Guide: What is Coastal Interior Design

Inspired by the sand, sea, and sky, this style is all about bringing the charms of the coast into home decor. Join us as we explore the question of what is coastal interior design?

6 February 2024

While other styles capture the rustic charm of country cottages or the essence of woodland living, coastal interior design channels the ocean. Inspired by the physical features, colours and textures of the coast, it goes beyond this to incorporate the coastal lifestyle, creating a serene and inviting space that reflects the simplicity and charm of a shoreline setting.

So, what is coastal interior design and how is the look achieved? How does it differ from nautical or beach style house decor? Come aboard as we answer that and more.

What is Coastal Interior Design?

A living area featuring coastal design. (Credit: omanwhynotstudio via Getty Images)

At its core, coastal interior design is all about evoking the relaxing and breezy vibe of the shoreline within your living space. It’s not just about beach-themed accessories; it’s a restrained design philosophy that balances colour, texture, and light to create an atmosphere that is both casual and refined. This style draws inspiration from the natural environment, featuring soft, neutral colours, natural materials, and airy layouts to mimic the feeling of being by the sea. Let’s take a look at how this works in practice:

Colour is Key

Perhaps the most defining elements of coastal interior design is its colour palette. Predominantly featuring whites, creams, and soft pastels, these reflect the hues of sand, sea, and sky. Accents of blues and greens are common, mirroring the ocean’s various shades. This light and airy colour scheme helps to create a space that feels open, calm, and connected to the natural world.

Bringing the Seaside in With Materials

Coastal interior decor heavily relies on natural materials to bring an organic, earthy feel to the home. Materials like wood, jute, rattan, and linen are staples in this style. Furniture is often made from driftwood or weathered oak, giving it a lived-in, beachy feel. Textiles are typically light and breezy, such as linen or cotton, to enhance the sense of airiness.

Tactile Touches

Texture plays a crucial role in beach interior design ideas. Layering different textures helps to add depth and interest to the space. Think of chunky knits, woven rugs, and breezy curtains that allow light to filter through. These elements help to create a cosy yet sophisticated atmosphere synonymous with coastal living.

Nautical Accents: Subtle Beach Style House Decor

While it’s easy to go overboard with beach-themed accessories, coastal interior decor favours a more subtle approach. Nautical accents like seashells, coral, and maritime artwork can be incorporated, but the key is moderation. These should complement the space rather than dominate it, maintaining a refined and elegant look.

Light and Bright Spaces: Maximising Natural Light

A hallmark of coastal interior design is the emphasis on natural light. Large windows, sheer curtains, and strategically placed mirrors help to maximise light, making spaces feel larger and more open. Lighting fixtures are often inspired by marine elements, such as lantern-style pendants or lamps with sea glass or driftwood bases.

Functional Yet Stylish Furniture

Furniture in coastal interior decor is not only stylish but also functional. Comfort is paramount, with plush sofas, cosy armchairs, and inviting daybeds being common choices. The furniture often features slipcovers in light colours, making it easy to clean and maintain – a practical consideration for a beach-style house decor. The overall look is relaxed and effortless, avoiding overly ornate or formal pieces.

Open and Airy Layouts

An open, airy layout is essential in coastal interior design, mirroring the openness of the beach. Spaces are designed to flow seamlessly into each other, promoting a sense of freedom and ease. This openness is often achieved through minimalistic styling, where less is more, and each piece of decor is chosen for its contribution to the overall serene atmosphere.

Coastal versus Beach Style House Decor

Coastal living room interior with sofa, wicker armchair, cactus plant and coffee table. (Credit: onurdongel via Getty Images)

Having looked at what coastal decor is, it’s also important to differentiate it from similar styles. For instance, it is not the same as beach style house decor. While both take their cue from the seaside, beach interior design ideas lean more towards the contemporary to the coastal traditional. Beachy colours tend to be bolder than coastal ones, and woods lighter. Coastal also has nautical elements, but is not the same as nautical design, the latter being far more about ships and boats.

Summarising Coastal Interior Decor

A cosy, coastal style home interior. (Credit: Artjafara via Getty Images)

And so, as we’ve seen, coastal interior design brings home the tranquillity and beauty of the seaside creating a relaxed environment through a blend of, among other things, light colours, natural materials, and nautical accents.


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