The Substance of Style
By Valerie Ryan
Published: 09/04/2011  Updated: 06/20/2019
Courtesy of Mary Smith (previous firm work)

Top North Coast designers discuss three distinct styles and how to create a custom, tailored look in your own space.

Interior design is about color, furnishings, art and accessories, and different design styles require different approaches to achieve a particular look and feel. We've asked top North Coast design experts to offer some advice on achieving three popular design styles: Cottage Style, Contemporary-Transitional and Distinctly Coastal. All three of our experts emphasize the necessity of working with a designer who is not formulaic; this is your house, not the designer's, and it should lend balance and harmony to your life. Expect a good designer to resolve spatial problems and analyze function before making surface changes. Whatever style you choose, it should make you smile when you open the door.

Diane Speakman, owner of Sesame & Lilies in Cannon Beach, brings her expertise to bear, updating Cottage style from the too-cute look of white picket fence and shutters that is now passe. "Using antiques is a must; don't bother with the soulless knockoffs that are found everywhere. A few good pieces will make all the difference and lend authenticity. Use colorways that have the same value and tone and clear out the clutter. Edit, edit, edit; don't let your rooms appear to be 'busy.'" Another way to update Cottage Style according to Speakman is the use of European elements such as hand-woven fabric from Romania, French and English linen, as well as blown glass and found items from nature. "Bring them indoors: bones, skulls, bird nests, shells, rocks...all add to the legitimacy of the look," she says. "Don't hesitate to innovate; changes occur frequently within a style, so push the envelope and try something new." Mix textures for variety in this style, such as sea grasses, baskets, ironstone pieces, antique bottles, hand-blown glass from Mexico, French wine bottles, hurricane lamps with clear glass for candles. Indulge your artistic side. Painted antiques are the perfect way to adapt old items and give them a new look, adding to the character and integrity of a space. According to Speakman, Cottage Style design is a look that is cozy and comfortable, informal and homey, eclectic and nostalgic - and brand new again after the American Country blue and mauve floral look of the 80s.

If Cottage Style is not your cup of tea, think about Contemporary-Transitional style, a well-tailored interior that is clean, sharp and elegant.

Designer Mary Smith, of M. Smith Interiors in Cannon Beach, is very knowledgeable about this way of designing and decorating. "This style is well proportioned with serene composition and a subtle color palette," says Smith, "it's flexible, unpretentious and sophisticated. It takes the stuffiness out of strictly traditional style and the coldness out of contemporary, mixes them together and creates a warm, casual, comfortable feeling. A formal party and a game day get-together are both at home in these spaces. A few design tips from Mary: "Black anchors and gives the eye a place to rest; when moving from room to room, ensure that the passage has compatible materials, tone and color palette. Use multiples of the same objects (stones, glass balls) and then repeat the look elsewhere in a different scale; create still life in trays to avoid a cluttered look and use decorative boxes to hide electronic equipment, and use garden stools inside and out, i.e., at the fireside, as cocktail tables, in the shower and at bedside." According to Smith, some current design trends are: using splashes of your favorite vibrant color, black and white photography, reclaimed wood used with a modern twist, leather books and chandeliers and sconces.

No discussion of design style would be complete without considering Distinctly Coastal, so we asked Denise Fairweather of Fairweather House & Garden in Seaside to weigh in with her ideas. According to Fairweather, the Coastal style is a celebration of a simple life at the edge of the sea, from the creation of light and breezy rooms to the selection of simple furniture and furnishings that echo the natural beauty of the surf and sand. Fabric is important, whether it is cotton, canvas or something else. Fairweather advises: "Choose natural colors, such as sand, light greens and blues, and elements of rock, glass, aromatic candles, aged wood and the precious metals of copper, silver and gold to carry out an affinity with the earth and water." Cool understatement is key, she says, and this extends to marine-inspired bathrooms and outdoor living areas that celebrate the lazy elegance of sun-warmed decks and the pleasure of cooking and eating al fresco. "An open design encourages bringing the outdoors in as much as possible," she says, "leaving the occupants renewed and refreshed - as if by the ocean breeze."
The Substance of Style