Coastal interior design takes many shapes across the world. From medieval towns in the English Riviera to tropical beaches in Bora Bora, coastal design is as diverse as the landscape. Unfortunately, coastal interiors can easily become cliche and kitschy, relying too heavily on naval motifs and overdone color palettes. In this post, we delve into some of the hallmarks of coastal design, as well as how to create a coastal interior without overindulging in thematic elements. Follow below for five coastal interiors we love — all carefully curated by designers across the US — as well as advice from industry experts.
Interior Designers Explain How to Create Elegant Coastal Interiors
#1 Meg Young Underscores the Importance of Balance in Coastal Design
As mentioned above, poorly conceived coastal interiors can quickly devolve into a mish-mash of seashells, sand dollars and navy pinstripes. In conversation with designers Meg Young and Caitlin Scanlon in an article for Forbes, Amanda Lauren explains how to avoid these pitfalls. Lauren writes that first and foremost, “balance is key when it comes to coastal decor.” To this end, designer and founder of Cailini Coastal Meg Young “recommends choosing neutrals for larger pieces and then accessorizing accordingly.”
Quoting Young, Lauren writes that homeowners can “incorporate details like stripe or natural fiber rugs…grasscloth covered decorative boxes, sea glass beads, bamboo photo frames, etc’” without overtly expressing the theme. Texture and tonality are far more effective in communicating a coastal theme than are traditional elements, notes Young.
#2 Caitlin Scanlon Suggests Homeowners Welcome Wallpaper
Also quoted by Meg Young in her article for Forbes, interior designer Caitlin Scanlon of Caitlin Scanlon Design encourages homeowners to consider wallpaper in their coastal homes. Though some might be reluctant to hang wallpaper in salty, humid regions, Scanlon reminds homeowners that modern wallpaper is well-equipped to handle these conditions. According to Scanlon, “wallpaper can be a great way to enhance a coastal space.” Designers like Jennifer Wundrow, Kate Marker and Brooke Wagner appear to agree, as all have incorporated wallpapers in to the coastal-inspired interiors pictured below.
#3 William Taylor Encourages Homeowners to Embrace the Natural Environment
In an article for House Beautiful, Sienna Livermore discusses how to create a sophisticated interior with William Taylor of Dream Decor and Bright Bazaar. According to Taylor, successfully executed coastal spaces take their “‘cues from the natural environment for everything from color palette through to materials used.’” As such, interiors should be light and bright as well as open and inviting. Taylor explains that “‘the key is to stay away from anything too cliched.’”
Homeowners should “‘avoid anchor prints, ‘beach this way’ signs’” and other elements that are a bit too on the nose. Instead, homeowners should take their lead from “‘from the elements of the coast: a collection of blue glass vases and bottles upon a fireplace hearth, or a classic blue and white stripe wallpaper to add striking visual interest to a stairway or hallway.”
#4 Mark D. Sikes Warns Against Shying Away From Darkness
Quoted by Ellen McGauley in her article “20 Coastal Design Trends That Will Never Go Out of Style” for Southern Living, interior designer Mark D. Sikes offers his advice. Sikes encourages homeowners to embrace dark elements, taking inspiration from Northern Europe. Whether in New England or the Central Coast of California, seaside homes are prone to weathering from crashing waves, salty air and blustery winds. While some try to hide these effects, McGauley notes that “patinas often darken over centuries to create a similar monochromatic contrast” that is actually quite romantic and intriguing.
Sikes seconds this, explaining that “‘there’s something so dramatic about dark shingles or siding with white contrasting trim.’” Mark Sikes describes this combination as “‘timeless and classic.’” Homeowners can capture this look within their homes by leaving ceiling beams exposed or introducing an antique rug into their space.
#5 Nick Voulgaris III Recommends Letting in Light and Color
In her article “5 Design Must-Haves for a Quintessential Beach House” for Architectural Digest, Lindsey Mather interviews Nick Voulgaris III about his recent book “celebrating life near the water.” Throughout the course of her chat with Voulgaris, the designer provides Mather with a series of recommendations for coastal interior design. In addition to “no fuss materials” and “subtle nautical touches,” Nick Voulgaris III suggests filling each space with light and color. He notes that “as much natural light as possible” and “a dash of color” are vital.
Five Coastal Interiors from Designers Around the World
#1 Glamorous Coastal Dining Room by Kate Marker Interiors
First on our list of coastal inspired spaces is this neutral dining room with hints of teal and emerald green by designer Kate Marker of Kate Marker Interiors in Barrington, Illinois. The space was photographed by Margaret Rajic. Two woven barrel chairs sit on opposite ends of a wooden dining set with a farm table top and traditional carved legs. The other dining chairs are a perfect cross between the barrel chairs and the table. Together, all pieces of the dining set anchor the space while a tiered chandelier floats above, almost recalling a jellyfish. A driftwood sideboard across from the dining set provides the perfect space for a few additional decorative objects. Marker kept the area rug, wainscoting, crown molding and ceiling mostly white. With the deep emerald grasscloth wallpaper hovering in between the dado and the molding, one almost feels as if they are floating in the ocean. White, blue and green drapes in a gossamer fabric provide the bridge between the dramatic grasscloth paper and warm white walls.
