Coastal decorating is an extremely popular theme because its central focus is around something that we all love, the ocean. Whether you live right on the coast, or a thousand miles inland, bringing a seaside theme into your home is a fun and inexpensive way for you to have the sense that the ocean is always just a few feet away.
The term "coastal" has many connotations in the U.S., with variations from New England, to Florida, to the west coast. Architecture, motif, and overall style can swing widely from region to region in beach home decor.
There are common threads in coastal decorating, however, and below you will find basic concepts that bring together the elements of these varying designs. Depending on your specific tastes, we will provide you with several beach home decorating ideas to get you started toward that invigorating "life by the sea" sensation.
The primary colors that make up traditional coastal decorating include shades of green, blue, gray, white and brown. Mixtures of
green, blue and gray for an emerald hue closely resembling that of the ocean and sky; browns and greens representing vegetation; and whites, tans, pinks and beiges for sun, sand, coral and shells.
White is consistently the foundation color in coastal themes, keeping the environment fresh, clean and airy. Fabrics, cushions, upholstery, trim work, cabinets, walls, bead-board
wainscot, window treatments and appliances all contribute white tones to the interior.
In this seaside home, white bead-board wainscot is found below a light blue
wall, with hardwood floors and a palm next to a comfortable chair.
When considering color in your beach decor design, you can definitely stick with an all white color scheme, but this may not suit everybody. For added flare, consider mixing in a combination of the other colors described in this section. It is important, however, to focus on lighter rather than dark or deep tones, so that your room remains open and relaxed, as you might feel while lounging on the beach. The lighter background will also serve as an excellent backdrop for fixtures and furnishings.
To draw distinction and enhance your wall colors, crown molding, trim, doors, doorways, and baseboards should be painted in a bright white. Although wall colors should remain lighter, creatively mixing darker shades with lighter will add depth and complexity to the room. See the figure below for suggestions on colors in the coastal theme.
Color cues in Coastal decorating.
As mentioned in the tropical section, flooring in coastal decorating can range from tile, with terracotta being a very popular choice (adding a burnt-orange color to the room), all the way to hardwood, which can be wide-planked and left unfinished (for a tan or gray appearance), or thin slats that are stained and polished to a deep finish (golden to dark brown).
For assistance selecting your coastal decorating theme colors, try these free online tools, the color wheel calculator (from Sessions School of Design) and the
color visualizer (from Sherwin Williams).
Furniture in coastal decorating has a wide range of possibilities, as it is not necessarily tied to regional or historic boundaries. That being said, an eclectic mix in the decor is expected, so in a single room you may find accents from
Asia, Africa and Europe, spanning antique to modern, all within a few feet of each other.
A patio in Naples, Florida, with sofas and chairs in soft, striped fabric,
on terracotta flooring, and an abundance of plant life.
One common trait that you will find in coastal decorating,
however, is that sofas and arm chairs are puffy, overstuffed and extremely comfortable. Upholstery for these larger pieces typically falls into one of several categories, including, being solid in color, bold stripes in two colors, thinner stripes with multiple colors, or floral patterns.
A glass-topped dining table, along with rattan chairs and a candle
chandelier, diners have a striking view over the Gulf of Mexico.
Rattan and wicker furniture are common staples in beach home decor. Virtually any piece of furniture can be purchased that is made of rattan (which is a plant similar to bamboo, but not as thick). Known for being lightweight, durable, flexible and easily stained, rattan can be woven into a very sturdy mesh which makes
it an ideal candidate for stylish couches, chairs, tables and
Striped patterns are a distinct characteristic found in coastal decorating. Thin stripes or thick, monochrome or multi-colored, furniture, upholstery, bedding and cushions in the coastal theme are all likely candidates for fabrics using this pattern. While stripes are appealing, however, in order to
keep them from overwhelming a room, solid fabrics
should be incorporated into the decor as well.
One easy way to get your furniture looking more coastal, without actually having to buy a whole new set, is to use slipcovers. Larger pieces like the couch and arm chair can be inexpensively camouflaged under slipcovers, which have several advantages,
including, they can be easily washed, switched out to match specific occasions or seasons, the furniture will be
preserved, and finally, if the underlying furniture has seen its better days, no one will ever know.
Windows are typically sparsely covered, especially if you happen to have a view of the ocean. So instead, consider drop down linen or bamboo blinds, Venetian blinds, or plantation shutters, all of which can be opened to completely let the scenery indoors.
Fabrics in this seaside bedroom display characteristic stripes on the bedding and
cushions; a large plant, ceiling fan and plantation shutters complete the look.
And last, area floor covering mats made of sea grass and palm thatch naturally fit into this theme, and are especially useful as they are easy to maintain and do a good job keeping sand isolated to the doorway.
Large, leafy plants in the seaside designs are a critical component, and with several varieties to choose from, will add just the right touch to your beach house decor.
As described in the tropical section, your local nursery as well as online plant retailers will be able to set you up nicely. Be on the lookout for such things as Banana plants, palm trees, Golden Pothos, Heart Leaf Philodendron, Striped Dracaena, Orchids, Plumeria and Bromeliads.
Accessories in Coastal Decorating
Natural materials found from in and around the sea is the best place to start when accessorizing your home. Additional references to maritime life and fishing will get you well on
your way. For additional information on the seaside theme, please visit the tropical design page.
Below are some more ideas to get you started.
- Brass or copper kerosene cargo lanterns
- Old weathered nautical equipment, such as the helm's ship wheel, a sextant, a ship's compass, an anchor, a brass bell or barometer
- Antique brass telescopes
- Model ships and paintings of ships traversing through rough seas
- Accessories with fisherman, sailboats and lighthouse decor, such as lamps, clocks, tables, figurines, dishes and pictures
- Large, leafy potted plants or small trees
- Coral, seashells, sand dollars, starfish and driftwood displayed in clear jars, on dishes, or simply as stand alone items
- Driftwood furniture, artwork, lamps and mirrors
- Ocean scented candles and oil lamps with seashells and other sea life represented
- A tropical salt water fish tank
- Depictions of underwater sea life, such dolphins, sea horses and coral
- Straw baskets to hold towels, magazines, beach findings or a potted plant
- Sea gull and Crane statues or figurines
The diverse nature of coastal decorating really opens the door for you to step out onto a creative limb and pursue any path you like. Some suggestions include swirling, wrought-iron chandeliers, thick, ocean-scented candles, kerosene lanterns, hurricane lamps, and rattan, wicker or palm thatch lamps and
Be on the look out for lighting that depicts such motifs as
palm trees, seashells, fish, lighthouses, sailboats and nautical
accessories. Lighting can follow a more rustic path of wood and iron, or delve into the contemporary with a more modern look. Oval bulkhead lighting on walls, along with port and starboard lamps are a great way to replicate life on a ship without ever having to leave your home.
Lighthouse motifs are very popular in the coastal decorating theme.
Being that coastal decorating can simultaneously take its cues from many other themes, visit the "lighting" sections on these other select pages American Country, Moroccan, Tuscan, French Country and Tropical, which will give you more ideas so that you may drift off in any direction you like.
French Country Decorating
Return to the Seaside Design home page from here
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