What is the West? To those who live east of Kansas City, the West is cowboys and open land and home to the strange and unusual, such as the shopping cart Christmas tree in Santa Monica, California; Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho; and, admit it, is there anything more strange and unusual in the West than Las Vegas?
To Wendy Blackband, however, the West is sophisticated and refined with a casualness that speaks to the laid-back California/West Coast lifestyle that promotes the freedom to break the rules.
“One element within West Coast style that stands out from everything else is a natural, raw aesthetic,” she said. “That’s the common thread throughout West Coast design where jute and linen materials are often used.
“Home designers back East look to the West for inspiration. We know inspiration is everywhere, but it’s always good to be aware of what other areas of the country are creating, especially out West.”
Blackband and her husband Greg own Blackband Design in Costa Mesa, California. They are known for their fresh style in creating living environments with a splash of eclectic. She was one of five panelists who spoke Jan. 28 during a seminar titled “Best of the West” at the 2019 Winter Las Vegas Market.
Another panelist was Laura Umansky, president and creative director of Laura U Interior Design in Houston.
“It’s difficult to define a West Coast lifestyle since it encompasses such a large part of the country extending all the way to Colorado and beyond, both north and south,” Umansky said.
In fact, while most people think of the West Coast as the Pacific states of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska, the region also includes the mountain states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
“The West is huge and has a sense of place,” Umansky said. “It’s relaxed, thoughtful and elevated with fine details, but not too fussy. The West has a vibe that is more casual but with elegant aesthetics — a lifestyle where homeowners live simultaneously with the indoors and outdoors and actively use those outdoor living spaces.
“Western home design is a natural transition to the outdoors so rooms become one large space. Even though people are circulating inside and outside, there is cohesiveness to the home’s design.”
Umansky said her clients have different goals and their personalities dictate her work.
“No matter where I go — New York, Houston, Las Vegas — all homeowners want their home to be approachable, inviting and warm,” she said. “They are looking to be relaxed and inspired and want to feel serenity when they walk through their front door. In fact, no matter where you live, it’s all about feeling welcome.”
West Coast design influence can be found in other parts of the country. The laid-back California lifestyle is desirable regardless of location as it incorporates relaxed furnishings and resortlike amenities.
“West Coast design gives a sense that you’re on vacation in your own home,” Wendy Blackband said. “Think large-scale tubs and steam showers. Keep in mind that the public is always looking to create their own niche or elevate their personal home design. And because this new world of social media is offering so much information and inspiration at the tap of a screen, anything is possible. Trends and lifestyles travel the globe instantaneously.”
Blackband knows the West. A California native and graduate of the University of Southern California, she grew up on Balboa Island in Newport Beach. The influences of seaside life are reflected in her vibrant colors and distinctive “coastal bohemian” look.
As the public looks for new and different furnishings, one factor remains in place in the West and in Las Vegas: no cookie cutter designs.
“Function and unique character are what we hear all the time,” Blackband said. “My team is looking for pieces that our clients can live in while making their own statement and, at the same time, showing off their personality.
“We have fun mixing materials and textures to add dimension to our designs. Homeowners are starting to incorporate more color and materials into the surfaces versus sticking to solid white canvases. It’s fun to notice trends such as curved furniture, lush textiles and architectural accent chairs.”
Even though each client is different, Umansky notes there are similarities when it comes to understanding and meeting their lifestyle needs.
“For instance, Los Angeles is different than Pebble Beach, but everyone wants to live in a beautiful space with low maintenance,” she said. “That’s why performance fabrics have become so popular. It’s easy living with a look of elegance.
“And you never know what one client wants versus another. One may desire a full and open kitchen for their families and for entertaining, while another is always traveling and just wants a kitchen for its basic, utilitarian needs. However, they all want the same thing: easy living in a beautiful space. That’s West Coast.”