Bay Area home style: Say hello to beachy boho, coastal cool

Toni Berry says heavy, dark elements are being replaced by beachy coastal and boho design

This article was published in the THE MERCURY NEWS by Joan Morris columnist for the Bay Area News Group, July 2, 2019

After more than 20 years of designing spaces in the Mediterranean style with textured walls, burnished hardware and large, heavy furniture with ornate legs, the emergence of Bay Area style has felt like a cool breeze to interior designer Toni Berry.

Cool, not in the sense of temperature, but in the sense of living casually!

Cool, not in the sense of temperature, but in the sense of living casually!

Berry, who opened Marie Antoinette Interiors in Sunol 34 years ago, says more people are getting rid of the earth tones and embracing openness, simplicity and comfort — hallmarks of Bay Area and much of California style.

We asked her to help define Bay Area style.

Does the Bay Area have a recognizable style?

After a couple of decades of Tuscan/Mediterranean style decor, we have finally moved on to a new style! Trending now is a style called “California Cool” or “Casual” style, a mix of beachy coastal and boho. Think cool hippie in Berkeley who was originally from L.A. It speaks to the memory of the counter culture of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

What’s the color story?

Light colors, like cool, pale, washed blues, greens and sand. Think sea glass. It’s as though the colors are meant to make you feel like a walk on the beach. Walls in this style are typically a white, such as Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace in a flat sheen.

White “Chantilly Lace” walls and ceilings are the perfect clean, cool, crisp backdrop for all the many natural elements in the room.

White “Chantilly Lace” walls and ceilings are the perfect clean, cool, crisp backdrop for all the many natural elements in the room.

This white has a very high light reflective value and is a beautiful back drop for all the organic textures in the space.

What are the must-have accessories?

When it comes to accessories in this style, anything that is handmade, natural or organic, such as a huge basket and a fabulous area rug, work well in this style. Vintage Moroccan rugs with Berber motifs and Turkish kilims are hallmarks to the look of this style.

Baskets, Kilms Rug, natural

Another key to this relaxed style is to not over-accessorize. It’s about having lots of free space and scale and not so much filling the space.

The go-to light fixtures for this style are swag lamps with rattan or wicker shades. This type of lighting acts as a sculpture in the room and is meant to be appreciated as such.

Are there certain furniture styles and essential pieces you’ll need?

Furniture that has simple lines and an unstructured form is best here. In upholstered pieces, it’s always in linen in a raw natural color. In case goods, it’s distressed, sometimes oversized but with little or no carvings.

General feel or mood of the style, I’d have to say is a really relaxed feeling that surrounds you. For example, a coffee table is not important in front of the sofa, but a hassock with a tray filled with casual accessories is.

This style, boho cool, is so laid back, even a reclaimed wood table and bench appears to have been there since the beginning. Not planed, but just exiting for the family which is to use it.

This style, boho cool, is so laid back, even a reclaimed wood table and bench appears to have been there since the beginning. Not planed, but just exiting for the family which is to use it.

It’s also important to note that nothing in the room looks planned or contrived. It’s supposed to look mismatched — that’s the beauty in it.

How about plants?

The best plant for this style is a large-scale rubber tree plant in a large handmade pots or baskets. Large groupings of plants are always a good idea.

Are there other elements that would be must-haves in the design?

Natural materials that make a space feel clean and pure. It’s not a cold minimalist style, as much as it is a warm relaxed style.

We Californians are very close to our surfboards and they are appearing everywhere, it seems, as accessories. Honestly, if you surf…ok!

We Californians are very close to our surfboards and they are appearing everywhere, it seems, as accessories. Honestly, if you surf…ok!

What is Bay Area style trying to say?

I’m not sure really, but I do know that the Tuscan/Mediterranean style that we were so heavily immersed in for so long has perhaps made us swing all the way over to the exact opposite, which is saying, if anything, “Let’s go to the beach” instead of “Let’s go to Tuscany.”

Another point to be made is that our fast-paced life here in the Bay Area is so busy. This style has become more of a necessity to unwind and downshift from the hectic flow of life here. I think it’s all in a natural effort to get away from the rush and just be California cool.

Time to ditch the heavy Mediterranean Look? Call for help and a solution!