Whether you’re into laid-back California surf style or the easy elegance of coastal New England, beach vibes can transform virtually any interior space by creating an atmosphere so relaxing, you could swear you were on vacation. But how exactly do you capture that feeling through your choices in furniture, decor, and wall colors? Here are some beach style decorating tips that will help you pull it off without veering into cheesy “themed” territory.
Breezy, Open Feel
Your first step is to make your space feel more open, airy, and bright. Let lots of daylight in while maintaining some privacy with sheer curtains in light colors or Roman-style window shades, and eliminate anything that feels too dark and heavy. Floors are one exception here, as long as you balance them out with the rest of the room. Shimmering materials that reflect a lot of light, like iridescent backsplash tiles in the kitchen, can make a big impact, too. And instead of closed-up cabinets, consider open shelving or glass doors. This example comes from a home in Bridgehampton by Workshop/APD
An abundant use of white goes hand-in-hand with a breezy vibe, as seen in this room via Elle Decor. While those who love color might find white walls a little boring, the trick to making them work lies in choosing the right accents (we’ll get to that in a bit). For a true beach feel, go with a true white (or even the palest possible blue) rather than off-white or cream. Layer it with other neutrals, like gray, sand, wood tones, khaki, and camel to soften it up a bit.
Along with wood floors and paneling, driftwood, salvaged wood, and tree trunks all make for gorgeous ways to infuse your space with a bit of natural color and texture. Keep the tones light, whitewashed or weathered, or strategically employ dramatic darker wood tones as a touch of contrast against white walls. Wayfair has decorative manzanita branches to tuck into vases around the room, or you can go bigger with a series of driftwood occasional tables by Crate & Barrel.
Tropical patterns don’t have to scream “tiki bar.” Consider adding a few throw pillows with lush prints, or creating an accent wall adorned with striking wallpaper, like this dark and dramatic treatment from xwallcolors on Etsy. Just remember to stick with patterns in the same color family whenever you’re mixing prints to avoid a result that feels too busy.
Sea grass, jute, sisal, rope, wicker, and linen are all richly-textured natural materials that can add a lot of visual interest, as seen in this gorgeous minimalist beach house photographed by Rikki Snyder. Capture a feel like this with natural fiber rugs, curtains, rattan furniture (like this daybed by World Market), baskets (like this set from Xinhandco Goods on Etsy), or even a fun sea-urchin-inspired ceiling pendant (get it at Wayfair).
Pops of Beachy Colors
Brighten things up with accents in coastal colors. For a tropical vibe, go with a palm leaf green, aqua, or a pop of peachy Living Coral, Pantone’s color of the year (as seen in this image by Coastal Living). Sunshine yellow, citrusy tangerine, and the bright blue-green of Hawaiian waves are nice choices if you’re into a more surf-inspired feel. If you’d rather stick to more subtle and elegant color schemes, consider a rich marine blue accented with gold.
It’s just not the coast without water, is it? While you can reference this essential element with color, prints that look like watercolor paint feel even more fresh. Check out West Elm’s Sunkissed Landscape Rug and Abstract Landscape Duvet as examples.
Bringing in cues from nature is always a good idea, helping to anchor the space in its environment and giving it a livelier atmosphere. There’s nothing better than living houseplants for this, but even if you don’t exactly have a green thumb, there’s still hope for you. You can find preserved palm fronds on Etsy (or gather and dry some yourself) and stick them in demijohn glasses, as seen here at Completely Coastal. Some silk greenery can work, too, including Kirkland’s philodendron leaves in a netted vase.
Corral That Coral
Adding in a few literal accents can be another great way to set the mood, but be careful not to go overboard unless you’re going for a kitschy effect. Choose a maximum of just one or two items per room that bring in imagery like seashells, nautical nets, or coral specimens to keep it subtle. Even a surfboard leaning against a wall can be a nice choice. For examples, check out the Lily Pulitzer Shell Mirror by Pottery Barn, the Nautical Net Table Lamp from Wayfair, and Coral Decor from West Elm.
Decorative Statement Pieces
Other decorative objects can draw from coastal or maritime style in an understated way. This technique is more about capturing the feeling rather than incorporating over-the-top elements like anchors or flamingos. For example, you could allude to the type of lamps found on boats and in lighthouses with a piece like the Urban Coastal Sconce from Shades of Light, or pick up the enchanting iridescent tones of shells with textures like the Teardrops Capiz Chandelier from CB2.