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Have you noticed that whenever you Google “coastal decor”, you get a lot of the same thing over and over? Most coastal decor today consists of pale blues, sandy beiges, and white. You will see touches of sea glass, shell, coastal animal prints and coral. The reason it is so popular is that a) it’s beautiful and b) it’s fairly neutral and easy to achieve. But what if you want a different look in your beach home?
In interior design, we attempt to achieve “cohesiveness”…a theme with elements that make sense together. I once looked at a lake home with a gorgeous natural exterior. Once I entered the home, the interior was very modern..chrome, bold colors, sleek cabinets, and open stairs. It made me uncomfortable because it didn’t make sense. While your beach house doesn’t have to conform to the cookie cutter beach house idea, it should make sense. Below are some different ideas of interiors that make sense in a beach setting:
British Colonial/West Indies
At one point, the British Colonies included parts of India, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, and North America. Through this colonization, British explorers were exposed to an array of design influences, many of which made their way into what we now call British Colonial style. In this look, you might use white linen, dark wood, and ample tropic greenery. Use interesting artifacts as accessories, and furniture with dark wood, hand carving, glass, and wicker/cane-work. This style is very sophisticated and simplified. It may not be as kid friendly since there is a lot of white upholstery and glass, but you could easily make adaptations for a family with small children.
This can go cheesy if you are not careful. Rattan, bright colored accents, and palm prints would all work here. Imagine a Florida Keys retreat with an eclectic assortment of furniture. Wicker, rattan, and even metal (think metal frame with wicker or rattan seat and back) furniture would be a good choice for this trend. I would suggest trying to work into a vintage tropical theme or keep the colors mostly neutral with an occasional pop of a botanical or bird print. Combining patterns is fine, just try not to overdo them.
If your beach house is an older cabin or clapboard house, this look could work well for you. Shiplap, batten boards, natural wood floors, and lots of white are the foundation for this look. Pale colors (like the blues and beiges in the current “beach decor” category) work well, and vintage accents are a must! Oversized sofas with slipcovers in faded prints along with simple wood tables work well with this theme. Very comfortable and family friendly.
This trend seems to be everywhere right now, but would still be appropriate in a smaller apartment or cottage. This is sort of a vintage/intellectual look, and usually includes plenty of old books (shelved or not), mismatched accessories, original artwork, and unique “curiosities”. Leather furniture would be a good choice, but make sure it can stand up to sun and sand. A hand-knit or crochet throw in a patchwork pattern on the black or brown worn leather sofa is almost a requirement.
Coming from countries in the north Mediterranean, the influences for this trend come from Spain, Greece, and Italy. Since much of this area is coastal, the colors are often colors of the sky and ocean- leaning toward the more vibrant hues. Walls often consist of stucco and brick, and furniture is often ornate and heavy with burnished metal hardware. Terra Cotta is a common material for flooring and tile.
If you just aren’t into the “beach” theme at all, chances are traditional will work for you. I would suggest leaning towards light over dark (everything) and making the most of windows and daylighting to keep the feeling open and airy.
Some other key components to consider when designing a beach home are flooring, window treatments, upholstery, and bathroom locations. I suggest you select easy care flooring since sand will inevitably be tracked into the home. Tile is a common choice, but don’t forget hardwood and laminate. Wood seems warmer than tile, and hardwood is fairly durable. I include cork and bamboo in this category, though they are technically not wood. Window treatments should be sunlight resistant and be able to block daylight. This can help not only with energy costs but also help guests sleep late, or watch a movie without unwelcome glare.
Upholstery that is durable and resists fading is the best choice for a beach environment. In addition to the outer fabric, make sure to select good quality cushions. Lower quality foam seems to degrade faster at the beach, maybe due to salt in the air, sunlight exposure, or excited children playing on the sofa.
Lastly, I want to mention bathroom location. At our family beach home, there is one bedroom downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. Each bedroom has an ensuite bath, which is ideal. What is not ideal is that there is no restroom that is accessible without going through a bedroom downstairs. The living room, dining room, and family room are all downstairs. When someone is in the downstairs bedroom, it a) feels intrusive to use their bathroom and b) can be inconvenient when that person retires earlier than your other guests. Obviously, it is not that difficult to go upstairs, but ideally, that would not be necessary.
I would also consider installing an outdoor shower if your guests are likely to spend their time on the beach. Sometimes a quick rinse is all you really need when you are spending time outdoors, and to prevent unnecessary traffic and sand on the carpet, this is a fairly easy and inexpensive installation.
While I would not fault you at all for opting for the current beach decor trend, there are some people who will want something a little different. If that is you, I hope this list has given you some new ideas, or at least a thought that will send your interior ideas in a new direction.
Until next time,