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Design Ideas
Home Tour: Modern Beach Cottage Christmas
When the holidays arrive in Southern California, the shells and sand don’t go away—instead, they set the tone for a refreshing beach cottage Christmas.
When Kate Lester first approached this 1952 home in El Segundo, California, it was dark, dated and in need of an imaginative redesign. The homeowners asked Kate Lester Interiors for an open floor plan, and once an architect brought that dream to fruition, Kate filled the home with style and modern beach cottage Christmas cheer. Describing... Keep Scrolling
Written by Sarah Jane Stone
Photography by Bret Gum
Styled by Kate Lester, Jickie Torres & Sarah Jane Stone

When Kate Lester first approached this 1952 home in El Segundo, California, it was dark, dated and in need of an imaginative redesign. The homeowners asked Kate Lester Interiors for an open floor plan, and once an architect brought that dream to fruition, Kate filled the home with style and modern beach cottage Christmas cheer.

Describing the home as being a little modern farmhouse and a little classic coastal, Kate used seaside hues and traditional furnishings paired with modern elements to let the home feel vibrant and welcoming year round. “It’s a hybrid of sorts, a really beautiful and direct reflection of the people who live there,” Kate says. “The clean lines of the furniture contrast with the texture of the woven wood shades and natural fiber rugs. Vintage pieces mix seamlessly with new finds, and it all comes together so well.”

Living room with a modern cottage Christmas tree and greenery accents. // Cottages and Bungalows
MODERN MEETS CLASSIC. “The clean lines of the furniture contrast with the texture of the woven wood shades and natural fiber rugs,” Kate says. “Vintage pieces mix seamlessly with new finds, and it all comes together so well.”

Dining room with modern beach cottage Christmas décor.

Up-close of modern beach cottage Christmas table-setting.

Seasonal Sensation

Transitioning regular décor to seasonal can be a difficult balance to strike, but Kate makes the process look breezy. In this client’s home, the typical reds and greens of Christmas are traded in for a more personalized approach to the season. “For these clients the goal is a very understated and chic holiday look that feels classic and tailored.”

Large coastal wall-hangings, a hallway table and accent chair make up the entryway details of this modern beach cottage.
SUBTLE STYLE. For a holiday that offers style without overwhelming the eye, turn to subtle touches. Kate worked within her original color palette for the home when adding beach cottage Christmas cheer, for a cohesive and chic ambience.

As part of creating a classic, tailored ambience ideal for holiday entertaining, Kate sought to keep things simple. “There is a luxury in simplicity,” she says. According to Kate, just because the month has changed, all the pillows, plates and napkins don’t need to be traded out. For a simpler take on holiday décor, Kate suggests building on the home’s pre-existing design. “We took the textures already running throughout the home—glass, linen, wood and burlap—and pulled those together with coastal-inspired holiday items.”

Simple touches such as pinecone- and seashell-adorned wreaths, burlap ornaments and ocean-hued vases bursting with greenery bring the spirit of the season to every corner of this California home.

A large Christmas tree serves as the focal point of the living area in this modern beach cottage.
HOLIDAY FOCAL POINT. As the star of any Christmas décor, the tree should be a showstopper—and this one certainly fits the bill. From a local nursery, the stunning tree does not disappoint with its lush boughs and rich scent. “Just like with the tablescape, we kept things really simple and played on texture and our classic color palette,” Kate says. “We ran burlap throughout, and accented with wood and seashell ornaments. Since the floor plan is so open, it was crucial to keep the color palette and textures cohesive.”
Instead of hanging above the fireplace, these stockings are hung beautifully from a piece of wall art with anchor hooks.
CREATIVE DISPLAYS. No fireplace? No problem. Instead of giving up on the tradition of Christmas stockings, a coastal coatrack is reimagined as their host. In keeping with the simple and beach cottage Christmas theme, Kate turned to metallic stockings—a perfect complement to the anchor hooks.

This hall mirror was turned into a work of art with driftwood garland and an earthy wreath.

Entertaining Essentials for a Beach Cottage Christmas

Set within the open-concept living room, the dining space is anything but demure. The oversized wood table anchors the setting, while custom upholstered and linen chairs surround. For the holidays, Kate brings the table to life with a layered setting that takes full advantage of her motto, “More is more.”

“The truth is a good tablescape should combine texture, dimension and bit of the unexpected,” Kate says. “For this table we layered burlap and linen with real and faux greenery for contrast and depth. Then we accented with the pops of gold and the unexpected: bits of driftwood and seashells.”


Adorning the backs of the chairs are simple wooden ornaments that have been effortlessly tied into Kate’s beach cottage Christmas design with the help of burlap and fresh greenery. On the table, shells denote place settings, while touches of greenery keep it feeling seasonal.

