Interior Design Road Trip (posted 4th August 2017)

For an interior designer who generally has their ‘Design Switch’ flipped to high alert at all times, planning the archetypal Californian road trip is as much about deciding where to go to keep the kids entertained, where to stay to see the most of the area, and figuring out how much time two adults and two young children possibly could spend cooped up in a car between destinations without physical harm befalling one or all of us… As it is about how nice is the interior design in each hotel we plan to stay in and what opportunities there are to see how the inhabitants of each town or city approach interior design... and lots of shopping, obviously.

Our recent road trip wrapped itself nicely around a stunning wedding (fittingly, it was a very talented interior designer getting married so even that aspect was an inspiration and example of beautiful design!) So we started in Santa Cruz, at said wedding, set in the grounds of an exquisite Victorian wood clad house, a wedding venue complete with multiple long runs of refectory tables, adorned with arrays of flowers and foliage, and with metres and metres of lights above, zig-zagging their way along an expansive landscaped terrace. Just beautiful.

And the house! Externally a magnificent show case of the local historic architecture, internally a triumph of space and interconnecting rooms, wide entranceways, broad staircases, acres of stained black flooring, and furnished with an attention to detail that brings me out in goosebumps. My kind of maximalism, collections of found objects, flea market bargains, expanses of galleries displaying photos and treasured memories.

One recurring feature in Californian houses that we could take a lesson from is the very specific kind of open-plan living. Not the typical British open-plan equals kitchen, living and dining housed in one small space to try and make it feel bigger, but maximising the impression of space, space and more space. Dispensing with hallways and walk straight into a truly open plan space, where you can see through the whole of the living area and to the outside world beyond. Who needs a hallway when most Americans have utility rooms or garages for their laundry and boots and coats and ‘hallway’ paraphernalia. On a slight tangent, it is a very entertaining and enlightening discussion if a Brit tries to persuade a Californian about the reasons why we have washing machines in our kitchens, they think we are nuts. And don’t even mention our habit of a washing up bowl in the kitchen sink, which is actually a bit odd when you really think about it.

And whilst many properties in the States probably Trump (sorry) the average British property in terms of square footage, from the evidence I have seen this isn’t just about the big old houses achieving this ideal. We had the very great pleasure of staying with a lovely American friend whilst in Santa Cruz whose gorgeous three bedroomed single level property takes great advantage of every inch of it’s square footage by removing walls and hallways and emphasising natural light and windows and perfecting the layout. He’s on the last stage of his project, to look at his kitchen. We, of course, gave him our tuppence (two cents?) worth of kitchen interior design advice!

Interior Design Road Trip

No trip to Santa Cruz is complete for any Suna-ite without a trip to Stripe and Stripe Men on Walnut Avenue, owned and run by Suna-The-Person (the very same Suna who started Suna Interior Design in the UK in 2001). With her very personal style and sense of Britishness she has established a new aesthetic in the commercial and residential interiors of the locale. And Stripe is like a little peak inside her brain, an amalgamation of beautiful local crafts, clothes and accessories, intermingling with vintage pieces, furniture and jewellery. An interiors and design heaven!

On from Santa Cruz we hopped down the coast to Monterey, ambled round the quaint streets of Carmel, drove the jaw-dropping 17 Mile Drive, trying to figure out if opulent housing to our left was more or less awe inspiring that the Pacific Ocean to our right. Our hotel, right on the beach just outside of Monterey, managed to strike a balance between a large scale, multi roomed complex and a more intimate boutique hotel. A reception area designed around the panoramic windows looking onto the ocean with soft seating areas and open fires. A restaurant cleverly designed with raised tiers of tables so that every table had a window view, and decorated in soft wood tones and comfortable upholstery. Bathrooms in the bedrooms were thoughtfully design with bespoke freestanding basin cabinetry, displaying piles of folded towels and toiletries, a really nice ‘beach house’ kind of aesthetic.

Interior Design Road Trip
Monterey Tides Reception Area

Interior Design Road Trip
Monterey Tides Ensuite

Interior Design Road Trip
Monterey Tides Restaurant

Our next stop was Yosemite, a drive across a landscape that is synonymous with an American road trip, long straight roads stretching off to the horizon, piercing blue sky over a bleached and yellowed landscape, mountains in the far distance, ticking off the telegraph poles as we drove past. To arrive in a Yosemite hotel is like stepping into another Interior Design world of cabin-chic and hunter’s trophies. Leather chesterfields, wing backed chairs, wood panelling and deer antler chandeliers. Even the hotel gift shop managed to strike the perfect interior design note with its merchandising, tree trunks and massive redwood logs used for the perimeter shelving and display of knick-knacks and touristy treasures. Really nicely done.

Interior Design Road Trip
Yosemite View Lodge Shop

Interior Design Road Trip
Yosemite View Lodge Guest Lounge

And then San Francisco. One of my favourite cities in the world, a city of clam chowder and Ghiradelli ice creams, painted houses and hills (oh my God, the hills, my aching legs!) Our hotel sat maybe just slightly the quainter side of modern interior design, they needed a couple of touches of contemporary to make it absolutely perfect in my eyes, but such a beautiful property, complete with an old fashioned elevator, roll top baths and four poster beds. 

Interior Design Road Trip
Nob Hill Inn Bathroom

But in San Francisco, it is more about the street scene and the architecture, the painted houses and the properties rising up from the near diagonal streets. And the colours, the details, the bay windows, the quality of light, I want to enter every single one of these houses and examine them in all their beautiful minutiae. These houses sit high on my dream agenda, that’s the agenda where I list my pie-in-the-sky future property portfolio, that will enable me to have a house in every desirable location on every continent in the world. I can dream, can’t I?!

Interior Design Road Trip


Please take a moment to vote for the Dollar Bay Penthouse, nominated as a Finalist in the SBID Awards 2017 in the KBB Category. We were delighted to have been selected by Mount Anvil to work on this project and are thrilled that the hard work has paid off with a finalist nomination for these prestigious awards. 
Interior Design Road Trip

Next week we'll be bringing you another #SunaSession and this time we'll be chatting to Bill Amberg of Bill Amberg Studio

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