This dining room is from Kate Marker Interiors’ Sweet Birch project. Across from the dining room is a sitting room with a white-washed wood panel ceiling laid in a diamond pattern. This space features a series of vintage and antique — or antique-inspired — elements, such as a glossy black piano and a marble cocktail table with brass bird heads on the frame. More wicker, driftwood and other organic elements can be found here as well. The rest of the home features a series of repeating coastal motifs, from shiplap walls in the breakfast nook to oars mounted in the entryway. Marker’s entire Sweet Birch project is well worth a look for inspiration when designing your coastal interior.
GET THE LOOK
Get the look of Kate Marker Interiors’ Sweet Birch project with pieces from LA Design Concepts. For a dining set inspired by Marker’s without replicating it exactly, we love the Zimmer Dining Table by Robert James, six Chevron Arm Chairs from Altura in the walnut finish and two Deco Demi Lune Lounge Chairs from Mimi London. The Mimi London lounge chairs — which feature two slices of a tree trunk with visible rings — are especially perfect for the interior of a home along the Central Coast of California. To hang over the dining set, we suggest Ella Figura’s Hanover Square Chandelier, which is fashioned from hand-carved Lucite and brushed dark bronze. Similar in color to Marker’s sideboard but a bit more streamlined is the Shasta Buffet by Robert James in Quarry. For the wallpaper, we love Nicolette Mayer’s Metallica Grasscloth wallpaper in Navy because it would easily bounce light from the chandelier around the room.
Finally, we turn to the soft finishings in this space. First, we love this soft diamond pattern drapery fabric from Maxwell Fabrics for the curtains, pictured in the upper right. Second, one upholster a few cushions for the dining chairs in Anshu fabric in Alabaster from Designer’s Guild Fabrics. Lastly, we recommend the Boothbay Almond Rug from Kravet for under the dining table. This polypropylene rug by Kravet is perfect for high-traffic areas — especially for interiors along the coast — because it is durable, washable and weather resistant. Kravet designed this rug with indoor-outdoor living in mind, so it is also mold and mildew resistant.
#2 Crisp Coastal Mudroom by Donna Guyler Interior Design
This crisp coastal mudroom was created by Donna Guyler of Donna Guyer Interior Design in Queensland, Australia. Guyler notes that the sleek cabinetry was crafted by East Coast Kitchens. Viewing other projects in Guyer’s portfolio — e.g. the Kingscliff Beachside home — it is clear that mudrooms receive a certain level of care from the design studio. In response to a comment on the Instagram post that features this photo, Guyler said “the Mudroom secretly always gets the most love and attention in our projects!” We love the bright white walls, pale wood, baby blue wallpaper and nautical stripes in this mudroom. The pair of pendant lights almost resemble lobster cages, a common motif in coastal interiors.
This mudroom is part of Donna Guyer Interior Design’s Hope Island Home project. Other statement wallpapers and backsplashes can be found throughout this home, from a delicate star pattern in the laundry room to a chevron in the bathroom. The pale blue palm frond wallpaper appears to carry throughout the home, viewed in at least two separate spaces. All in all, Donna Guyer Interior Design described this project as a “fresh and light filled home” — perfect for any coastal interior. Though nothing can replace custom cabinetry, follow below for our product recommendations to achieve this look.
GET THE LOOK
To get the look of Donna Guyler’s soft, bright and welcoming mudroom, we suggest starting with the soft finishings. For the cushion of the bench seat, we suggest Clarke & Clarke’s Oxford fabric in the Navy colorway. This print features ticking stripes in beige, navy blue and classic red. For wallpaper, we have two suggestions: Schumacher’s Creeping Fern in Slumber Blue and Schumacher’s Abstract Leaf in Navy. As many mudrooms are smaller than the one pictured above, we suggest the Cole Small Bench from Victoria Hagan in Blonde Oak. This piece is very similar in coloring to the bench pictured above but is ideal for spaces short on square footage. To replace the lighting, we recommend the Concave Drum Pendant from Bella Figura, which is rendered in satin triangular flat cut Murano glass and polished gold.
#3 Cozy, Curated Coastal Bedroom by Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design
This next space is by San Francisco designer Jennifer Wundrow of Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design. According to the company’s website, Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design is “known for their classic and well-edited spaces that are not only beautiful, but functional.” In a recent interview with California Home + Design’s Lindsey Shook, Jennifer Wundrow described her style as “timeless.” She noted that her “intent is to design spaces for my clients that will stand the test of time…[she doesn’t] design spaces that will fall in and out with the trends of tomorrow.” Though Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design is based just outside San Francisco in the Marin area, many of the homes she designs betray clear coastal influences. No matter the space or the surrounding environment, each interior created by Wundrow feels collected and timeless. That clearly shines through in the bedroom pictured above, which feels cozy, curated and coastal.
