Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.
Picture yourself at the beach: Walking along the shoreline, your bare feet are warmed by the sparkling sand. A gentle breeze swirls about, tempering the heat of the afternoon sun. In the distance, you spot a sailboat lazily bobbing along the azure water. The only audible sounds are the crash of waves and the plaintive call of a lone seagull.
Whether you currently live at the ocean’s edge or miles away, coastal decorating is the perfect way to recapture that dreamy memory. If you love this laid-back look but are stumped as to where to begin, these ideas may be the impetus you need to create a coastal style for your home.
Your best bet is to start with a subdued color palette. Think of the color combinations you find at the beach—blue-green water, crystal blue sky, white and gray clouds, neutral sand, and peachy pink seashells. White, off-white, beige, gray, or blue-gray are safe choices for large expanses of wall. Since beach sand is typically neutral in hue, selecting a light floor color makes the most sense for your coastal interior.
Add a secondary or tertiary color to give your rooms visual depth. You can get more adventurous with accent colors, but remember, a little goes a long way. If you like vibrant color, splashes of red, orange, or lime green are reminiscent of colorful beach umbrellas. Or, you can use more intense variations of your primary color palette to create a soothing and sophisticated beach retreat.
Rather than going with an overly nautically themed space, choose items you would naturally see in a coastal setting. Specialty lighting, coral, seashells, driftwood, and sea glass are inexpensive (if you gather them yourself) and make beautiful additions to a home. Candles and are also a nice touch for romantic evenings. Look for candles with fragrances that remind you of your favorite beachy scents like sea spray, cocoa butter, key lime, or island margarita.
Your artwork doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal translation of a coastal environment. However, if you find a local artist that specializes in beach scenes, by all means, pick one that you love. As long as the art on your walls ties into the colors you have chosen for the room, you are good to go.
Turn an old couch and chair into something wonderful by using slipcovers. Slipcovers evoke effortless beachside style while giving older upholstered furniture a new life. Denim or cotton duck or canvas in a natural color gives furniture a welcoming look and comfortable feel. You can purchase the ready-made variety, hire a workroom to sew custom-fitted slipcovers, or make them yourself—provided you are a skilled seamstress.
Pillows are a fun way to add color to your room. Buy pillow covers and down inserts so you can easily switch them out when you’re ready for a change.
Breezy panels of sheer cotton gauze are the perfect choice for curtains. For privacy, install fabric or natural woven shades as your first layer and hang sheer accent panels to round out the coastal look.
Whitewashed furniture pieces always look right at home in a coastal-inspired room. This is another great way you can use what you have on hand. All you need is paint and sandpaper to transform an old dining room table into a stylish addition to your beach home.
If you are on the hunt for new furniture, consider wood pieces with an ebony finish and details such as hand-carving, frieze drawer fronts, turned legs, and bun feet. This will give your coastal home a decidedly British Colonial flair.
Using wicker or other outdoor furniture pieces is another nifty way to give your home the look of a seaside cottage. Pair a vintage dining table with wicker head chairs and metal side chairs for a quirky take on coastal decorating.
If you like the look but don’t need the physical warmth of a fireplace, why not purchase a fireplace surround and mantel to create the warmth of the design. This will give your living room or bedroom architectural importance. The mantel will provide additional display space, and the wall above is great for a flat-screen television, mirror, or piece of art.
Here are a couple of relatively easy DIY projects: clad the lower half of your walls in white painted wainscoting. You can also use trim pieces to beef up your base molding or create wall frames above or below a chair rail. Consider a beadboard ceiling in the kitchen or bath to give an otherwise plain room that beachy feel in just a few hours.
Hopefully, these coastal decorating ideas have inspired you to bring a bit of the sand and surf into your home!
Questions & Answers
Question: I'm in the process of making over my master bedroom. I want it to be beach themed and am having trouble deciding on a paint color. Would you recommend sea salt, atmospheric or a different color?
Answer: A blue-green sea glass paint color for the walls is a calm inspiration for the master bedroom. Accents in sand, natural wood tones, a seagrass area rug and crisp white bedding will give the room a refreshing coastal vibe.
© 2013 Linda Chechar
Start a Conversation!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 07, 2015:
Chantelle, it must have been fate, right? Best of luck with the rehab--sounds like a fun summer project! Thank yo so much for stopping by for a read and comment! Greatly appreciated!
Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on July 07, 2015:
I am rehabbing a coastal cottage as we speak so I am fortunate I stumbled on your article. loved it.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 26, 2013:
Thanks for reading poetryman! Yes, good advice to check for creatures inside the shells--quite an awful odor! Take care and best for the new year. :)
poetryman6969 on December 26, 2013:
I like your sense of style. It's important not to go overboard or someone will get seasick when they walk into your house. A little goes a long way.
Make sure there is nothing living in those shells before you decorate them. Dead sea things tend to stink.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 26, 2013:
vespawoolf, you are welcome! I prefer to rely mainly on nature-inspired colors and accessories -- that way you get an organic rather than an overly-obvious beach look. Good to hear from you! :)
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on May 26, 2013:
I love Coastal-inspired décor. I agree that we don't want to overdo it, but instead look for pieces that would naturally appear in coastal homes. I also love the palate of colors you describe here, with the complimentary tertiary colors. I hope to use some of these ideas someday. Thanks!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 25, 2013:
Kathryn, I've never been to Cape Cod, but would love to some day!
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 25, 2013:
Linda, have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, as well.
I live by the ocean, so I can walk along it, but it isn't in a very peaceful area. But Andy and I like to drive a couple of hours to Cape Cod in warm weather, and enjoy he beach environment for a few days.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 24, 2013:
@ Kathryn -- I'm a sucker for anything in the home that reminds me of living near the ocean. Someday I hope to do it again!
@ Rose -- It is a casual and relaxing decorating style that anyone can recreate. I live in the desert now, but still have decorative accents to recall my stint of coastal living.
@ Mary -- Beach memories are the best! Doesn't take more than a single seashell to rekindle the magic.
Thank you, ladies for reading, voting, commenting and sharing. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! :)
Mary Craig from New York on May 24, 2013:
I think everyone has fond memories of beach experiences and bringing them home is a great way to keep the memory alive. These are good suggestions for making your home remind you of the beach.
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on May 24, 2013:
Great article! I love anything that has to do with the ocean and the beach. There's nothing quite like the visual appeal and the sounds of the ocean's waves crashing and the miles of sugar white sand. It is extremely calming and relaxing so an environment reflective of that feeling, such as coastal decorating, is appealing. You have managed to include some very good tips and ideas. Thank you for sharing! Take care. (Voted up)
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 24, 2013:
I love coastal decorating. Anything to do with the water or the beach makes me feel contented! I have some trinkets from my visits to Cape Cod that bring back memories, as well as look presentable.
I like your ideas, as well as the photos you chose for this article. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Voted up and sharing.