It’s a classic story. A woman falls for the charming beachside hamlet of Corona del Mar after living for several years in Newport Beach. She finds the perfect home and then sets out to feather her nest, turning to designer Brooke Wagner for the job. Here, the story takes a quintessentially 21st-century turn. To guide the designer, the owner turned to Instagram. “I remember her showing us pictures of homes with a bohemian vibe,” Wagner says, “lots of white, and textures accented by saturated textiles, vintage mixed with new.”
Wagner settled on a subtle base palette with an emphasis on whites and grays, giving her client the serene backdrop she craved and harmonizing with the home’s clean modern lines, high ceilings and wide-open layout, the work of architect Christopher Brandon. “It was all about removing as many walls as we could in the primary living spaces, with a lot windows to bring light into the house,” he explains. “We tried to create something simple, with two strong gables and symmetry off the master bedroom, to make a powerful statement. You can’t have too many fussy details.”
To add a more complex dimension to the spaces, Wagner brought in rich yet understated textures and patterns, and she used wood reclaimed from barns for shelving, window casings, ceilings and beams. Of course, getting those beams flush with the clean, high-gloss wainscoting took some finagling, says builder Andrew Patterson, adding, “To put those rustic wood beams next to that tongue-and-groove ceiling and get it super-crisp, we had to fill every single groove in with painter’s tape.”
More rustic wood pops up in the master bedroom, where the material creates a stunning accent wall. “I always imagined having something herringbone in my house,” says the owner, whose trip to Famosa to look at surfaces proved inspiring. “The salesperson there told me, ‘You have to see this.’ ” The ‘this’ in question was weathered barnwood in tile-size shapes. “We were dying to use it somewhere,” Wagner says, “and realized it would be perfect in the bedroom wall.”
Elsewhere, shiny dark gray tiles line the walls in the master bathroom, and much of the kitchen’s backsplash is composed of white-painted brick. The textures aren’t just a visual treat, though. In every space, the client wanted to make sure that everything felt as great as it looked. “She would come into our office, and we’d put a bunch of rugs on the floor, and she would take her shoes off and walk on them,” Wagner says. In the end, coverings from patchwork cowhide to wool sisals to plush Moroccan-inspired designs grace the floors.
To achieve an easy, bohemian vibe, the owner and designer played with patterns. While browsing at Raoul Textiles showroom in Santa Barbara, for example, Wagner spotted a linen fabric in a distinctive West African print and snapped some photos. “I sent them to her, and we were sold,” she says. The fabric made it onto a pair of chairs in the living room, next to a leather-swathed sofa. For the bathroom floors, Wagner also opted for pattern, choosing a simple dark gray arabesque tile for a powder room, an aqua-and-white hexagonal look in the guest bath and hand-painted terra-cotta tiles in a bold charcoal-and-white diamond pattern for the master bathroom. To keep the bold mix of patterns from being too overpowering, Wagner primarily chose them in shades of blues and grays with the occasional infusion of rose hues and brass tones.
Given her prime location, Wagner’s client plays host to plenty of friends and family, so it was essential that the great room and kitchen spaces function together as a flexible entertaining space. In the kitchen, there’s a breakfast spot with a built-in coffee station, for example, and a mini-bar area with a wine fridge. For the dining space, Wagner and company designed an expansive banquette. “It maximizes the space, and it’s a little more casual,” the homeowner says. “I knew that I would have that style of dinner party, rather than a formal dinner party.” And if she and her guests want to sip cocktails while enjoying the ocean view, they can head up to the spacious rooftop deck, which is outfitted with comfortable seating and a hot tub. “Part of it’s open, and then you have this cozy protected side,” Brandon says. “So you can be out there and entertain or be a little more private.”
Now settled by the beach, Wagner’s client couldn’t be happier. “It’s a tight-knit community,” she says. “There are great little mom-and-pop shops, everyone is so friendly, and you can walk everywhere.” But the pull of her new digs is equally as strong: “I’m a working professional, and I travel a lot, so I’m not home often,” she says. “But when I am, I don’t want to be anywhere else.”