This California Beach Retreat-Meets-Farmhouse Is Full of Juxtapositions
When Hermosa Beach-based interior designer Kate Lester signed on to design a luxury spec house for a local developer, she never imagined that she would later have the opportunity to also furnish the home from the ground up. "So many of the builders in the area were doing the same sort of traditional Cape Cod coastal style, but we wanted this home to stand out and make an impact. When the home was sold, the buyers immediately hired us to furnish the home because they were so impressed with our [modern coastal farmhouse] vision. This is what you always hope for when you work in the design world. Clients who get the process, and trust you to infuse their personality into your vision."
For Lester, that meant a curated, coastal-inspired home based on comfortable, classic design, with plenty of risk-driven details. "When you walk into the space you are immediately immersed in juxtaposition. It's a beach house, but it's not. It's a farmhouse, but it's not. It's modern, but it's not. As a visitor, you're eager to see what other boundaries were pushed and how it all comes together. It piques your curiosity, and that's exactly what we were aiming for," she tells us.
In order to lay the groundwork for a beautiful and functional family home, Lester worked with architect Trotter Building Designs and builder RJ Smith Construction throughout the process. "When we got the plans, they were already really cohesive. It was then that we were able to add details like horizontal shiplap, board and batten paneling, and a plaster range hood to bring our modern coastal farmhouse aesthetic to life," Lester explains.
While this four-story family home is by no means small, it is tall and narrow—a blueprint that presented an interesting challenge. Lester set her sights on an open concept floor plan for optimal function and flow, explaining that "a division of spaces would have visually cut and divided the space, making it feel darker and smaller than it really was." Ahead, Lester takes us through the 4,700-square-foot home, chock-full of personal touches, classic style, and unexpected details.
An Extraordinary Entry
The entryway, mudroom, and laundry room are all anchored with the same limestone brick, laid in a herringbone pattern, offering the perfect juxtaposition to the linear wall paneling. Of course, Lester also factored in the functional needs of her clients: "[The limestone brick] is super family-friendly, and stands up to water, dust, and sand!" she explains.
Tipping Our Hat to You
A functional hat display doubles as an art installation above a simple wooden bench—and serves as the space's first nod to the coastal vibe of the home.
The limestone continues throughout the home's landing, where a reclaimed bench and vintage trunks brighten up a hallway.
A Family Heirloom
Lester soon learned that her clients shared her affinity for vintage or "found" furnishings, and even had a few family heirlooms of their own to incorporate into the space. The challenge was finding a way to thoughtfully weave in these traditional furnishings with the modern, coastal farmhouse aesthetic.
Case in point? Her client's grandmother's cabinet, now situated at the bottom of the stairs. "It had a deep cherry-orange finish when we got it. The shape, scale, and sizing were perfect, so I had it bleached and refinished in a tone much more complementary to our current palette. When we did the reveal, the inclusion of this piece brought tears to our client's eyes, and her husband couldn't even believe it was the same cabinet!" Lester shares.
Function and Comfort
Given the open floor plan, Lester and her clients relied heavily on rugs, light placement, and strategic furniture arrangements to visually anchor and divide each space.
A Character-Filled Mudroom
Knowing that her clients would mostly be entering their home from the mudroom, Lester intentionally designed a space that would keep them organized, without sacrificing an ounce of style. "We used remnants of the oak wood flooring to add paneling to the back of the cubbies, and I love that it adds warmth and visual interest," she tells us.
Pop of Pattern
A neutral, but statement-making wallpaper brings texture to the home's first-floor powder room.
When it came to the kitchen, Lester made sure to infuse a few bold design decisions—like the dark kitchen island paired with inky countertops—along with classic elements, like the white cabinetry. "There are nods to a traditional farmhouse here, but we walked a fine line, always making sure it wasn't too on point. Keeping that infusion of the unexpected was important to me," she reveals.
A Revamped Classic
The simple yet striking dining chairs are handmade in the USA by Sawkille. "I was drawn to them immediately because they are such a unique and modern take on a traditional Windsor chair. They were exactly what I had envisioned in my mind. Something that could hold its own next to that large table, that was modern, but still comfortable," she says.
A Calming Oasis
In the living room, Lester and her clients opted for simplicity. "We let the wood pieces and textural elements do all of the talking and kept all of the upholstery neutral. This allows your eye to take in the whole space and not have any one pop of color dominate the aesthetic. It's calm and welcoming and that was all very intentional," she shares.
A Coastal-Inspired Family Room
The family room—which opens onto a rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean—was the perfect place to emphasize the coastal influence of the home. "We re-introduced the limestone brick here, as well as outside, to create an indoor-outdoor living space that can be used for relaxing and entertaining. We wanted our clients to be able to kick off their shoes, watch a movie, and enjoy the sunset here," Lester explains.
A neutral jute fixture defines the main staircase, which gets plenty of natural light.
While the master bedroom didn't exactly have square footage on its side, Lester didn't let that get in the way of creating a relaxing retreat. Instead, she opted to use larger-scaled pieces to give the illusion of more space. "Properly scaled furniture is imperative when decorating a small space. As you can see, we used every square inch of that headboard wall, and now when you walk in, it feels grounded and anchored. Your eye is drawn to the far wall and the whole space feels more open, and in turn, larger," she explains.
"I love the master bathroom. We kept the color palette neutral and bright here with Carrara marble and white paint throughout," says Lester. "It feels elegant, but not too serious. A freestanding tub is our nod to a traditional farmhouse and oversized hanging pendants are an unexpected nod to the home's proximity to the ocean."
A Consistent Style
Even the teenage girls' rooms were decorated with the overarching modern, coastal farmhouse concept in mind. Though each bedroom was thoughtfully designed with its own unique touches, Lester and her clients opted to keep the bedrooms sophisticated and consistent in style by trading anything that felt too child-like for pieces that could grow with the family over time.