Get the Soothing Look of Contemporary Coastal

For a more modern take on seaside style, stick with furnishings that have sleek silhouettes and choose a palette of neutrals mixed with just a hint of color. Get inspired by these cool coastal spaces.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Neil Landino

Photo By: Bronwyn Poole

Photo By: Red House Custom Building; Photo by Nat Rea

Photo By: Angela Free Design; Photo by David Duncan Livingston

Photo By: BiglarKinyan Design Planning, Inc

Photo By: Eric Roth

Photo By: Thomas Kuoh Photography

Photo By: Jane Beiles

Photo By: Design by Chioco Design LLC; Photo by Lars Frazer

Borrow Your Palette From Nature

In this inviting living space, designer Denise Davies of D2 Interieurs pulled her palette of watercolor-sheer colors from the natural surroundings and a stone fireplace elsewhere in the room. “In most of D2’s projects, we begin with a neutral base and then infuse color through the accessories in a very thoughtful way,” say the designers.

Keep it Light

A mix of crisp whites and beiges creates a fresh and clean-looking backdrop in this airy coastal bedroom. The washed-wood headboard adds texture and layers of softly hued linens lends luxurious softness and the modern, Moroccan-style lattice bedside table adds character.

Choose Soothing Shades

When their clients traded their boat for a beach retreat, Red House Custom and designer Kim Peterson of KEP Designs worked to give the new-old home’s interiors a soothing “watery” look. Upholstered in the palest shade of blue, the twin sofas appear to float against the white walls; accents in cream, gray, and turquoise complete the seaside scene.

Go Gray

After white and natural wood, gray is the most popular finish for kitchen cabinets, but this is one trendy color that’s not at risk of going out of style. “Muted colors are soothing and easy to live with, and a signature of my work,” says designer Angela Free. “This home is located in the foggy San Francisco Marina district and the neutral yet rich palette allows for a seamless flow between the indoors and outdoors.”

Go Bright—Without Color

In a room with abundant natural light, you don’t need bold hues to create a bright and cheerful energy. In this coastal master bath, for example, crisp white on the walls, countertop, and cabinets makes the slightest hint of contrast from the pale gray towels and natural woven baskets stand out, adding just enough interest to keep the space serene but not stark. Open shelving and Shaker-style cabinetry completes the clean, modern look.

Emphasize Natural Materials

When the architectural elements are as beautiful as the ones in this island living room by the team at Martha’s Vineyard Interior Design, the decorating should play a supporting role, allowing the materials to shine. Choosing a muted palette for upholstery, painted finishes, and accessories keeps the emphasis where it should be.

Update With a Little Color

When designer Jennifer Jones updated a client's 1960s ranch, she worked to create a fresh look while staying true to the home’s original, casual vibe. In the living room, she says, "we layered soft neutral tones in the paint, window treatments, and upholstery, and created interest with textural fabrics, a geometric rug, and a mix of pillow patterns." The new decorating works perfectly with the angled lines of the architecture and the bold, contemporary fireplace surround.

Be Delicate

In a pale, neutral room the slightest variation of color or value can add a level of designer-style sophistication. This bright living area by Denise Davies is an object lesson in the technique: The greenish tinge of the off-white walls contrasts ever so slightly with the taupe-ish tone of the sleek sectional, for a look that’s subtle and elegant. A few rich blue accents nod to the coastal setting, without heading into kitschy territory.

Focus on Form and Function

During the renovation of a kitchen, dining, and living area, the team at Chioco Design incorporated strong, pared-down design elements, including a clerestory window above the wall of cabinets and a blackened steel vent hood. Instead of choosing bright colors for the space, or even an all-white palette, they used a selection of muted shades that keep the focus on the architecture. “The muted colors in this space offers a neutral palette for which form and light are the main contributors,” say the designers.

Make it Charming

Adding a hint of muted color to a mostly white space can lend welcome charm and personality. Here, designer Becki Owens incorporated pale pink and beige fabrics and painted the base of the banquette gray for contrast against the white walls.