health perks, it's no wonder that consistently sunny Californian cities ranked multiple times in the 25 Happiest U.S. Cities and were among some of the highest scoring communities in The State of American Well-Being Index

As if the design and health advantages of sunlight weren't enough, naturally lit spaces may also lessen the need for electric lighting, significantly reducing energy consumption and bills -- All the more reason to let the sunshine in!

The dining room of this Colonial/Industrial style ranch in Santa Monica has floor-to-ceiling windows and large skylights that bathe the space in sunlight . Architecture by Tim Barber Ltd., interiors by Lucas Studio, Inc. and photo by Roger Davies.

This Pacific Palisades master bedroom's panoramic windows facilitate its natural illumination and contributes to a healthier sleep cycle for its inhabitants. Architecture by Tim Barber Ltd., interiors by Kristen Panitch Interiors, and photo by Tim Street Porter.  

Did you know that natural daylight is the best light for applying makeup? This Hollywood Hills master bathroom was designed with a window-lined wall opposite the vanity to provide the most favorable conditions for our client's morning routine. Architecture and interiors by Tim Barber Ltd.  Photo by Laura Hull.


3. Indoor-Outdoor Rooms

Indoor-outdoor rooms provide the best of both worlds and are synonymous with luxury living in California. With a year-round, [generally] temperate climate in many parts of the state, California homeowners are eager to bring the good weather inside and interior comforts outside, while also maximizing their living and entertaining spaces.  How this is achieved is largely dependent on the owner's needs and the surrounding environment, although the transition between inside and out should always be both visually and physically seamless.  

A floor-to-ceiling folding glass door transforms this Hermosa Beach pied-à-mer's enclosed sitting room into an open air patio with direct access to the beach. The adjoining window wall provides protection from blowing sand without disrupting the gorgeous, panoramic view or the sense of being outdoors. Interior architecture by Tim Barber Ltd., interiors by Peter Dunham Design and photo by Lisa Romerein.

This Colonial Revival residence's glass living room doors open onto a covered porch with lounge seating, dining space, and a barbecue that overlook the yard and nearby pool and cabana. The stratified transition from a fully enclosed room to a covered, open air space to the yard is perfect for the San Francisco Bay Area, allowing the owners and their guests to enjoy the mild days from various areas of the property, while also providing ample coverage should the weather quickly change (as it so often does in the north!).  Architecture by Tim Barber Ltd., interiors by Artistic Designs for Living, and photos by Laura Hull.


What do you think of this list? Do you want to learn more about one of the featured "essentials" or projects? Does your home have any of these essentials and if so, what do you like (and/or dislike!) most about them? What other California-specific home must-haves would you add? I'd love to discuss your thoughts in the comments below! 

- Katelyn