Avoid Cookie-Cutter, Sterile Design—These Are the Steps to Creating a Home with Soul
How to create a meaningful space.
Join guest editor Camille Styles as she and her family transform a 1950s Malibu beach bungalow into their dream retreat—and in the process, discover a slower, more intentional way of living, rooted in the beauty of the West. It’s all part of our journey to the Sunset 2023 Idea House, a home that displays the latest innovations in Western home design.
What makes home, home? It’s a location, yes—home is where we rise and greet the morning, lay our heads at the end of the day, and for many of us, it’s where we work, create, cook, relax, and gather. But home is also a feeling. For me, it’s the unmistakable comfort of climbing into my own bed after being away for a few days. It’s a sigh of relief, the hug of a soft blanket, an invitation to let my guard down and just be myself.
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As we plan the renovation of our beach house, I’ve been thinking about how to infuse the warmth and comfort of home into every detail of our design to create a space that our family truly loves—one that supports the life we want to live. Now that we’ve made it through many of the “bigger” decisions (floor plan and exterior and interior materials), I’m turning my focus to the furniture and fixtures that will give our home its soul.
Home Is a Journey
Having owned our home in Austin for the past 12 years, one thing is certain—I’ve always got a project. To me, the most interesting homes are ever-evolving, just like the people who live there! Our homes are the ultimate canvas for creativity, and even a small weekend project like painting a wall or refinishing a dresser can change our whole mental state.
As I begin scouring my favorite sources for furniture and fixtures (both new and vintage), I’m thinking about how to infuse the house with layers, patina, and soul, while still maintaining our simple, minimalist aesthetic. What exactly am I looking for? Well, there’s no formula—sometimes it’s more of a feeling. The timeless patina of an unlacquered brass faucet that gets better with age, a chair whose organic shape reminds me of the waves, or a vintage piece that repurposes something old to bring life and soul into the space. Often, it’s just watching for those pieces that make my heart beat a little faster.
By realizing that our homes are ever-changing and never “done,” it relieves the pressure of making everything perfect from day one. I’d rather slowly choose the pieces that speak to me, even if that means leaving a little breathing space in some of the rooms until I find that just-right chair or painting.
Home Is Well-Being
For me, “home” lies at the intersection between a beautifully-designed house and a space that nourishes us physically and mentally. And designing a new space is an incredible opportunity to make choices that support our wellness! It may sound a little far out, but trust me—our homes can be a powerful catalyst for overall well-being.
We all instinctively respond to the beauty of nature. The sound of the ocean or a river has been proven to change our brain waves’ frequency and put us in a more meditative state. Being in a forest activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which makes us more relaxed.
My hope is to harness some of these wellness-boosting cues by choosing pieces for the house that bring the outside in. I’m sticking to an earthy color palette that recalls the beaches and canyons that are all around us in Malibu. And I’m incorporating as many natural materials as possible—natural clay tile in the bathrooms, woven light fixtures, rattan furniture pieces, and wood floors and cabinetry will create a beautifully textured effect.
Home Reflects Our Values
How do our values shape our home? One of my intentions for the year is to approach everything I do with more mindfulness and care, and I want our home to reflect the life that our family wants to live.
One of the things that drew us to this 1950s beach bungalow in Malibu in the first place was the dream of a slower-paced life. Pressing pause on the hustle of our busy schedules in Austin to settle into the rhythms of life by the ocean. We rose at dawn to surf, planned our meals around the abundance of the local farmstand, and gathered friends to enjoy it as the sun set over the mountains. It was all a much-needed reminder to slow down and reconnect with ourselves, nature, and each other.
One of the ways that this more mindful way of living shows up is by choosing furniture and decor that supports our lifestyle. An extra long dining table on the patio was chosen with the dream of gathering lots of friends around it for long meals for sunset dinners. A cozy chair in front of the fire will be my special place for coffee and journaling in the morning. And our kitchen shelves will be lined with handcrafted artisan pieces from my own brand, Casa Zuma. Each time we take a sip from the Oaxacan glassware or eat from the handmade wood salad bowl, it’s a mini moment to connect with the person who made it.
At the heart of this renovation journey? A desire to create a space that invites us to breathe a little slower, feel a bit calmer, and ultimately, spark joy whenever we use the pieces within it. These are the things that make a house a home.