When a Bay Area couple decided to purchase a vacation home in Laguna Beach, near where they both grew up, they knew exactly who to call for help: their daughter, Hilary Helfrich, who works for San Francisco designer Marea Clark. The brief was simple enough—a casual beach house with a dash of daring—but the timing was not. The couple needed to move in quickly as it was to be their temporary home during the remodel of their primary residence. “It happened fast!” says Clark. But neither she nor Helfrich were daunted.

The house was essentially move-in ready, which made it something of a blank canvas. “It was all white, so we really warmed it up,” says Clark, noting that the home’s petit dimensions meant designing a few bespoke pieces. “We had to get creative,” she continues. “The living room sofa, chairs, ottoman and rug are custom, and we included several of the couple’s antiques because of their smaller scale.” The additional benefit of antiques, she explains, is that they add “a soulful feeling that elevates a space.” And because the designers weren’t bound by a traditional beach house aesthetic, they were free to play with other ideas too. “We always try to find the hero fabric for that really special layer,” adds Clark, and in this case, it was the sofa floral, Lee Jofa’s Althea linen. “That pattern is a classic and it relates to the roses my mom wanted to plant,” says Helfrich. “And the warmth of the ochre chair fabric feels cozy. It’s just a really good palette for all seasons”—which was an important consideration as the home needed to be just as appropriate for lazy summer weekends as for cozy winter holidays.


The resulting rooms are stylish but not precious. “It’s the details that make it feel pulled together,” adds Clark, noting the cut of the rug around the fireplace, how the powder room’s rattan mirror echoes the pattern of the Sister Parish wallpaper and the decision to line a chest of drawers with the same ticking that backs the curtains. Those traditional touches allude to Clark’s Southern roots (she grew up in Kentucky) and the time she spent under the tutelage of California design legends Madeline Stuart and Suzanne Tucker, whose polished aesthetic still informs her work. “We wanted to create a different experience in each space,” she continues. “Hilary’s room is pink and inspired by a Veere Grenney image, but it was her idea to paint the ceiling—it draws the eye up and adds warmth—and a collection of her mother’s hats adds a feminine touch.” They gave Hilary’s brother’s room a more masculine feel with a herringbone rug, a black-painted faux-bamboo bed and a few of his guitars hung on the wall. But upstairs, the master bedroom is a departure, says Helfrich. “It’s an airy space that floats above the first floor.” There, the duo paired a custom bed with the couple’s existing nightstands and added a plush rug inspired by an Irish fisherman’s sweater. “It feels so good on your feet!” Helfrich adds.

And that’s really what this house is all about—feeling good. The rooms are infused with a relaxed spirit that lets the family unwind. “I love how well the home does with all the windows, French doors and Dutch doors open—it feels so connected to the garden,” says Clark. And yet it’s a just a three-minute walk from the beach. The family’s time in the home is always wonderful, but as Helfrich points out, “the days here wouldn’t be as nice if the house wasn’t so comfy.”