The bedroom pictured above, which was part of Wundrow’s San Francisco 1 project, seems to have been inspired by mid century modern, international and bohemian interior design. A striped headboard and bolster pillow nod to coastal and nautical design, while the brass wall sconce and wooden nightstand nod to mid century modern design. The macrome wall hanging, printed throw pillow and area rug beneath the bed all reference international design elements. To get the look, follow below.
GET THE LOOK
To get the look of Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design’s San Francisco 1 project bedroom, let us start with the wall elements. For the wall sconces, we suggest the polished brass Iris Sconce by Marian Jamieson. For the beige slightly metallic wallpaper, we recommend either Shantung Grasscloth in Dove by Scalamandre or Winfield Thybony’s Grasscloth wallpaper in WT. Both closely resemble the wheat-colored grasscloth wallpaper in Wundrow’s space. For the area rug, we suggest two designs from Kravet: the company’s Wakeby Meadow Rug and their Wakeby Spa Rug. There are subtle color and stylistic differences between the two, but both resemble the structure of the rug pictured above.
For the furniture, we recommend Louis J Solomon’s metal, burle and limestone nightstand, offering perhaps a bit more storage space than that which is pictured above. Schumacher’s Saltworks Chair in Pickled Beech functions perfectly as a small-space replacement for the bench pictured above. For the bedding, one might cover a bolster pillow in Schumacher’s Bailey Seersucker print in Blue and accent with a Scalamandre Axial Pillow in Copenhagen. To cover the headboard, we love Schumacher’s Bargello Wave print in Graphite and as a throw, we love Harlequin’s Waltz fabric in Midnight Blue.
#4 Luxe Coastal Living Room by Brooke Wagner Design
Fourth on our list is this textural interior by Brooke Wagner of Brooke Wagner Design. Filled with natural textures, neutral colors and dramatic lighting, this space is the perfect addition to any coastal home. Graphic, abstract prints on the throw pillows and framed artworks provide a bit of edge and balance out the softness of the space’s textures. Scattered objects in black and charcoal also anchor the space.
For example, the glossy black vase in the center of the coffee table draws attention away from the four oversized ecru barrel chairs. The glamour of the dramatic cluster light fixture is also balanced — in this case, by the rusticity of a traditional white shiplap roof. A tasseled area rug below references textures found in the upholstery and in the grasscloth wallpaper, while its colors recall the blonde wood, bronze and soft lighting.
GET THE LOOK
To recreate this look, we found quite a few pieces that should work well. For lighting, we chose the Glacier Pendant Cluster by Bella Figura in clear lead crystal and bronze and the Foss Wall Light by Bella Figura in clear soda glass and brushed gold. Wallcoverings include two from Nicolette Mayer’s range of Metallica Grasscloth Wallpaper. Two colorways that would work here are the Bisque and Snow shades. As a rustic take on the coffee table pictured above, we love Robert James’ Compass Point Cocktail Table in Mesquite.
Place the Darcy Vase by Curated Kravet atop the cocktail table for a bit of drama. Surrounding the cocktail table, one might add four O’Henry House 633 Chairs, which resemble the barrel silhouette of those pictured above. Beneath the furniture, one might choose either the LA Design Exclusive Sultanabad Rug or the Kravet Yerkes Aegean Rug.
#5 Printed Powder Room with Coastal Vibes by HW Interiors
Last on our list is this groovy powder room by HW Interiors from Palm Beach, Florida. This powder room is from the interior design firm’s Palm Beach Waterfront project, which the team describes as “warm and inviting with a family-friendly coastal vibe.” The rest of the home is fresh but soft, with retro references scattered throughout. The wallcovering pictured in this powder room is one of several throughout the home that resemble kaleidoscope imagery in pastel tones. For example, one bedroom features a baby pink print while another features a similar print in dove gray. With its steel and glass trumpet cluster light fixture, pill-shaped mirror, mesmerizing wallpaper and statement sink, the powder room has to be our favorite space from this project. Follow below to get the look from LA Design Concepts.
GET THE LOOK
Beginning with the light fixture, we suggest yet another piece from Bella Figura — the Crest Pendant from their Halcyon Collection. This pendant light fixture is fashioned from clear glass and brushed gold with silver flex. For those who love the vanity in this powder room but are not sure if they want to commit, we love the idea of replicating this swirling stone with wallpaper. Scalamandre’s Paria Canyon wallpaper in Taupe works great in a pinch. To house accessories like a vase of eucalyptus or a set of hand towels, we recommend Curated Kravet’s Hunt Tray in Ivory. Lastly, for the statement wallpaper, we suggest S. Harris Abstraction wallpaper in Harbor 02.