There are many aesthetic stories in Newport Beach—among them as a glamorous enclave for old Hollywood and a playground for visionary modern architects of the midcentury period. For one globe-trotting family seeking to escape the foggy gray skies of London, however, their idea of a vacation home proved more elemental. Their California dreams were of a sun-kissed, colorfully casual place made for endless summer beach days. “When you leave the U.K., where it’s dark and raining all year, and come to Newport Beach, you want it to be bright, light and fun,” notes interior designer Milena Sefferovich, with whom the family reunited to compose the spaces of their newly built home by residential designer Mark Becker. “They were looking to build a house that was family-friendly and had good energy.”
Sefferovich had previously worked with the couple designing a residence in Barcelona—an alluring abode made for cocktail-hour entertaining, defined by moody wallpaper and lush velvets. Yet, from the beginning, they saw this new house as a more personal haven, where the family could retreat into each other’s company and with friends after long days by the coast mere blocks away. This meant central gathering spaces filled with generous seating in unfussy, durable materials, as well as pattern-punctuated bedrooms that suited everyone’s personalities.
For the wife, in particular, this also included precious finds gathered over the years, such as her collection of vibrant vintage fabrics. At planning meetings with Sefferovich, she would pull out a new piece to share as inspiration—all tucked in an envelope of swatches. “She really led the color and boldness of the home,” notes the interior designer.
Against a fresh backdrop of light-colored wood flooring and white millwork, the final palette offered jolts of the wife’s retro color cues—including earthy yellows, inky blacks, jewel-toned greens and hints of pink. The variety of wall treatments provided a playful canvas to explore these shades, from the hand-painted botanical mural in the dual laundry and craft room by artist Alina Welch to the grass-cloth wallpaper used in the dining room and entryway, which was specially commissioned in the perfect shade of mustard.
However, one color combination remained a low priority—the prototypically beachy pairing of blue and white, as “we wanted to make the home feel coastal, without making it cliché,” says Sefferovich. “This is not your traditional beach house.” Instead, the interior designer gave the abode an on-vacation vibe in other ways, like with reinterpretations of the classic palm leaf motif, using a black-and-white palm print wallpaper to create a zebra-like effect in the main bedroom. And in the son’s bedroom, she applied a geometric, camouflage-green design on the walls and ceilings to form a modern canopy.
Finding a contemporary twist on natural textures also proved key to retaining the home’s relaxed, intimate spirit, from jute area rugs to creamy linen upholstery. The interior designer had particular fun hunting down pieces that offered a sophisticated spin on wicker—that quintessentially coastal material. This included some statement light fixtures, like the modern cane mobile in the main bedroom and the beehive-like pendant in the main bath, a flea market find.
Blending such vintage accents with new, often custom furnishings is a central tenet for Sefferovich, one she has cultivated over the years curating for her popular Newport Beach store, Heirloom. She and the clients weren’t afraid to wait until they found the right piece for every corner. “Nothing was chosen just because it fit,” explains the designer. “Everything was selected with intention. Whether we built it or sourced it from a flea market, you will see one-of-a-kind furniture throughout the house.”
Form certainly followed function in the dining room, where Sefferovich had a solid oak table made to fit the previously owned dining chairs the wife loved dearly. And a coffee table, which the clients first discovered years ago while antique hunting for their previous project in Spain, finally found a home in the living room. This made the perfect anchor for the two custom curved sofas, proportioned “to accommodate conversation, while also keeping the room open to the view outside,” says the interior designer.
For such a well-traveled family, Sefferovich found particular delight in composing a beach home that fell off-the-beaten-path style-wise—one that would provide a postcard background to the California memories they take back to colder climes. “I feel like we made a little moment for every space,” says Sefferovich. “As a designer, it’s really about being able to create environments that are unique to every individual.”