California casual style, also known as California chic, is a relaxed yet polished aesthetic that embodies the laidback essence of the Golden State. It’s an approach to fashion and home decor that celebrates comfort and minimalism while maintaining a refined and aspirational vibe. California casual style has evolved over the decades while still staying true to its core values of effortless sophistication. In this article, we’ll explore the origins, key elements, and enduring appeal of the California casual design aesthetic.

History and Origins

California casual style grew out of the lush natural landscapes and sunny climate of the state itself. Early influences came from Southwestern, Latin American, and Asian cultures. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hollywood stars like Katharine Hepburn embodied a relaxed glamour that translated from the big screen to real life California style. By the 1950s and 60s, West Coast jazz and beach culture had mainstreamed more casual fashions. The 1970s saw new interest in indoor/outdoor living spaces and a bohemian spirit. California casual continues to soak up diverse influences while keeping ease and simplicity at its core.

Key Elements of California Casual Style

Color Palette

Neutrals like white, tan, and gray form the basis of the California casual palette. Easy blues and greens draw inspiration from the ocean and nature. Pops of sunny yellow, terra cotta, and salmon add warmth. Whitewashed woods and natural textures keep the look organic.


Linen, cotton, wool, cashmere, and silk in light to medium weights. The vibe is breezy, breathable fabrics rather than heavy or overly precious materials. Nothing too embellished or ornate.


Loose, relaxed fits in natural fibers. Wide leg culottes, drawstring pants, drop shoulder or dolman sleeves, caftans, shift dresses. Clean lines without a lot of frills or complexity.


California casual outfits tend to include lightweight layers to accommodate the temperate climate. Cardigans, kimonos, soft wrap coats, ponchos. Lots of options to add and subtract as desired.


Barefoot sandals, slides, loafers, espadrilles, sneakers, flat boots. The emphasis is on walkable, casual comfort.


Woven bags and hats, layered semi-precious stone and shell necklaces, oversized sunglasses, scarves


If patterns are included, they tend to be graphic, nature-inspired prints or ethnic motifs like batiks, ikat, or Navajo designs.

Overall Look

Polished but unpretentious. High quality construction and fabrics without fussiness. An attitude of relaxed luxury and conscious living.

Design Elements for California Casual Homes

The California casual aesthetic extends from fashion into interior design. Homes embrace indoor/outdoor living, lots of natural light, and organic textures.

Blur the Boundary Between Inside and Out

Folding glass doors, skylights, window seats, outdoor living rooms. Create flow between interior and exterior spaces.

Natural Light

Take advantage of California’s sun. Large windows, transom windows above doors, clerestories under ceilings, skylights. Light colors and mirrors also brighten.

Organic Textures & Materials

Unfinished woods, woven fibers, rattan, plantation shutters, tile, stone. Connect with nature through reclaimed materials and artisanal craftsmanship.

Neutral Foundation

Upholstery and larger furniture pieces in whites, tans, or neutrals. Pops of color come from pillows, throws, pottery, and accessories.


Plants, vines, potted palms, and fresh flowers. Reflect the lush native landscapes.

Hidden Technology

Speakers, TVs, lighting controls seamlessly integrate without marring the peaceful vibe.

Breezy and Uncluttered

Lots of horizontal space and room to move create an easy flow. Furniture elevates off the floor.

Outdoor Living Areas

Patios, decks, balconies, and porches extend living space outside. Outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, dining areas.

The Enduring Allure of California Casual Style

The California casual look has remained popular for decades because at its heart, it’s an inviting, livable aesthetic. The emphasis on natural materials connects us to our surroundings. Unfussy silhouettes and versatile layers are feminine, flattering, and uncomplicated. California casual means exquisite craftsmanship coupled with a laidback state of mind. As designer Tom Ford said, “the key to California style is that it looks like you just threw it together magnificently at the last minute.” For the sun-drenched culture of the Golden State, California casual will always be the perfect fit.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Casual Design

What are the main colors used in California casual style?

Neutrals like white, ivory, tan, and light gray form the base, with blues, greens, yellows and terracotta accents inspired by the ocean, sky, and desert landscapes of California.

What fabrics tend to be used in California casual fashion?

Natural, breezy fabrics like linen, cotton, silk, and lightweight cashmere and wool. The look avoids heavy, overly embellished, or high-maintenance materials.

What is an example of a California casual outfit?

A linen button-down shirt with wide leg cropped pants, flat sandals, a woven bag, and layered necklaces epitomizes the California vibe of relaxed polish.

How would you describe California casual home decor?

California homes blur the line between indoors and outdoors with organic textures, breezy spaces, and a neutral palette accented by greens and sunlight. The vibe is casual luxury rooted in nature.

What are some key outdoor living design elements for a California casual home?

Patios, decks, balconies, porches, outdoor kitchens and dining areas, fireplaces, water features, and greenery help extend living space outside.

Why does California casual design have such enduring popularity?

At its heart, California casual style emphasizes natural beauty, comfort, and uncomplicated elegance for easy yet sophisticated living. The look has remained relevant while evolving organically over decades.


California casual style represents the quintessential indoor-outdoor lifestyle of the Golden State. It brings together a relaxed polish and an appreciation for nature, quality, and design. Timeless, versatile, and inherently livable, the California casual look will continue reflecting the best of West Coast living for decades to come. With an emphasis on comfort, flow, and tranquility, this aesthetic offers an inviting sense of beauty and harmony in our homes and wardrobes.