3 Tips for Creating a Coastal Look

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Coastal Style

You probably love a good beach weekend. Or maybe you live near the coast. You love being near the water so much that you want a little bit of it in your home every day. There are so many ways to add coastal elements and so many coastal styles that you might feel like you don’t know how to make your home look “coastal” without putting a seagull on every surface.

I get it. I am a Florida girl, through and through. I have spent time in every beach town on the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Marco Island, and then some. Nothing renews me quite like being at the beach or on the water. So, of course I want to take that home with me.

Since I bought my first house, I have always had a hint of beachy-ness in my home. Since I’ve become a designer, I’ve created coastal looks for my clients and I want to give you my top three tips. No matter your coastal style – cottage, farmhouse, glam, loft, modern, eclectic – these three tips will help you add the beachy look you’ve been longing for.

Tip 1: Color Palette

With various styling options, you can achieve a coastal look with a variety of color palettes. Whether monochromatic, neutral, or bold all coastal color palettes have common threads, a sort of formula. After all, when a room has a beachy look, we can easily identify it.ย  So, what is the formula for creating this palette?

The first step is selecting white as your primary neutral. White, whether used in furnishings, cabinetry, or wall color, is a classic coastal color. White gives a nod to boating and nautical themes. In very casual coastal looks, like the look on my Coastal Loft and Coastal Farmhouse Pinterest boards, the color palette may consist of only whites and neutrals. Great examples of great coastal whites are SW White Heron, BM White Dove, and SW Greek Villa.

The second essential colors in a classic coastal palette are “water-y” colors – blues and greens. For a cottage feel, like a classic “Cape Cod” look you’ll want to use cooler, truer blue colors, like navy, baby blues, and gray blues. Great When creating a Florida or Caribbean coastal look you’ll want to use greener blues, like aqua, seafoam green, and spa blue.

This coastal palette has the soft look of the Gulf Coast beaches.

Tip 2: Nautical and Aquatic Themes

Yes, this category does include things like seashells, sailboats, sea creatures, and seascapes. However, I recommend heavy editing, unless you’re going for a “glam” look.ย  When I design a coastal themed space, I take into consideration the client’s personal style and desires… and then I usually edit. Coco Chanel once suggested that you should remove one accessory before you walk out the door. That’s what you need to do with your nautical and aquatic themes if you want to avoid your home looking like Grandma’s 1980’s beach condo’s – a collection of Miami Vice colored aquatic tchotchkes amid a sea of rattan furniture.

Over abundant seahorses and seashells in bright colors.

NO! Just. No.

What I’m talking about is using nautical and aquatic elements tastefully and in amounts that match the design style you’re trying to achieve. I suggest using subtlety when possible for most coastal styles. At max you will want a repetition no more than 3-5 nautical or aquatic elements. This is especially true for “in-your-face” elements like the aforementioned sailboats, seagulls, sea creatures, and seascapes.

A little seagull goes a long way in this vignette.

I usually use art as my primary element and sometimes that is just a suggestion, like the art in the contemporary styled bedroom below. This room has a lot of subtle nods to the ocean and some that are more overt. For example, subtle elements are color scheme, the art, the round mirror, and the glass lamps. They don’t scream “beach theme”, but instead help provide the overall feeling of “coastal”. The more overt elements are the sea anemone accessory and the piece of sea coral the client had as a souvenir from a trip to Hawaii.

Tip 3: Natural Elements & Textures

There is some overlap between this category and the previous, but they are pretty distinct. It’s also hard to reach overkill when it comes to the natural elements category. The difference is in the types of fibers you’re going to use throughout your space. Some great suggestions are grasscloth, seagrass, sisal, jute, rope, rattan, bamboo, and linen. All of these have some association with the coast, but even when used liberally, they create a harmonious look. From glam to loft, formal to casual, you can use any of these elements in any of the coastal styles.

Linen, sisal, and wicker give a textural nod to the beach in the Las Vegas Dovetail showroom.

Again, you will want to edit. Although it is difficult to go overboard (pun intended) with the natural textures and elements, I’m not sure that you will want a sisal rug, grasscloth wallpaper, seagrass chair, bamboo shades, a rattan table and a rope lighting fixture all in the same space. Although we’ve avoided the Miami Vice colors and the collection of seahorses, we might be headed toward Nana’s Beach House again! I would still have the same recommendation here, no more than 3-5 of these elements in a space. And that recommendation is highly dependent on the size and scale of the objects. The mood board below shows a nice balance between these elements in a Coastal Loft space.

I created this Coastal Loft board using several natural elements, but stayed away from overkill by keeping them in scale, limiting the number, and editing.

Key Takeaways
  1. Most of the time you want your space to have a “feeling” of the theme and not a walk-up-and-slap-you-in-the-face look.
  2. Choose a color palette that reflects a coastal palette, but keep in mind the coastal style you’re trying to achieve.
  3. Edit the sea-themed knick-knacks, lest you look like Grammy’s house.
  4. Use natural textures to create the feeling, but don’t use them on every surface.

How will you use these tips to create your coastal style? Still not quite sure what your coastal style is? Take this quiz and follow your style board! Need some help creating your coastal style? Hire us to help you! We offer everything from designer on call services to full design plans!

Next week – 3 Reasons Your Blackout Curtains Donโ€™t Make Your Room Completely Dark



12 thoughts on “3 Tips for Creating a Coastal Look”

  1. Darla Powell says:

    The mood board nails it perfectly! Just say no to seashells and seagulls, lol. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. julielampe says:

      Thanks for the support!

  2. Always my favorite color palettes! Excellent advice…editing is key!

    1. julielampe says:

      With coastal, editing is must. Very easy to cross the line into kitsch!

  3. Darci Foshay says:

    Great job here Julie! Love how you included the Dovetail showroom photo and then broke it down into incorporating the look into our own homes. Your key takeaways are right on point too- it’s always nice to achieve the coastal feel without a slap in the face ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you! I literally giggled like a little girl in that showroom. I did a live video because the space made me so happy!

  4. Claire says:

    Beautiful colour palettes Julie! I need to head to the coast more!

    1. julielampe says:

      Me too!! I live in a land-locked county and definitely don’t get to the coast as much as I would like!

  5. Jillian says:

    Great tips, especially the regional color palettes. Iโ€™ve never thought of it that way before.

    1. julielampe says:

      Well, I guess being a lifelong Florida resident I’ve been a good study. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Kelly Rogers says:

    Great tips! A little seagull goes a long way – I won’t soon forget that little gem, and may end up using it with my clients (with credit and permission, of course!).

    1. julielampe says:

      LOL! By all means quote away! Thanks for the comment!

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