Client Spotlight: Valerie Saunders of Sérendipité Designs on the Collaborative Nature of Good Design
From clean and contemporary to traditional with a twist, this coastal California designer crosses genres and styles to deliver creative spaces that look and feel like the people who live in them.
“I was fixated on creating houses and homes from a very early age,” says the Costa Mesa, California-based interior designer and founder of Sérendipité Designs Valerie Saunders. “I was obsessed with building forts and tent cities—then Barbie towns, as I got a little older.” Art and home economics were her favorite subjects; interests that eventually led to design school and then her own full-service boutique design firm, which she founded in 2009. And while there is a cohesiveness to her designs—light-filled spaces with soothing color palettes often inspired by the surrounding landscape (frequently coastal environs by nature of her Costa Mesa home base)—she insists there is no signature style. In fact, she would be disappointed if you could spot one.
From clean, contemporary houses with a touch of California cool to classic New England-inspired coastal homes with plenty of Old World character, the spaces Valerie designs begin and end with the client. Valerie marries beautiful forms and finishes with individual function to create warm personalized rooms that reflect the people who live in them. “I’m extremely passionate about making each home feel like the homeowner,” Valerie says. “Early on, I learned to focus on the client and their needs and their style. I ask them about their treasures, their family heirlooms, what they do for work, and how they like to spend their free time. It’s a dialogue.”
“This particular client wanted a really clean look but not too modern,” Valerie says. To keep the spacious bathroom inviting, Valerie went for natural organic tones with light honey colored cabinetry and stonework shot through with a peaceful, soft gray striation as well as matt-black metal work, including the Robinson Small Pendants by Thomas O'Brienabove the vanity, that are particularly pleasing to the eye.
“I love sconces,” Valerie says. Flanking vanity mirrors in a bathroom, sconces can be particularly effective, producing that just-right light that is extra flattering. These Precision Cylinder Sconces by Kelly Wearstler add a sophisticated retro touch to this bold, high contrast bathroom in Newport Beach.
“This client definitely wanted a Cape Cod feel,” Valerie says. “They wanted that East Coast energy.” And nobody does all-American East Coast style better than Ralph Lauren, so naturally, a pair of the designer's Westbury Double Sconces (pictured right) found their way into one of the bathrooms in this waterfront Newport Beach home. “Lighting was one of the very first things we picked for this home,” Valerie says, including the narrow Carew Linear Sconces by Chapman & Myers(pictured left) that elevate this turquoise-and-white striped powder room.
“Cooking is my love language,” Valerie says, which is why designing functional beautiful kitchens that work for the families that use them is one of her favorite parts of the job. “I'd been dying to use these Halo Hanging Shades by Barbara Barry,” Valerie says.
“A lot of homes down on the Newport Beach peninsula are long and narrow, and I was really trying to come up with a way to anchor the space and make it feel like its own area.” The shades make a statement but a quiet one, which appealed to Valerie for this warm coastal kitchen with clean lines, soft light, and gorgeous white oak cabinets.
“This is a two lot house that is definitely built for a family,” Valerie says. “All the family members entertain in this home. This is where they gather. There's lots of cooking going on, and they're big wine drinkers. There are two 30-inch-tall wine refrigerators.” A cheerful periwinkle island and a pair of Broomfield Hanging Shades by Ralph Laurendraw the eye and invite friends and family to pull up a stool and pour another glass of wine.
For this young California family, Valerie put a refined spin on the modern farmhouse trend. “I try not to fit into one box,” she says. “The goal is to give a cohesive timeless look to every space.” And when it comes to timeless design it's hard to top the versatility of the Darlana Lantern by Chapman & Myers(pictured left). “It just works with so many different genres and styles,” Valerie says. Above the bar, a Boston Functional Single Arm Library Light by Chapman & Myers(pictured right) adds ageless appeal.
“I absolutely believe that people should be spending more energy designing dining rooms because they create a backdrop for memories to be made,” Valerie says. This classic Newport Beach home for a family that loves nothing more than to open their home to guests, offered the perfect opportunity to create a dreamy memorable dining space. With views of both the Pacific Ocean and Newport Bay, the space naturally spills outdoors, meaning Valerie needed to balance natural light with light fixtures, choosing the Large Bryant Billiard by Thomas O'Brien to make a statement.