Beachy Keen: 15 Ways to Add Coastal Charm to Any Space

It's easy to give your house an oceanfront feeling, even if you live miles from the water. Here's how top interior designers create a light and airy seaside look in any style home. 

By: Amanda Lecky
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Bright Outlook

Plenty of windows, exposed wood ceiling beams, and white-painted walls give this island beach house by Martha's Vineyard Interior Design a casual, coastal feel from the get-go. An upholstered window seat and large, cushy sectional offer plenty of seating for a crowd, or for anyone curling up to stare out at the sea.

Island Vibe

"This Newport Beach, California master bedroom is the epitome of coastal chic," says designer Wendy Blackband of Blackband Design. "The light-washed hardwood floors paired with the painted ceiling beams give this farmhouse a modern twist. We combined soft, breezy fabrics with natural textures and tones to give off a casual coastal vibe. When choosing fabrics we looked for materials that would read as simple, unassuming, and comfortable. The iron canopy bed complements the height of the ceiling, keeping everything proportionally balanced. When designing coastal homes we also look for organic materials like jute and seagrass. Using natural fiber rugs is a great way to add warmth and texture to a room, and they are the perfect rugs for layering."

Seaside Chic

"Coastal contemporary" was the design concept for this open dining area, says designer Lisa M. Ficarra of Ficarra Design Associates. To give the space its beachy feel, the design team chose natural materials — wood, metal, even driftwood — and fabrics: linen in a range of soft blues and greens. The artwork and accessories reinforce the seaside theme.

Florida Room

When working with Susan Trujillo Miles and Seth Miles to update their Florida home, designer Maggie Cruz worked to strike a happy medium between Susan's love of "bright, quirky things" and the cool, modern look the couple wanted — while creating a casual, beachy vibe. Her success is on display in the dining room, where a simple white lacquered table balances a pair of overscale armchairs upholstered in an equally oversized tropical print. Rattan side chairs, wide-plank wood floors, and a contemporary pendant fixture complete the eclectic mix. Tour the rest of this colorful home.

Twist On Tradition

"Coastal but not kitschy," was the design goal for a bayfront house in Galveston, Texas. To create the sophisticated look their clients wanted, designers Elizabeth Stiver and Amy Munger of Munger Interiors used classic coastal elements — white-painted wood paneling, white slipcovers, sisal carpeting — in unexpected ways. The lap-and-gap wall treatment is installed horizontally for a more modern look while poplar accents adds "crisp and clean impact," they say. The woven carpet has an integrated pattern. The slipcovered furnishings are a backdrop for piles of pillows in exotic patterns and beachy colors. And a contemporary glass-and-chrome coffee table adds a hint of unexpected glamour.

Vacation Style, All Year Long

When Meghan and Bill Cashel decorated the Marblehead, Massachusetts home they share with their two young sons, they wanted to give the house the same laidback, coastal look they'd loved while living in San Diego. Accordingly, every room has a vacation-house feel, including the master bedroom, where pale blue walls, sea-life prints, woven textures, and nautical art set a truly relaxing scene. "You know that relaxed feeling you get from gazing at the water? That's what we wanted for our bedroom,"says Meghan. Check out the rest of the house, that was featured in HGTV Magazine.  

Surf Style

"Beach projects are all about contrast, texture, and integrating natural colors that compliment your surroundings," says Ashley Gilbreath, the designer of this retro bungalow on Florida's Gulf Coast. "We made sure that the finishes were timeless, airy and kept a beachy feel throughout the home. One of our favorite finishes is the vintage wooden surfing board. Because the most impactful finish needs to be in the most impactful spot we made sure to highlight the surfboard by hanging it on white shiplap walls. The impact is stunning and sets a tone for the retro, funky feel of the bungalow. The rest of the home draws the eyes outside, toward the beautiful beach and crystal clear water of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida."

Re-Defined Dining

Light and air are two essentials of any seascape, and they're the keys to creating a coastal look inside, says designer Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design. "Install long drapes to keep the space ethereal and bright and use antique mirrored panels to open up the space by reflecting more light into the room," she says. Complete the look with linen fabric in a deep sea-green and "incorporate the ocean with a statement fixture made of sea shells, stained glass, or coral, for a delicate and breezy element."

Sun and Sand

When most people think of a coastal palette, they turn immediately to a range of watery blues, but earthy, sandy tones are just as well suited to creating a beachy look. In Meghan and Seth Cashel's family room, for example, a mix of warm colors from off-white to cocoa create a cozy, inviting atmosphere that's perfect for family together-time. Rich woven textures add interest and streaming sunlight (easily controlled with heavy linen window treatments) complete the picture. Browse the rest of the house here

Suite Retreat

Creating a "fun yet sophisticated" look in a Palm Beach master bedroom began with the color palette, says designer Robin Schwadron-Titus of R Titus Designs. "The room gets little natural light, so we kept the colors bright," she says, choosing a combination of whites, off-whites, turquoise, and coral. Then, Schwadron-Titus mixed casual and formal accents — like a simple woven sisal rug and shiny brass drapery rods — and added a few ocean-inspired accessories for a coastal-chic effect.

Keeping It Cool

In warm-weather settings (or just to fake the look of living in a tropical locale) the look for living spaces is "light and breezy." Here, a vaulted ceiling and a pair of ceiling fans helps air flow — while creating an undeniably tropical effect. Pale upholstery with soft blue and green accents and light wood flooring and furnishings complete the cool-as-a-cucumber look.

View Finder

Sometimes, the design of a room is more about what's outside than inside. Case in point: This breezy all-white living room on Martha's Vineyard. The designers kept the focus on the spectacular blue ocean views by eliminating color from their design, instead adding interest through natural texture: Exposed ceiling beams, built-in shelving, nubby fabrics, and woven side chairs and baskets. The result is warm and inviting — and perfectly suited for sea-gazing.

Saved After a Storm

Sam and Jeff Burkhardt hadn't planned to renovate and redecorate, but Hurricane Katrina had other ideas. After their New Orleans home was flooded during the storm, the couple had to start over — and the results are beautiful, with classic coastal accents creating a fresh, open look throughout the house. The entry is a perfect example: Its crisp white and pale blue color scheme immediately sets a tranquil, watery tone that continues in every room and the floor is a nod to the disaster that required the remodel: The wood planks were reclaimed from houses condemned after the hurricane. Tour the rest of their fully remodeled home, that was featured in HGTV Magazine

Clear Winner

Simplicity meets luxury in this all-white master bath. Plenty of windows and a clear shower surround mean views of Martha's Vineyard abound from every angle, including the soaking tub and inside the shower, courtesy of a brass-rimmed porthole. The pale palette and floating vanity create a sense of space and air in the spa-like retreat and sea-inspired accessories help set a coastal tone.

Serene Setting

It's easy to give your bedroom a splash of coastal cool, even if you live miles from the ocean. "Creating this look just means adding the right colors and at least one unexpected element," says designer Lindye Galloway of Lindye Galloway Design. "In this bedroom we focused on using light, cool colors like blues and whites to make the room bright and give the sense of beachside calm. We wanted to add a pop of something that would give the room a statement, and what better place to do that than the ceiling? Adding tongue-and-groove paneling to the ceiling created the ultimate coastal vibe."

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