This Modern Beach House Is a Master Class in Casual Elegance

This West coast home is all about understated elegance and setting a casual tone that makes guests feel right at home—indoors and out.

white house front exterior with steel frame doors
Photo: Cottage Living

Wine on the rooftop deck and patio gatherings where doors are flung open so guests can wander in and out. That sums up life in Dean and Laurie Gray’s Newport Beach, California, home.

Every element was selected for its ease in handling guests while keeping things simple. The slipcovered sectional in the family room can host the most on its own, with armchairs, two window seats, and ottomans supplementing seating for larger gatherings. The decor suggests the beach in its watery blue accessories and sandy-hued rugs, but the house doesn’t go overboard.

reclaimed wood fireplace of family room
Cottage Living

Design-build team Michael and Betty Terry and interior designer Wendy Blackband collaborated with the couple to marry their beachy-meets-contemporary aesthetics. Blackband says, “They can certainly be fancy if they want to, but they’re also really down to earth and fun.” The house displays this merry mix for sure—and isn’t that the secret to every great gathering?

In the living room, reclaimed wood clads the family room fireplace surround; it reminds the couple of their Napa Valley winery, Riverain Vineyards. A round coffee table visually softens a room that has a lot of boxy shapes or hard lines. It’s also a smart choice for anchoring a sectional or eliminating sharp edges.

table entry way with artwork and lamps
Cottage Living

Keep-it-simple decorating includes propping (not hanging) artwork on the entry table so they can easily change pieces. Ottomans are pops of color that can be moved for seating. “We picked elements that would work in both a beach house and in Napa,” Betty Terry says, “so we carefully chose perfect whites, several textures, and unique details for each room.”

dining area with crystal chandeliers and fireplace
Cottage Living

Crystal chandeliers—a surprise in a casual beach house—were placed so they frame the view of a painting by Wolfgang Bloch. “We didn’t want anchors and boat oars at every turn,” Dean says. “We wanted a traditional beach house—whether that was in Maine, the Carolinas, or California—but a little more contemporary, and we wanted to incorporate our love for Napa Valley.”

blue stools at kitchen island
Cottage Living

One of Dean’s favorite aspects of the kitchen is how the island allows stools to tuck under the corners to aid in entertaining. “We designed the kitchen to be open and with a lot of seating,” he says. Rustic wood and a wall of white-painted brick continue the subtle nods to Napa.

master bedroom with white drapes and large windows
Cottage Living

“In Newport Beach, you give up having a lot of property—the neighbors are on top of you,” Dean says. To shield views into the primary bedroom, builder Michael Terry strategically placed windows (and planted a tree in the front yard). Curtains draping the bed enhance the room’s dreaminess. Texture is one of the easiest ways to visually warm a white room. A sisal rug, woven window shades, and a touch of wood do the trick in this bedroom.

master bathroom with wood walls and marble floor
Cottage Living

“Every woman who visits our house says her favorite thing is the primary bath,” Dean says. It boasts a marble floor and a reclaimed-wood wall.

bunk bedroom with rope chandeliers
Cottage Living

Rope-wrapped chandeliers and a vintage surfboard provide a beachy aura in the guest bedroom, which is set up bunk style to expand sleeping space. White walls allowed Blackband to bring in hits of easy-to-change color in pillows and other fabrics. “When I start designing, it’s fabric-driven,” she says. “There may be more than 10 fabrics in a room, but it’s well balanced so it’s not overwhelming, and it’s not perfectly matched.”

reclaimed wood rooftop deck with seating
Cottage Living

Flooring on the rooftop deck is rainproof porcelain tile that mimics the interior wood floors. Reclaimed wood clads the fire table, where chains repurposed from an old ship fill the center. “We’re big entertainers, and we built this home around entertainment,” Dean says. “We figured that having a home in a beach community would also attract our five children and future grandchildren to come visit—give them a reason to come home.”

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