Date: 29 Jul 2014
By: Seaside Interiors
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I recently had the privilege of attending a presentation in Tampa by visiting Los Angeles celebrity designer, Mark Brunetz.  Mark is “an expert at conveying designs that are well-edited, timeless and distinctly comfortable.” (source: Design & Dine Event ad) He is most recognizable as the Emmy Award winning co-host of the reality show Clean House on the Style Network, seen in over 30 countries worldwide.  Mark has worked on the show as a designer for nine seasons, redesigning 900 rooms after de-cluttering.  Mark has also written his first book, Take the U Out of Clutter.

                                                                 Mark Brunetz
                                                    Photo courtesy of Sandi Wallace

Although Mark’s presentation focused on the essence of his book and the psychology behind cluttering, I had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with him to discuss his thoughts on the topic of coastal design. According to Mark, many of his clients have residences on both the East and West Coasts of the United States and favor a coastal decorating style. Over the years, Mark has made some interesting observations while working with his bicoastal clients that have shaped his perspective on some distinct differences between East Coast and West Coast design tastes. From his experience, Mark has noticed that design styles on the East Coast of the United States are greatly influenced by Europe, specifically our British roots.
                                              First English Settlement at Jamestown,
                                       Photo courtesy found on 

To clarify Mark’s point, and for those who could use a brush-up on American history, I digress with a brief review: The first successful English colony was established in 1607 at Jamestown in Virginia. The New England area was later settled by the English Puritans, with the Pilgrims settling the Plymouth Colony in 1620.  By the early 1700s, following an influx of new settlers, thirteen British-governed colonies were formed along the East Atlantic Coast, populated by two and a half million people. By 1775, with growing resentment to a series of British-imposed new taxes, American Patriots from all thirteen colonies united together, entering into armed conflict against the British.  The Patriots were victorious, driving out the governing officials from the colonies. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies proclaimed their freedom from British rule, officially documented in the Declaration of Independence. Following America’s Revolutionary War (1775-1783) victory, America became engaged in conflict with Britain one final time in the War of 1812.

                                                              East Coast Style 
                                               Photo courtesy of The Enchanted Home 

So when we consider our country’s origin, it is easy to see why the East Coast is steeped in English history.  According to Mark, there is an ongoing relationship between history and style among easterners.  He notes a genuine appreciation for Early American antiques as well as English pieces that pre-date our American history.  It is not unusual for Mark’s East Coast clients to request incorporating antiques into the decor of their homes, regardless of the style.  Coastal decor mixed with a sprinkling of antiques is quite commonplace.  In general terms, and, of course, there are exceptions; the East Coast look is rather “traditional, classic and buttoned-up,” as Mark put it — possibly a result of the lasting early influence of our country’s proper British heritage.

                                                              West Coast Style 
                                          Photo courtesy of blog for Our Boat House

By contrast, perhaps because the western territory was settled so much later than the eastern states (and by American pioneers), Westerners were not affected by Britain’s formal influence upon the early American culture. The western coastal style today is far more “relaxed and laidback,” in both attitude and style, than their East Coast counterparts.  Creating a “lived-in, somewhat shabby chic look,” is often the desired goal of Mark’s West Coast clients.

Just as in East Coast homes, Mark sees an eclectic mix of furnishings in many coastal-designed homes of the west — but the mix usually involves pieces dating back no further than the mid-century – meaning 20th century!  Interestingly, the golden age of Hollywood has influenced West Coast style more than its early history.  According to Mark, it would be a rarity to see centuries-old antiques gracing the homes of West Coast design. More often, it will be pieces dating anywhere from the 1930s through 1970s. 

Mark recently teamed up with a group of designers creating interior design plans for yachts.  He said it was one of the most interesting, yet challenging, projects he has taken on.  Think about it:  How do you design a look that will be chic everywhere and anywhere a yacht may sail?  Mark makes a point of saying that, yachts or no yachts, people today have become more global in their tastes either, as a result of their lifestyle, or through exposure to television and other media featuring homes from around the world.  He emphasizes, “It is necessary for quality designers to stay current in all aspects of style and design in order to best serve the broadening tastes of today’s clients, regardless where they travel or live.”

In the next post, we will explore American East Coast style, from New England, southward, and all the way to Key West!

Article by: Sandi Wallace 

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