The coast has its own elements of style . Even if you don't live seaside, you can still bring a coastal feeling into your home with these timeless design trends. Find inspiration in soft hues from the shore and fabrics in cheery patterns to mix and match. Sea blues pair with pops of coral, and sandy tones provide balance. Adding details like layered rugs and bright trim gives a space a casual, coastal feel that's just right for entertaining or slowing the pace. Use these designer tips to create a welcoming living space. Here, we're celebrating 26 enduring coastal design ideas that define today's most beautiful beach houses so you can transform your home.
Choose Vernacular Architecture
From glass-and-cedar facades in the Pacific Northwest to deep porches in the Lowcountry, each region has a particular design vocabulary, developed to meet climate challenges and play to the area's strengths. Over time, proven stylistic elements have a way of migrating, even island-hopping, to mix with other vernaculars.
Create a Formal(ish) Dining Room
In an age of open floor plans, the rules for dining hubs are looser than ever. Whether it's a nook off the kitchen (like this one by decorator Colleen Bashaw ) or a room unto itself, make the most of the walls you have. Wallpaper or wainscot add room-defining character, as do pretty trim and one-of-a-kind wall art, like these vintage oyster plates. (Don't forget the sconces: Every good dinner party needs a little mood lighting.)
Incorporate Tomorrow's Heirlooms
Grandmother passed down her vintage dhurries. Your aunt bestowed treasured Slim Aarons estate prints. Today's beach houses have their own emerging class of investment pieces that is emblematic of 21st-century coastal style. Classics like a four-poster bed create a coastal vibe, mixing with passed-down treasures to create a familiar charm the next generation will want to replicate.
Bring Pretty Outdoor Fabrics Inside
"All-weather fabric options were so limited up until a few years ago, but with newer fabric technology, you can't even tell the difference anymore. Sunbrella , Perennials , and Link Outdoor fabrics are all stain and moisture resistant—they're far more hardy, so we're using them on every barstool, dining chair, breakfast chair, and banquette in beach houses," says designer Andrew Howard . "It's a no-brainer for furniture that's in the middle of the action."
Opt for Deep-Seating Outdoor Furniture
Cue the lounge music: Deep-seating furniture extends seat depth by two to four inches, which makes for a particularly cozy adjustment to outdoor idylls. (Standard seat depth generally measures 21 to 22 inches, while deep-seated counterparts usually measure between 24 and 25—much better for settling in as the sun goes down.)
Use Minimal Hardscape
Coastal landscape rule of thumb: Blue water and natural greenery reign, which is all the more reason to use a light hand with hardscape. For example, the coral-stone coping around designer Celerie Kemble's pool paves a slim enough path that it nearly disappears (leaving the concrete sheep plenty of room to graze).
Give Kitchens Character
The past decade has seen a crush of modern kitchens with an endless suite of bells and whistles, but character is the most enduring innovation of all. Add it to the busiest room in the house by choosing graphic tile. The hand-painted geometric pattern on the wall and island tiles give this kitchen a mod sense of place that's all West Coast cool.
Consider Rustic Touches
What's the rush? The simple wood-and-iron table and Hans Wegner chairs in this kitchen are an invitation to linger over coffee. The rustic wood complements the rest of the light kitchen.
Pick Retro-Chic Appliances
A powder-blue Smeg fridge lends this sweet kitchen an air of nostalgia. It's a throwback that adds a touch of cool to your kitchen. Bonus points for the old-school metal table fan.
Install a Warm Wood Backsplash
Whitewashed pecky wood paneling set in a herringbone pattern cozies up the walls behind open shelving in this summer house. Wood is clean and simple, giving the kitchen an unexpected twist. The look feels beachy but not overpowering.
"I love a natural-fiber rug with an antique rug or dhurrie over it," says designer Mark D. Sikes , adding that they win on warmth, color, and texture. Size them so the top layer is at least a foot smaller on all sides. When you're ready to switch up your decor, swap the top layer with something else.
Add Copper Details
For exterior fixtures, lighting, and hardware, copper is a beach house all-star. "It's especially great for roofs because it's a long-lasting metal," says architect Beau Clowney . "It doesn't rust or require much maintenance, and if there's damage, it's an easy fix: You just solder it back together." Plus, copper's timeworn patina is a character-builder. Look for copper fixtures ( here's a chic sailboat weathervane we love ) with a verdigris finish if you want an aged look without the wait.
