Coastal design has always been in style, but as the pandemic comes to a close, it is becoming more popular again. This is because homeowners are seeking an open and airy vibe that feels more vacation-like, even if they’re landlocked. “Coastal design has been around for centuries, largely because it was the manner in which people decorated their waterfront or seaside homes. This design aesthetic began very much as a product of the environment you’re in when in a beach or lake house,” Amy Leferink of Interior Impressions tells me. “Over time this look has evolved to be less literal, and more an overall interpretation subject to the designer or homeowner and how they choose to bring the outside in, regardless of the home being situated in a coastal location. It is meant to evoke a feeling of being near the water— bringing the relaxation, ease, and casual vibe of waterside living to everyday life.”
So how can you give your home a more sophisticated coastal feel? I spoke with some of the top designers and experts to learn their best tips and ideas.
Skip The Seashells
According to Samantha Gallacher, founder of IG Workshop, some simple overall changes can make your home feel more coastal. “As we are based in Miami we have seen coastal trends come and go,” she tells me.
Overall, it is best to simply keep it light. “Currently and most consistently, we are seeing trends in color palettes, being light, earthy tones with accents of color, but also keeping color palettes minimal and playing with textures for added depth and feel to coastal living.”
Less Is More
Balance is key when it comes to coastal decor. Meg Young, Founder of Cailini Coastal recommends choosing neutrals for your larger pieces and then accessorizing accordingly. “Incorporate details like stripe or natural fiber rugs, blue and white-hued pillows, grasscloth covered decorative boxes, sea glass beads, bamboo photo frames, etc,” she tells me.
Then add subtle touches with smaller-scale pieces like a nautical knot doorstop, a framed natural sea fan, or a chic coastal coffee table book. “The key to pulling off a chic and not heavy look is making sure to mix pieces and work off of a neutral color palette. This also allows you to change up accessories seamlessly between seasons,” explains Young.
Textiles Can Make A Big Impact
Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios for Ashton Woods Homes suggests rethinking how you use textiles in your home.
“One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by layering in an area rug that speaks to more of your vacation self than your traditional home self. Another way is to include window shades that are high in texture like sisal or seagrass over typical wood blinds.”
Just Add Wood
Adding a wood beam, shiplap or another accent to a ceiling can be truly transformative without feeling like a tribute to Grandpa’s old boat. “One of my favorite projects was a waterfront home on Balboa Island in Newport Beach which features a modern coastal chic style,” interior designer Anne Michaelsen explains.
“The wood tones in the home pay tribute to the classic seaside architecture of clapboard, but the home also features more modern elements as well, like stainless retracting doors and contrasting dark ship grey vertical wood paneling. Coral, shells, and fish motifs are present but not overwhelming and kitschy. The color scheme echoes the sand, sea, and sky that surround the home.”
Consider A Cupola
Annapolis-based architect Cathy Purple Cherry is known for her coastal and palatial homes on Maryland’s Eastern seaboard. She suggests adding a cupola to give a home a more authentic coastal fee.
“The language of the cupola, which was once a beacon to watermen and a necessary source of ventilation, has continued to be an expressive architectural element in coastal homes. Today, coastal cupolas function as a vehicle to flood natural light into the interior spaces below.”
Source From Local Artists
“As more people are utilizing their oceanside second homes more regularly, they’re also recognizing the visual value of surrounding themselves with authentic art the way they would in their primary residences,” Boston-based interior designer Liz Caan tells me.
“Original works not only add richness and originality to a space, but when purchased from local artisans— they give it provenance. An acrylic painting of the surrounding landscape handmade by a longtime resident makes a coastal home feel a million times more authentic.”
Interior designer Caitlin Scanlon shares that wallpaper can be a great way to enhance a coastal space, although she hasn’t always been a fan of the look. “At first, I thought wallpaper had no place in a coastal abode—after all, nature, views, and the sea should be the star of the show, and everything else a neutral frame. However, I now see that there are some super cool wallpapers that enhance, not detract from natural beauty.”
Her personal picks? Scanlon likes Fornasetti Acquario’s graphic depictions of marine life, especially for a powder room. For lager spaces, she suggests going with Kelly Wearstler’s Currents wallpaper.
Stop Overthinking It
According to Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social, it’s important to go back to basics in a sense and be inspired by nature. “Coastal design is all about creating a cool and effortless vibe. Think watery colors inspired by the sky, the sand, and the sea.”
Owens likes using warm woven furniture made of rattan and wicker to instantly make a space feel more relaxed. “Decorative accents like seagrass baskets, colored glass, layers of organic prints and patterns, sisal rugs, washed linen throws, and ripply seashells encourage a casual feel.”
Just avoid going overboard with the seashells…
You Can’t Go Wrong With Blue
Pottery Barn is a great resource for anyone trying to create a coastal look. Many of their newest pieces were inspired by the colors of the Pacific Ocean including a palette of beautiful grays, washed-out blues, whites, and sandy colors. The brands’s designers also suggest using blue as a neutral.
Blue is also an ideal color for a tablescape. Pottery Barn’s melamine Azure Dinnerware collection is ideal for this. Don’t forget to accessorize the table with a Handcrafted Sea Glass Beaded Garland to tie the look together.
From Farmhouse To Beach House
Farmhouse has been one of the biggest design trends in recent years. It shares some elements with coastal design. So, if you’re ready to retire that “Live. Laugh. Love,” sign, it’s pretty easy to convert to coastal. “A lot of features from the now slightly outdated farmhouse trend can be transformed into coastal chic by making some small updates and changes. Embrace any light or weathered wood finishes and feature details like baskets or rope pieces,” Blima Ehrentreu, the CEO and Founder of The Designers Group tells me.
Wayfair even recently launched a line of furniture called Sand & Stable, which features a variety of larger pieces and accessories that can easily integrate into both styles of decor or help you transition from one to another. Every piece is designed to work together, making coordinating as easy as possible.
Many in the industry are even saying that farmhouse is the new beach house including Barbara Karpf, president and CEO of DecoratorsBest who tells me, “The Coastal Look is the new farmhouse trend. Natural, organic elements of coastal living like seagrass, soft blues, smooth rocks, and aged wood can easily apply it to any decor and bring a sensory experience to the home. At the end of a day working at home, people want to unwind in a luxury-feeling space. Bringing in a vacation vibe to your home gives it a new dimension from basic living to a get-away look and feel.”