“Scandifornian” design goes coastal in the Pacific Palisades


Scandinavia and California don’t have much in common (the weather, for starters) but when it comes to interior design, these two regions have strikingly similar taste. This is exemplified through the use of neutral color palettes, natural fibers, sustainably-sourced wood, and intentional accessories in both decorating styles. 

Interior designer Sarah Barnard recently overhauled a 3,600-square-foot family home in the Pacific Palisades, not far from the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Although the home was originally constructed in 1949, its revamped aesthetic is best described as ‘Scandifornian.’


The beachy blue and white exterior hints at what’s to come once you step inside. Distressed red brick forms a path to the entryway, which is framed by carved wood corbels that are original to the house. The foyer alcove includes a live edge wood table and a curated collection of seashells and minerals, blending organic elements with simple, clean lines.

Featuring handmade, live edge tables by William Stranger.

Featuring handmade, live edge tables by William Stranger.

But what instantly captures your attention is the light-drenched living room, featuring a vaulted ceiling with exposed wood beams. “The original bones of the house were excellent,” explains Sarah. A custom concrete fireplace designed by Sarah runs nearly the entire length of the wall. It’s boxy, modern shape is tempered by irregularly etched lines that “mimic the movement of the nearby sea.” 


The lightly-finished hardwood flooring, all natural, non-toxic sofa, shaggy wool floor cushion and wheel-thrown ceramics exude laid-back, Scandifornia style. Here, the aesthetic is minimal, but never cold or uninviting. Taking a seat on the floor is encouraged and each decorative object or family photo has a story behind it. 

A fine artist herself, Sarah collaborated with a trusted woodworker to create the living room wall sconces, carved from American Walnut. “The organic forms and natural finishes match perfectly with the coastal ambiance of the space,” notes Sarah. 


To build these custom creations, Sarah delivered sketches and sculptural models to the woodworker to convey her ideas. The prototype was referenced throughout the fabrication process to ensure accuracy, resulting in one-of-a-kind fixtures that serve as functional works of art. 

Natural dining chairs by the Cherner Chair Company have a slim silhouette.

Natural dining chairs by the Cherner Chair Company have a slim silhouette.

The dining room was “designed to feel soft and light,” with a neutral color palette, elongated dining table, natural dining chairs and a chandelier that appears to be floating in mid-air. The fireplace surround is yet another of Sarah’s custom designs. “I chose tile glazed in brilliant blue to create an updated linear pattern neatly framed by a custom concrete mantle,” she adds.


Sarah once again worked alongside a local artisan to produce the orb-like sconces that brighten up the space. “I often take formal inspiration from the home's location and reinterpret that within the space,” explains Sarah, who used the home’s Pacific Palisades locale as the jumping off point. She handcrafted a number of small ceramic prototypes for the client to review before agreeing on the current iteration.


The kitchen expertly combines old and new. “There is an exposed brick fireplace that remains a decorative element in the new kitchen,” says Sarah. “We wrestled with the idea of preserving or upgrading the original red brick. We collectively decided to keep it — in the kitchen only — as a homage to the architect’s original intent.” The light blue cabinet doors feature subtle detailing and the quartz countertops are flecked with real seashells. The office nook is the perfect spot to search for a new recipe or respond to emails, while the adjacent pantry offers plenty of storage and a stainless steel French-door refrigerator.


The ground floor is rounded out by a serene guest bathroom with a custom floating vanity, matching wood-framed mirror, and a vessel sink that sits atop an onyx countertop. Although the space consists of mostly hard surfaces, it is warmed up through the use of light wood tones, soft lighting and texture-rich pebble flooring. 

A handmade table by William Stranger anchors the space between the living room and dining room.

A handmade table by William Stranger anchors the space between the living room and dining room.

The California and Scandinavian decorating styles share many of the same values, most notably an appreciation of natural beauty and fine craftsmanship. Throughout this project, Sarah worked side-by-side with local artisans and craftspeople to realize her custom furnishings and lighting designs. “Unique handmade objects bring authenticity and personalization to a home,” says Sarah. The finished product, which she has dubbed ‘Peaceful Palisades,’ masterfully combines coastal California influences with the simplistic forms and function of Scandinavian design.

Written by Rachel Roth

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall and Chas Metivier