Dress Up With Scene Stealing Trim
Like most anything else, bright, high-impact trim is even better at the beach. That's because painting it a dynamite hue "is like putting a picture frame around your view," says designer Anne Maxwell Foster . Try choosing a color from your wallpaper—in this bath, Andrew Howard matched the watery shade in the seaweed pattern with Pool Blue by Benjamin Moore . Or contrast pastel or gray walls with trim painted a few shades darker for a tonal pairing that sings.
Embrace Caned Furniture
A coastal cult favorite since the 17th century, the textural rattan detailing earns an A+ for adaptability. Here, a look at how it's weaving its way into 21st-century furniture design. The cane's natural look pairs nicely with crisp white.
Create Contrast With Trim
Northern Europeans have been onto this idea for centuries—think handsome, barn-like structures peering off a rugged Danish coast. Patinas often darken over centuries to create a similar monochromatic contrast. "There's something so dramatic about dark shingles or siding with white contrasting trim," says designer Mark D. Sikes . "The combination is timeless and classic."
Play With New Neutrals
Brighten up the basics. Our eyes grow accustomed to the colors in our natural landscape, so the soft hues found along the shoreline—the light pinks that streak through evening sunsets, the earthy greens that light up the dune grass, the calm blue of the ocean—are as fitting as foundation colors as they are as accents. Try using these spirited naturals on walls or on larger upholstered pieces, like sofas.
Go Bold With Pattern on Pattern
The idea of continuing a single pattern from one design element to the next (i.e., draperies to wallpaper, wallpaper to upholstery) is a throwback to the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, and the work of American decorating greats like Billy Baldwin and Sister Parish . The two were fearless when it came to giving rooms a double, or even triple, shot of the same print. "The key to making the old-school look work is to keep your patterns in line: The print should flow uninterrupted throughout the room," says Andrew Howard.
Feature Nautical Lighting
"The basic rule for making nautical lighting work is the same one that applies to so many other aspects of decorating—don't do too much of it at once," advises trendsetter Christopher Spitzmiller . "Include it sparingly to increase its impact." Simple touches like using rope instead of chains to hang lighting make a big impact.
It's the design equivalent of a well-tailored suit—here's how to bring the bespoke factor up a notch without losing that easygoing air.
Here, banquette seating adds a super shot of warmth and pattern to dining tables. (Plus, you can squeeze in more people for dinner.) Try using outdoor-rated fabrics for easy cleanup and worry-free drying.
Create Power Walls
Vacation houses helped write the book on high-impact wall details, from the floor-to-ceiling beadboard lining 19th-century summer cottages to toile-covered guest rooms of Victorian-era lake houses. Put a spin on classic coverings, like this decorative trelliage. Ornamental latticework paneling is a genius way to reinforce a room's kinship with the outdoors.
Soften With Jewel Tones
Grasscloth gives a room depth and dimension. The natural fiber offers subtle texture. Try its organic weaves in jewel tones to reinforce the natural beauty of the beach.
Accentuate With Warm Wood
Raw poplar adds an updated spin on midcentury wood paneling that reads like abstract art. The wood's character and finish add sophistication and charm. Bold colors play well off the wood's natural beauty.
Use Botanical Prints
Wallpapers with bold prints rooted in history, like this classic leaf pattern, have more staying power. The visual impact of your walls will bring the outside in.
Design a Bombshell Bar
Cocktail hour at the beach is no shrinking violet. "Having a bar in a prominent gathering room immediately puts people at ease," says Christopher Spitzmiller . Plus, whether it's a stylish bar cart or a built-in cocktail station, it tends to cut down on hosting duties—and we're all for that. Spice yours up with local art, quirky curiosities, and vintage glassware.
Install Brass Hardware and Fixtures
"Brass can soften any interior," says Anne Maxwell Foster . "The key is to use unlacquered brass because the patina changes over time. It has character, which brings a feeling of timelessness to a room."
Highlight Floors With Pattern
The encaustic cement tile flooring in this house is made in Morocco by Mosaic House and is reminiscent of the patterned tiles seen in historic island entryways. The easy style adds playfulness and color without being overdone.