This L.A. Designer Nails the Ultra-Cool California Vibe—Here's How

Updated 04/27/18

Katie Hodges is the principal designer and creative Director of Katie Hodges Design and shop. Her love of textiles and furnishings first drew her to interior design seven years ago, but it's her innate drive and curiosity that's given her the ability to grow her industry expertise, which includes construction (new build and remodels), custom furnishings, and architectural consulting.

A versatile designer, Katie can work across various interior design styles and infuses her signature warmth and comfort into the spaces she designs. Katie doesn't believe in "untouchable" rooms and hopes that, through her interior design work, she can provide clients with a home that they can enjoy and can thrive in. In this column, she lets us in on her secrets to achieving that Cali-cool look we all love.

Amy Bartlam

In the initial stages of designing a space, it’s often tempting to focus your search on the one thing that "makes" the room. While no doubt a single element can transform a space, my design philosophy concentrates on the synergy between several items within a room and the effect created when they combine. This method of designing yields a more casual and unfussy vibe that California is known for.

The key to achieving this look is to break down a room by its layers and see what each layer brings to the table. For example, layer one is the rug and often times serves as the foundation. Rugs with muted tones and an organic feel are my favorite. They add color and pattern without being overpowering. Keep reading for more of my modern bohemian décor tips as we explore the various layers, dimensions, and theories behind achieving this ever-cool California look.

Nothing Ages Faster Than Newness

modern bohemian décor tips
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design
peekaboo acrylic desk
CB2 Peekaboo Acrylic Desk $1099
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From the Spanish colonial revival movement in the ’20s and ’30s to the post-war design boom of midcentury modern, California is deeply rooted in its design past. There’s a true appreciation for vintage here, proven by the hundreds of flea market vendors and furniture shops bursting at the seams with vintage treasures.

A sprinkle of vintage is one of the key components to the Cali-cool style that doesn’t look dated. While it takes more work to find the right vintage pieces, the result is worth every hour spent scouring Chairish (one of my favorite sites for vintage finds). My favorite vintage pieces to incorporate are midcentury coffee tables, benches, lighting and accent chairs.

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Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design

It's the Little Things

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Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design
Katie Hodges Design Jaimee Pillow $325 $276
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The broad strokes of an interior design concept are nothing without the supporting details. This circles back to the “sum of many parts” theory, delivering a comfortable, personal, and collected look. When selecting accessories, vary the textures, materials, finishes, and patterns to keep the look multidimensional. If everything feels the same, the look falls flat and lacks interest. Handmade ceramics, vintage pillows, and books are my go-to finishing touches, and when in doubt, add a plant with a cool shape.

modern bohemian décor
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design

It's Just Like in the Movies

California living room
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design
Katie Hodges Design Vintage Striped Rug Ottoman $1975

Let’s think about how a movie is cast. There’s the lead role, supporting actors, and extras. When I first sit down to design a room, I figure out what piece(s) I’d like to highlight in the design. Being aware of the lead allows you to cast the best supporting roles to interact and bring out the best in each other. This becomes the framework for how I prioritize selecting pieces and allows me to stay focused on the final desired outcome. Equally important is the practice of editing. Too much of something (e.g., pillows on a sofa) may yield diminishing returns.

It’s all about synergy and a well-measured approach to each layer. California style is all about casual, not cluttered.

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Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design
Pampa Cactus $216
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Design Knows No Borders

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Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design
Restoration Hardware Parsons Slipcovered Bed $1775
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Rich global diversity is undeniably a strong creative influence in California. From the rustic textures of Mexican terra-cotta to the rich colors of Morocco and Turkey, layering in global design elements is very characteristic of the popular West Coast style. When incorporating bold global design elements into your space, I suggest pairing seemingly opposite pieces. Midcentury modern is perfect for striking the right balance to avoid a Moroccan palace-themed room. Antique Chinese and Thai textile pillows are my absolute favorite ingredient to sprinkle in, and if you want to go for a bolder look, Turkish rugs are like none other.

boho bedroom decor
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design

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