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Life’s a beach: A guide to coastal style and design

When you picture your dream house, what do you see? If it’s light and breezy, with a clean aesthetic and tones, you might be picturing a home with coastal style.

(Oh, and if that dream house is at the beach, you’re definitely thinking coastal style!)

You might have thought “coastal style” means “anchors everywhere” or “aggressive lighthouse motif” or “seashell-shaped everything.” But that’s nautical style. And while nautical and coastal styles have some similarities (embracing the rich navy/crisp white color combo, for example — and, okay, maybe a few seashells or bits of sea glass), they’re not exactly the same thing.

While nautical style leans more kitschy, coastal style has more in common with minimalist styles like Scandinavian. Weird, right? But its use of soft, subtle neutrals and natural materials like jute, rattan, or wicker has way more in common with minimalist styles than you might think at first glance.

If a bright, airy space featuring soft, subtle neutrals, crisp furniture, and, if you’re lucky, a tinge of salt air, sounds like the perfect space for you, you’re not alone — coastal design is one of the most popular interior decorating styles for 2019. Here are some of our tips for incorporating coastal style into your space.

Consider light-toned wood floors

coastal style light wood
Photo courtesy of Mannington

Light, cool-toned hardwoods have been having a moment this year. Fitting in with a variety of different decors, they work especially well with coastal design. Their pale shade and refined texture complement the airy, breezy feel that’s essential to coastal style — and you could even argue that visually, they evoke a sandy shore.

If your coastal styled home is actually at the beach, hardwood — especially solid hardwood — might not be the most practical option. Fortunately, there are tons of products that look almost indistinguishable from actual hardwood, and withstand the wear and tear of beach life better than their natural counterparts. Opt for luxury vinyl, laminate, or even ceramic or porcelain wood-look tile if you’re worried about hardwood’s performance.

Bring in natural textures

coastal style fibers

Woven materials like jute, sea grass, and sisal are right at home in coastal design. It’s a way of connecting the indoors with the outdoors, and makes a space feel more casual. Add some texture and warmth to a space by adding a sisal area rug, or decorate with woven baskets.

Keep it light and bright

coastal style airy

One of the key tenets of coastal style is its brightness.

No, we don’t mean by using lots saturated, vibrant colors — though there’s certainly a place for those, too. We’re talking about airy, open spaces with plenty of natural light.

While crisp, white surfaces are key to keeping a room bright, and a big part of coastal style, you don’t want to go overboard here. All-white spaces can sometimes run the risk of looking sterile — the opposite of what a cozy beach home should be, if you ask us! Which is why we suggest that you…

Incorporate beachy colors

coastal style colors
Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt

While white is a major design element of coastal style, it’s not the only color you should use. Go with soft, subtle tones that evoke a beachy landscape — for example, sandy beige, sky blue, or sea foam green. Even pops of coral or shell pink are welcome in coastal spaces.

…and indoor/outdoor living

coastal style transition

This may not always be an option if you live in a more temperate or chilly climate, but in the warmer seasons, take advantage of al fresco living! There are plenty of flooring options that seamlessly transition from the indoors to the outdoors. Even porcelain tile can be used in your yard as a paver!

Use beach-themed accessories — sparingly!

coastal style fun

Go ahead and have some fun with it! Life’s a beach, after all. While bringing in too many nautical accents can make your space feel more like a boardwalk shop, we’re all for incorporating a few of your favorite elements of the beach in your decor. Maybe it’s a decorative basket featuring sand dollars and shells, or starfish-adorned dinner plates, or a small apothecary or Mason jar filled with bits of smooth sea glass. It could be a watercolor painting of your favorite seaside scene. Go ahead, it’s your dream space — have fun with it!

About The Author

Lauren Moore

Proud flooring aficionado and office dog mom, "Flauren" has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade (though she still maintains her magnum opus was "The Day it Snowed Slurpees," written at the age of 6).

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