House Tours: Casual Family-Friendly Cottage

Detail sand in vase
A California family of five relaxes in a casual cottage that's packed with style inside and out. An inviting patio, open floor plan, and maximized small spaces create the ideal gathering spot.

Carefree Cottage

Double doors create a welcoming entrance to this laid-back California cottage. To the right, French doors in the living room lead to an outdoor sitting area, perfect for seating more guests or catching up with the neighbors. Potted plants and flagstone tile lend curb appeal to the naturally breezy house.

Welcoming Wreath

Even the wreath on the front door exhibits the casual style of this California cottage with its welcoming starfish in the center. A variety of succulents make the wreath lush yet low-maintenance.

Casual Outdoor Living

An outdoor fireplace is the central gathering space of this backyard patio. Family and friends pull chairs close around the fire to keep warm on chilly evenings. The hearth offers additional seating or a place to prop your feet. A long teak table, with an umbrella to block the late-afternoon sun, is ideal for outdoor dining.

Built-In Outdoor Kitchen

Concrete countertops, which are ideal for an outdoor kitchen, flank a stainless-steel grill. They serve as the perfect spot for preparing veggies for grilling or an impromptu buffet. A built-in niche above the cooking area houses a TV for outdoor viewing. Old wine bottle corks line the ledge, and a collection of cups with hula dancers adds a personal touch. Next to the counter, a concrete planter complements the countertops.

Multipurpose Umbrella Stand

Disguise the base of a patio umbrella with a cleverly designed bowl. Drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl that lines up with the hole in the table. Here, landscaping rocks and succulents create a natural centerpiece around the umbrella base.

Easy Outdoor Decorating

A weathered robin's-egg blue lantern adds charm to the outdoor hearth, casting a soft glow on the patio after sunset. A woven basket offers a contrast to the stacked stone fireplace and stores extra logs for the fire.

Quick and Easy Decorating Trio

Mix and match pieces of varying heights and sizes for a super-simple display. Here, a tall urn filled with foliage, a medium-size pot filled with moss, and a shorter candlestick -- all with a crackled white finish -- become a pleasing arrangement that is easy to change with the seasons.

Sleek Outdoor Furniture

The clean lines and open frame of the teak chair lets the outdoor setting speak for itself. Durable outdoor fabric on the chair cushions and throw pillows offer carefree comfort. A mix of solids and stripes adds visual interest.

Wide-Open Kitchen

Knocking down a wall opened the kitchen to the living and dining rooms. Limited upper cabinets keep the space light and airy and let the cook see what's happening in the rest of the house. Painted green stools line the outside of a curved island, creating the perfect perch for kitchen helpers or kids doing homework. The kitchen island, with its cottage charm, is the hub of the home.

Family-Friendly Banquette

Skip the formal dining room that you will use only on special occasions and replace it with a comfortable eat-in kitchen you will use daily. Line the banquette with pillows for additional comfort and mix and match chairs around the outside for added style. The orange seat at the head of the table adds color and casual style to the kitchen and is the designated "queen's seat."

Breathing Room

A small living room lives larger than its limited square footage with carefully chosen furniture pieces. White chairs with tan trim pop against the mocha-colored walls. Carefully chosen accessories add interest without overwhelming the space. A pair of zebra-pattern ottomans offers additional seating without taking up too much room, and French doors leading to a front patio visually extend the space.

3-Step Decorating

Create a professional-looking display in three easy steps. First, choose the surface you want to work with -- in this case, an end table. Second, choose two or three items to show off. Look for pieces that vary in height and shape, like this taller lamp paired with a shorter flower arrangement. Finally, put them in place. The linen lampshade complements the woven texture of the table. Fresh flowers in a low container add a natural touch to the corner arrangement.

Chic Master Bedroom

Bring style into the master bedroom with an updated color palette. Crisp white in the headboard, duvet, and lamp set a fresh tone while creamy tans with pops of orange and green make the space a colorful retreat. A peachy hue on the wall offsets the upholstered headboard studded with nailhead trim.

Corner Office

Tuck a home office into the corner of your family room or in a guest room for easy access with limited space. A wicker desk chair and a ceiling fan with blades that look like tropical leaves offer beach-inspired charm. Classic black cabinets are set off by a marble desktop. A cabinet under the window offers additional storage and an extra work surface to spread out large projects.

Clutter-Free Shelves

Focus your decorating scheme around a single theme and pare down accessories to a few of your favorite pieces for a clean look. A large piece of white coral and a collection of green glass vases pop against the black shelves. Stagger photos and mix and match frame size and color for a casual, collected look.

Bring Beach Style Indoors

You don't have to live near the ocean to incorporate its natural beauty in your decorating style. Fill the bottom of a glass vase with sand and prop starfish, sand dollars, or other collected seashells. Line a mantel or bookshelf with your treasures and enjoy warm memories of the beach year-round.

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