West Coast Wow vs. East Coast Cool

I just recently returned from a milestone trip out west to the California coast to celebrate a fun anniversary and for a college visit with my daughter. (Not sure how she grew up so fast!) I soaked in all the positive vibes for which sunny Cali is famous. It was especially easy to get excited in Napa Valley, where the food and wine are bountiful and the casual-but-sophisticated style elevates the whole experience. The chic-yet-industrial urban feel of San Francisco added another artistic layer, and the creative, bohemian ‘burb of Berkeley brought the variety this area has to offer full circle.

I spent a leisurely amount of time design daydreaming as I explored, and found myself doing a lot of back-and-forth comparison between the East Coast and the West Coast. Not which is better or worse, per se, more noting what’s similar and what’s unique about each coast. In fact, I actually found more similarities between the two coasts’ aesthetics, but the interpretations varied, as if photographed through distinctly different lenses.

The West Coast has a wonderful wanderlust quality, an experimental exuberance mixed with artisanal appreciation. Maybe because the overall mildness of the weather draws you outside, I found that the influence of nature resonates in design both inside and out. A perfect example was my experience at world-famous The French Laundry.

A once-in-a-lifetime dining experience that, if at all possible, should not be missed, there is an easy, down-to-earth yet completely luxurious feel that allows one to delight in and be dazzled by the details: the blending of the building into nature, the charming combination of old and new. Little things surprise you at every turn, and these details knit together to tell the story…all while feasting on the succession of extraordinary flavors placed in front of you.

Here in the east, although our fall foliage offers a pretty spectacular outdoor display, design is typically borne of a more tailored sensibility — still beautiful, but slightly more buttoned up. Think curated collections versus more meandering natural elements. If I may continue to draw upon culinary experiences for an East Coast comparison, I would logically name The Inn at Little Washington, another three Michelin star establishment practically in our own backyard. Its creative cuisine and intimate interiors play in the same league as its West Coast counterpart: decadent and delicious, but in a space that is decidedly more “done.”

Regardless, whether in the hands of Thomas Keller or Patrick O’Connell, you will most certainly have enjoyed and experienced a definitive sense of place. And this is what rings true when it come to design on both coasts. Whether “out west” or “back east,” the goal is to create a home that is a natural, genuine reflection of our own personality, our surroundings, our story, and the influences we have encountered all along the way.

California may leave you “dreamin’” but the fabulous four seasons of the East Coast are also easy to enjoy this time of year. So no matter which coast you favor, they are each rich in style. Ultimately, those who let go the idea that “there is some particular formula to that end” are the most successful in creating an inspirational space that feels like home, no matter what side of the country.


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Alex Deringer and Courtney Cox combine their formal training in design and fashion with their renowned sense of style in Ivy Lane, a full-service interior design firm that curates casually elegant family dwellings that are elevated by a unique spark. Whether an entire house renovation or a one-room makeover, Alex and Courtney’s extensive experience and collaborative dynamic inform a successful design philosophy: thoroughly understand the client’s lifestyle, bring a thoughtful spatial perspective, and enliven the space with the freshest aesthetic interest.

309C Cameron Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314


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