Barclay Butera gives a California home the look of unbuttoned elegance.

By Krissa Rossbund
January 30, 2020

Window treatments made of fabrics so sheer they move with a whisper. Furniture overstuffed and slipcovered to accommodate a long weekend’s worth of elevated feet. Displays of shells and pieces of driftwood that recall walks on the beach. That’s one way to decorate a home near the water. But Barclay Butera looked through his design lens differently for this project in Newport Beach.

Nathan Schroder

While his clients, whose primary residence is two hours inland, were lured to the Southern California town because of its proximity to the water, their penchant for formality pushed aside the conventional casual aesthetic of beach environments. They wanted a classic abode that boasts a scheme as polished as a piece of sea glass.

“This isn’t a beach house with an expansive backyard of sand and panoramic views of the ocean,” says Butera, who is well-versed in the Newport Beach lifestyle. It’s where he was raised and now operates his design firm. “My clients love living near the water, but they weren’t after a look that reads coastal.”

Instead, Butera achieved a feeling of formality, albeit slightly unbuttoned (this is a relaxation-focused second home, after all) by calling on a hallmark of classic design: symmetry.

The designer, known for his love affair with blue and white, also drew on his favorite scheme. Here, though, blue arrives with the subtlety of ocean mist rather than the splash of an imposing wave. There’s classic blue and white in the foyer—a center table displays a collection of vases, tea canisters, and ginger jars. But then the hue takes a hiatus, content to play a minor role until making a striking return in the home’s private spaces.

Nathan Schroder

The living room is a breath of airy elegance with a plan, Butera says, that is not heavily designed. In front of the fireplace, matching French-style sofas upholstered in nailhead-trimmed linen, provide instant balance on each side of an iron-and-glass cocktail table. A pair of sconces formed as flower stems flank a mirror that reflects a shimmery crystal chandelier. Luxe sheers hang from ceiling height rather than directly above the window casings, then are tied back at a low level to create drama.

“Taking the fabric to this height makes the room feel like a fabulous hotel suite without the commercial effect,” Butera says.

Nathan Schroder

The dining room trumpets similar attention to pleasing geometry with a double-pedestal table and Chippendale chairs centered on the window. A chandelier descends over the table to match the glamour of the crystal on the table.

Nathan Schroder

The kitchen serves as the gateway for more casual entertaining with its ample center island, welcoming breakfast area, and easy access to the back patio. Finished primarily in white, the space doesn’t compete with the lush greenery outside.

Nathan Schroder

An ever-so-slight blue shade paints the master bedroom walls and millwork. Celadon-color silk window treatments quietly interrupt. The cool-tone backdrop cocoons an assembly of decorative French-inspired pieces: a bed with floral-and-scroll embellishments, a painted white writing desk, a settee in a heavy linen weave, and a crystal chandelier.

Nathan Schroder

The master bath repeats both the color and the glamour with the addition of marble, a gilded mirror, and another crystal chandelier.

Nathan Schroder

Guest bedrooms wear different shades of blue. Steel blue grass cloth is augmented with blue toile pillows in a French-style room.

Nathan Schroder

In a room with twin beds, a pale wash on the walls matches ceramic lamps on the side tables.

Nathan Schroder

Luxurious indulgences make this house the perfect place to exhale. Rooms relax in elegance, and comfort is achieved within the envelope of classicism.

“I love that my clients appreciate formality regardless of their location,” Butera says. “So many have shied away from it, especially in California, but formality can still support a livable lifestyle.”

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