Outside in, inside out: Defining California style

“California is like the responsible, popular girl, who also cares about the environment,” said designer Breegan Jane, capturing the spirit of California design during a celebration of Gloster’s new studio store in West Hollywood.

A leader in sustainable, luxury outdoor furnishings, Gloster kicked off its recent grand opening with an exclusive event, including a panel discussion on California style. The panel featured Jane, along with designer Stephan Jones, and actor and design aficionado Noureen DeWulf, who all elevated the conversation from what could have been mere fluff to something far more substantial. 

Erika Heet, (left) editor-in-chief of Interiors magazine, moderated a panel that included designer Stephan Jones, actor and design aficionado Noureen DeWulf and designer Breegan Jane.

Connecting with nature first

Much of the discussion emphasized the relationship between California’s eclectic landscape and its iconic aesthetics. To begin, moderator Erika Heet, editor-in-chief of Interiors magazine, asked the panelists to explain their relationship to indoor-outdoor style. 

As a native Californian, Jane said, surfer-grunge culture permeates her designs and can be seen throughout the beach house she recently built for her family. She gave an overview of historical building in California, going back to the Spanish missions: “It was always a connection to nature first,” she explained. When the first Europeans built mission-style buildings, they were drawn to the region’s orange groves and to a climate that was healthier for people with conditions like asthma. They brought with them English gardens, which thrived in Southern California. California design isn’t one thing, but it always connects to nature, she said. 

California dreaming

California style draws you in. That was certainly the case for the two transplants on the panel.  DeWulf, originally from Georgia, and Jones, a self-described “Midwestern boy” now based in Los Angeles, both approach California style from an outsider’s perspective. They used words like “dreamy” and “free” to describe feelings the state evokes. And, of course, the allure of Hollywood and power the entertainment industry cannot be overstated, they said.

Jones elaborated: He is currently working on the Sierra Towers, originally designed by midcentury architect Jack A. Charney, who studied under Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schnidler. The unmistakable residential building is located in the heart of West Hollywood and features outdoor terraces with views of the Sunset Strip in one direction and the Hollywood Hills in the other. In Hollywood, even steel boxes in the sky find a connection to the hills — and the glamour.

Leaders in sustainability

Living and building in California comes with responsibility. In addition to the beautiful deserts, beaches and mountains, there are also earthquakes, fires and landslides. As the nation’s largest economy and major exporter of everything from electric vehicles to fresh produce,  sustainability is top of mind for many.

Gloster specializes in luxury outdoor furnishings made of teak.

It was apropos that the discussion took place in Gloster’s new showroom, which features outdoor furniture made from sustainable teak. (The manufacturer also has studios in Chicago; Dania Beach, Florida; New York; and South Boston, Virginia.) Gloster takes pride in its sustainability efforts, noting on its website that “every piece of Gloster teak originates from carefully managed plantations.” As “the first and only choice of timber for outdoor furniture,” the wood is “exceptionally hard wearing, highly resistant to rotting, and almost impervious to the effects of sun, rain, frost or snow,” the company says. In short: Long-lasting furnishings are an important part of sustainability.

When asked how sustainability impacts their designs, Jones was transparent: He thinks about materials and where they are sourced, but he’s still learning. It’s an ongoing process, he said. Having just opened a new storefront featuring many midcentury antiques, he’s taken a great interest in giving these pieces a new life. 

Jane, also based in LA, talked about being drawn to woodworkers in Mexico and making a point to source from local artisans. She discussed being involved with Save the Water and left the audience with this note: “In California, we have the hippie stereotype. It’s a lifestyle that leads with thought first.”

Courtney Porter

Courtney Porter is a designer, author, host and media director. She specializes in seamlessly bringing interior designers, architects, furniture manufacturers and showrooms’ physical products and services into the digital world. She is co-author of “Green Interior Design: The Guide to Sustainable High Style” with Lori Dennis. Porter also is a host and producer of design shows. You may have caught her on “Behind the Bar,” interviewing your favorite celebrity designers or sharing her favorite decor finds on the live sales network Lit Live.

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