10 lessons in California modern style we've learned from this elegant home

How to combine laid-back living with refined elegance – insider secrets from the designer of this California modern home

kitchen with wooden floor and dining table full height window
(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

It might not have been around for long, but this newly built home in the San Francisco Bay Area can teach us a lot about California modern house design. Completed in 2023 in Menlo Park, California, this family home is a perfect blend of laid-back living and elegant interiors. 

The home's interior design is the work of Lauren Goldman, at LORO Architecture + Interior Design, based in North California's Bay Area.  You don't have to live in California to embrace the California modern vibe, there's plenty here to inspire a similar look wherever in the world you call home. Designer Lauren shows us round and picks out her California modern highlights from this latest project.  

1. Consider the setting and blend inside and outside spaces

exterior of white stucco home with trees around

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

Indoor-outdoor living is a key part of the California modern aesthetic, with the outdoor space requiring just as much thought as the interiors. The best starting point, as here, it to ensure the home is inspired by the environment in which is sits. 'This allows the structure to effortlessly blend with its surroundings,' says Lauren Goldman. 'We place an emphasis on clean modern lines, natural light and materials, and cohesive indoor to outdoor living space. 

'The homeowners wanted to truly erase the barrier between indoor and outdoor living in their new home. Our challenge was to think beyond windows and integrate the outdoor space with the interior.'

And there were more obstacles to overcome thanks to the nature of the plot. 'Siting the new home amongst existing full-grown trees was challenging to make sure the new foundation wouldn’t harm the trees,' explains Lauren. 'This was tricky given the size of the lot, setbacks, and zoning restrictions.' The results were well worth the effort since the mature trees firmly ground the new build in its setting, helping indoor and outdoor worlds to converge. 

Interior designer Lauren Goldman
Lauren Goldman

As Founder of LORO Architecture + Interiors, Lauren Goldman AIA,  has built her practice around designing intentional spaces that fuse function with beauty. A native Californian, Lauren offers a unique design perspective that reflects the relaxed, effortless elegance of Northern California, and continues to be inspired by designing homes which seamlessly complement the busy lifestyle of the modern family. LORO’s process is rooted in collaboration from conception to completion. Through close-knit partnerships, we are able to efficiently build customized interiors which balance functionality and art. We are innovators, creating smart solutions that are both pioneering and practical.

2. Create impact from the off with a showstopping entrance

doubleheight entryway with wooden floor and round mirror

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

Inspired entryway ideas can turn first impressions into lasting impressions, setting the style guide for the whole of the home. When you're looking to create a California modern style entrance, this bright, elegant look is perfectly on brief. Keep things pared back but ensure that key pieces, like the Lulu and Georgia Remwald Sideboard and Croft House mirror here, are strong enough to speak for themselves and make a big impact. 

'When you walk through the threshold of this home, where the entry is floor to ceiling glazing and a vaulted two-story space, it sets the tone and experience,' says Lauren. 

Note the beautiful ribbed detailing on the front door here, we'll see echoes of this treatment elsewhere in the home. 

3. Carry design themes and details through from room to room

living room with white sectional, fireplace and blue artwork

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

The main downstairs spaces are open-plan and so keeping a soft, calm palette across the rooms makes good sense. Continuing design details across the spaces also helps to create a more harmonious look and so key to the living room ideas is the ribbed detail in the contemporary fireplace. This subtly references the front door treatment but with a fresh perspective. 

Warm whites and soft natural wood shades are stalwarts of an elegant California modern look, with a bold artwork, by Jason Trotter for Le Bennett, introducing the room's strongest color highlight. 

4. Keep a calm, natural palette

dining room cabinetry and display shelves

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

This home bar and coffee-making space is part of the chain of interlinked rooms at the heart of the home, taking its color and style cues from its neighbors. Clean lines and uncluttered surfaces, finished with sophisticated details are the California modern influences on Lauren's style choices here. Crescent-shaped aged brass handles elevate the simple white cabinetry into something special, while the patina of the wooden Prevalent Projects bar stools also adds character to the space. 

5. Perfect the art of the California modern kitchen – sophisticated and relaxed

kitchen with wooden floor and reeded wood island and white cabinets

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

It's the kitchen that's the real California modern showstopper and there are plenty of inspiring kitchen ideas worth a steal for anyone wishing to create a similar aesthetic. 'It has an immense amount of hidden storage, which keeps the appearance sophisticated, while being extremely functional,' explains designer Lauren. 'The reeded, stained oval-shaped island is a design detail we never previously had the opportunity to design. The softened ends mean it’s approachable and easy to move around while prepping meals or entertaining guests. The shape’s gentle curves are both comforting and elevated. It’s something you might see in a modern Parisian bistro.' 

Among the other unique details worth noting are the bi-fold windows at the main sink, designed so food can easily be passed through to the outdoor kitchen. 'It was a great solution to continuing with the clients’ desire to break down the barriers between indoor and outdoor life,' adds Lauren. 

6. Keep an eye on the outdoor space 

kitchen diner with wooden floor and dining table with full height windows

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

There are no barriers to indoor and outdoor life in this part of the home, where the focus is most definitely on the backyard's outdoor eating and entertaining space. With the indoor table at the center, and huge bifold doors, topped with a high vaulted ceiling, dining room ideas are more about enjoying the outdoor living. The boarded, vaulted ceiling transitions into the overhang for the back porch, which Lauren designed to be usable throughout the year. 'It shields the summer sun and invites you outside in the winter with warm integrated ceiling heaters,' she explains.   

7. Make space for a mud room – the rest of the house will thank you

mud room with wooden cabinets and bench seat

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

The California modern look is about effortless sophistication, but never at the expense of functionality. There's a laid back element to this style too, and Lauren's mudroom ideas demonstrate how practical details can easily be incorporated into a refined home. Indeed, the very fact of having a mud room to store outdoor gear helps to keep clutter and mess at bay in the rest of the home. 

8. Appreciate the beauty of simple, pared back design

wooden stairway with simple iron balustrade

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

Clean lines, pared back spaces – these are also the hallmarks of laid back Californian style. The staircase ideas here are so simple, but oh so stylish, with just a hint of cozy natural accessories – a hide throw and a faded vintage-style rug – to soften the look of the angular treads and linear balustrade. A vibrant artwork by Theo Pinto injects a hint of blue to draw the eye upwards. 

9. Create a charming seating space on a landing

upstairs landing with bench seat under windows

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

Including an additional seating space on the top landing in Lauren's hallway ideas was pure design genius. A full-length bench seat is positioned both to enjoy the home's double height ceiling and the abundant light coming through the many windows. It makes the perfect reading nook and offers views of the backyard from another angle. 'Wherever you are in this house, the connection to the outdoors is ever present,' says Lauren. A cozy selection of neutral pillows ensures this bonus space keeps within the home's color palette. 

10. Balance practicality with good quality finishes

bathroom with wooden vanity

(Image credit: Paul Dyer)

This home has six bedrooms and six bathrooms so no one is fighting over the shower in the mornings. There might, however, be a rush for this bathroom with its CB2 pendant light and exquisite ribbed floor-to-ceiling ceramic tiles. These are the quality finishing touches that make Lauren's bathroom ideas stand out from the crowd.   

Indeed, the whole home includes these fine details, which balance the contemporary pared back style and create what Lauren calls 'emotionally warm settings'. It's the perfect blend of a laid back, welcoming atmosphere with refined design, and the very essence of California modern aesthetic. 

Interior architecture: Lauren Goldman at LORO
Photography: Paul Dyer

Karen Darlow

Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.