Art of Home: Stiles brings style and individuality through vignettes and vintage pieces

Interior designer Brittany Stiles encourages clients to break away from trends and to identify their individual style. Her most recent project is a Palm Springs Mid-century modern getaway on the site of Frank Sinatra’s former estate and an oceanfront retreat on the Newport Peninsula.
(Kevin Chang / Weekend)

In her wildest dreams, interior designer Brittany Stiles wouldn’t be hired just to decorate a house but to create a complete universe, from the art collection on the walls to a grandmother’s heirloom china in the cupboards.

In the past few years, she was given the opportunity to do just that for a Palm Springs mid-century modern getaway on the site of Frank Sinatra’s former estate and for an entrepreneur and philanthropist living in an oceanfront home on the Newport Beach Peninsula.

Having an eye for vintage and classic furnishings and accessories became particularly useful when Stiles, a wife and a mother of a 9-month-old daughter, transformed her family’s Costa Mesa home nearly two years ago.

“It was a blank canvas,” Stiles said, sitting in the home’s family room. “The size of this space is so small, and it was a challenge, but I’m good at interpreting people’s styles, and I did that for our own house and found what we wanted.”


Stiles, who went to design school at the Fashion Institute Design of Merchandising, began her career working for an interior designer in Laguna Beach and has since founded her own interior design company headquartered in Costa Mesa, said she would flip through interior design magazines and discover styles that spoke to her.

Rather than follow the latest design trends that could easily be duplicated, Stiles wanted to identify and develop an individual style that reflected her personal taste.

The bungalow property in Eastside Costa Mesa had been upgraded with appliances and black granite countertops in the kitchen, but the small home needed to be reinvented with a clean color palette of cool whites and blues.

The result is a stylized juxtaposition of Modernist and traditional furniture and a transporting use of color. White walls would give the room a lighter, brighter base that allowed furniture and accessories to stand out, she said, and to make most of the small interior, Stiles thought in vignettes.


She created a floor plan that sectioned off spaces according to her family’s needs and then considered the intended purpose of each area.

For the family room, Stiles purchased the longest sofa she could find at retail chain store Crate & Barrel and positioned it up against the fireplace. She added light-colored leather accent chairs to bring warmth and a sense of cozy contentment.

Then she hung a gallery wall of drawings and other framed pieces as high as possible to give the illusion of a tall ceiling.

A round table for two placed just a few feet away from the seated gathering space was perfect for weekday meals, she said, and if she needed more room for bigger family parties, she could easily remove the piece of furniture.

During the creative process, Stiles said she learned that the fabric of an upholstered piece or rug is the most visible sign of quality. When choosing upholstery, she advises clients to be aware of its durability and resistance to soil and fading.

Though she encourages her clients to take risks, Stiles said she suggests homeowners identify their preferences versus mimicking styles found online.

Having noticed that many home stores offered throwaway furniture and decorative objects, Stiles said she asks for her clients to visit showrooms featuring vintage and antique finds or to read home decor magazines offering genres like that of contemporary, coastal or eclectic.

She said the best exercise for her is to scour a client’s closet, storage units and attics, so she can unearth pieces that can add meaning to a home.


That authenticity found in collected and cherished items is a building block to adding personal touches into a project and such pieces can’t be copied from home to home, she said.

“I always say, “I want to give you something that is different and completely you,’” Stiles said. “I want to have my own style but have every client still have their own voice. Let’s mix it in your own way.”

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Twitter: @KathleenLuppi