Kate’s advice for turning year-round décor into festive holiday décor is simple—embellish what you already have, and add bits of the holiday spirit into your existing color palette. “If you have blues and tans and browns in your existing décor, then play up the natural winter palette of burlap, gold and white. It’s classic and natural. You can always add pops of color with floral arrangements and gift wrap!”

Modern cottage kitchen with Christmas décor. // Cottages & Bungalows
COASTAL KITCHEN. In the kitchen, entertaining essentials are lined up and ready to serve. The sea-foam glass tiles of the backsplash are handmade and add both beauty and charm to the space. As empty nesters, the homeowners wanted the kitchen to be simple, functional and gorgeous. Set up for a holiday gathering, it serves well, thanks to ample counter space.
The space behind this coastal blue bathroom vanity is full of Christmas cheer with the addition of green garland.
FINISHING TOUCHES. No space is left without a hint of holiday cheer. The coastal-blue vanity of the guest bathroom is anything but out of place with subtle touches of the season. A large swag of pine garland drapes casually above the copper-framed round mirror, while white poinsettias offer a touch of classic charm. “The beading detail on the bathroom cabinets is classic, but the color keeps it fresh,” Kate says.

Warm Wishes

California winters are mild, allowing for nearly year-round outdoor entertaining. With an outdoor fireplace and cozy furnishings layered with pillows and throws, the back patio welcomes guests with promises of warmth and comfort. Set just beyond a wall of glass panels, the space is still much a part of the main living room.


“This door system was something we knew would happen from the get-go as this was one of the most important elements in the home’s design,” Kate says. “Not only do the glass doors add an unexpected modern element to the space, but they also allow the outside living space to feel like it is incorporated with the indoor space.” With this seamless indoor/outdoor living experience, the homeowners are able to take full advantage of all the available livable space around them.

This custom-built window seat features a pinecone- and seashell-adorned wreath and mixed holiday pillows. // Cottages & Bungalows
MAKING THE MOST. Upon entering the El Segundo home, you immediately see a custom-built window seat offering up storage perfect for stashing extra shoes, gloves and outdoor gear. To bring seasonality to the guest-greeting area, Kate dressed the window with a pinecone- and seashell-adorned wreath and mixed holiday pillows in among the year-round regulars.

When the remodel process first began, the homeowners wanted to keep the home’s fireplace in its original location in the living room. Sadly, with the reworking of the floor plan it simply wasn’t possible. Not wanting them to lose out entirely, Kate created the outdoor entertaining area. “The covered outdoor space was built to serve the purpose of a secondary family and dining room, to be used all year long. It’s a really serene space and a beautiful place to wind down with a glass of wine after work, while still being able to watch the game,” she says.

Holiday place setting. // Cottages & Bungalows


Dining room chair with snowflake accent and greenery. // Cottages & Bungalows

Fabulous & Functional

As the hub of entertaining, the kitchen is ready for the festivities of a beach cottage Christmas, thanks to carefully planned use of space. Where upper cabinets would normally be hung, windows allow natural light to flood into the space—solving one of the home’s previous biggest problems of feeling dark, as the old floor plan lacked an adequate number of windows.

This problem-solving addition of windows also allowed for the creation of a unique buffet-like serving area along the length of the kitchen. Spread with drinks and desserts, the space is ideal for holiday parties and encourages guests to flow out into the living room.


“I wanted an area for the clients to be able to entertain and lay out food and drinks without taking up precious island square footage,” Kate says. “Keeping the windows above the cabinetry also helped the kitchen seamlessly transition to the great room along that visual line.” Even without the typical upper cabinets, storage is not a problem, as Kate created a spacious pantry for lots of out-of-sight storage.

Overall the kitchen’s design was kept simple so as to best suit the homeowners’ lifestyle, but simple doesn’t mean skimping on style. Kate’s take on subway-tile backsplashes features handmade Italian 3- by 12-inch tiles “with a perfect amount of imperfection and undulation that you can only find in a true hand-crafted product,” she says. “To keep it from getting too serious, we laid them in a herringbone pattern inlay over the range.”

Kate’s beach cottage Christmas décor is essentially a dressed-up version of the house. Brimming with fresh greenery, glittering accents and layers of texture, the joy of the season is made fresh in this California home.

Outdoor sitting area with fireplace and Christmas décor. // Cottages & Bungalows

Outdoor picnic table with Christmas accent décor. // Cottages & Bungalows

Looking for more modern cottage inspiration? Check out these posts on a modern cottage with a farmhouse edge and this bold and dramatic modern beach cottage kitchen.

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