Coastal Style Defined

Get sea breeze inspired, with these coastal design ideas.

By Lisa Frederick

As with so many decorating styles, the look we think of as coastal—airy fabrics, open space, seaside-inspired colors, and beachy accents—sprang from practicality. It originated in homes along the Atlantic coast, in which ample windows allowed ocean breezes to blow through, sturdy woods could withstand sandy feet and salty air, and blues and whites echoed the tones of the sand, sea, and sky.

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Coastal Style Defined - HomePortfolio
Mark English

The Basics

Coastal life is comfortable, relaxed and unfussy, and interiors in this style reflect that mood. They're loosely arranged and casually outfitted—no finicky fabrics or fine furnishings. Textiles and surface materials are simple, natural, and durable; clear blues, sea greens, creamy whites, and beiges call to mind the hues of sand and water. Nautical and beach accents, such as shells, coral, and sea creatures, lighten up the look in an entirely appropriate way.

These designer rooms reflect coastal style:

Get the Look

Sumba Stool by Serena & Lily
Serena & Lily
Casual furnishings. Flop-right-down furniture, from oversize armchairs and cushy sofas to distressed wooden coffee tables and woven wicker stools, evokes a feeling of ease. For upholstered pieces, choose linen, cotton duck, or denim. Slipcovers also feel especially right for this style.

Light, sheer window treatments.
Not only should window treatments in coastal homes be breezy enough not to block the flow of air, they should also keep the focus on beautiful coastal views (if you're lucky enough to have them). Sheers, simple panels, rattan or wooden blinds, or linen Roman shades all work well.

Weathered and painted woods.
Light-tone woods, either left unfinished or brightened with a coat of paint, mark coastal interiors. Try woods with a grayish tone, such as ash. Whitewashing and pickling can give woods an aged, petrified appearance.

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