An out-of-the-box designer gives a lackluster beach cottage a good dose of grown-up surf style.

How to Design a Modern Surfer-Style Home

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Flip the Script

Lisa Romerein

When Raili Clasen bought a 1950s beach bungalow on Lido Isle in Newport Beach, California, she never imagined herself actually living there. But her vision for the home, meant to be her showcase flip, changed after contractors wrapped a laborious two-month herringbone hardwood-floor install on the first floor. Suddenly, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was home. “All arrows were pointing in the direction of moving in,” says Clasen.

Laid-Back Living Room

Lisa Romerein

“The one a-ha was the pitched living room ceilings with open beams that were untouched. That was the clincher,” says Clasen, who likes to balance modern sophistication with a not-too-serious surf style. To that end, she added vertical cedar siding over the fireplace to echo the ceiling’s original paneling, pepping them up in Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. She also juxtaposed the once-brick fireplace in a sleek, polished concrete and installed built-ins, used to display curated collections that add a graphic punch.

Letting Personal Style Shine

Lisa Romerein

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Rather than picking universally appealing finishes and fixtures, she altered course slightly and began designing with her husband, Ryan, senior sales director for Vans, and 15-year-old son Rees in mind. For example in the bathroom, custom wood mirrors are suspended over windows with quirky cotton cordage in a zigzag pattern. “Naturally,” says Clasen, “When it all came together we looked at each other and said, ‘Um, we are definitely moving in.’ ”

Mixed Patterns

Lisa Romerein

Clasen reconfigured the U-shaped kitchen by demolishing the wall separating it from the living room and removing an exterior doorway where the range landed. Punching an opening into the living room added light, bar seating, and a much-needed connection between the two spaces. For palette, she chose texture over color, placing V-groove oak above black-stained slab cabinetry, then balancing the finishes by layering on marble galore.

Playing with Scale

Lisa Romerein

A bold wall mural, with its watercolor effect, and large light add dimension to the dining room. “I love to take one element in a room and really go outside standard sizing,” Clasen says. “It feels cool to see an oversize fixture stand out and take over as the artwork in the room.” Soft Gray Watercolor Wall Mural, from $35; Large Dome Copper Pendant (similar), $472; Eames Wire Chair (DKR.0), $1,365;

The Hangout

Lisa Romerein

To offset the snug shared spaces, the couple agreed to let their son Rees take over an 8-by-9-foot room, where he packs in as many as seven friends to play video games. A scenic desert mural gives the illusion of a window and adds height to a smaller room. Joshua Trees in grayscale, from $192; Striped Chunky Sweater Wool Brayden Area Rug, $399;

Make a Statement

Lisa Romerein

The couple considered everything from rows of skateboard decks to vintage bicycles to fill a soaring 20-foot hallway. Inspiration came via an Instagram post of a tally and the simple phrase “Count Your Blessings,” by Costa Mesa artist Matt Allen. Clasen called Allen five minutes later to commission him to replicate the illustration. Blessing art print, $15; Random Light, from $1,195;

Keep It Casual

Layers of earthy sage tones in the bedroom evoke a calm sanctuary. Cloudlike wallpaper pairs well with an unfinished, cozy pile of bedding. Altitude Green Wallpaper Mural, from $35; Washed Linen Duvet Cover Set; from $79.99;