3 Tips for Creating a Coastal Look

Coastal Style

Do you love beach weekends? Or, maybe you long to 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.  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.  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.

Nautical accessories in a coastal look
A little seagull goes a long way in this vignette.

I usually use art as my primary element like contemporary piece in the 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.

Subtle sea elements help create a sophisticated coastal look.

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 coastal style.

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

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 recommend 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.

Coastal look inspired by loft elements
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? Leave us a comment below!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you sign up for our email list! One easy way is to download our “Painting without Pain” booklet, where you will learn how to select and sample paint like a pro! Plus, you’ll get all of our latest and greatest on everything related to interior design and decorating!

Next week – 3 Reasons Your Blackout Curtains Don’t Make Your Room Completely Dark

NEXT WEEK – Retro Chic Re-design

Share or pin:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.