How to Get the Look: Coastal Style Decorating

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To get the feel and look of the Coastal Style Decorating, think tranquility of the shore. Close your eyes, envisioning the amazing beauty of the sea, with its subtle gradated palette of soft blue azures and teals to the depths of indigo. The frothy aftermath of the gentle waves are lapping at your feet, engulfing the warm soft sand between your toes. The gentle sunlit breezes are warmly stroking your face and the rustled swaying of the sea grass is silhouetted against the soft salmon and coral hues reflected on the warm sand, as the magnificent sun sets for another day.


For a long time, Coastal or Beach Style decorating was limited to actual beach houses and bathrooms. Now, more people are taking the coastal inspiration into their homes, wherever they may be. Whether it's a vacation home, weekend getaway, or a primary residence in the heart of Illinois that you are wanting to decorate, the coastal get-away look delights in uncomplicated style for the breezy relaxed feel of a seaside "vacation for the mind" all year long.

  • The key to Coastal Style Decorating is to do it tastefully and classy without being too kitschy and over the top. Select your palette and accessories based on the feel of the seaside and it's surroundings, rather than getting too carried away literally with themes throughout.

    The real message to take away is to use a coastal theme sparingly, in neutral and understated ways, and with some unexpected surprises that make it refreshing and unique.

  • Decide which coastal style you want to use. When we think of coastal style, the first question to come to mind is which coast? There are subtle stylistic differences between the coastal styles, but wherever found, it is simplistic, breezy and relaxed,

    California Coastal has a relaxed sophistication with an eclectic blend of Old World European furnishings with dark finishes contrasted with neutral, natural fabrics with an occasional touch of Asian style accents.

    The Atlantic Seaboard style is more of a relaxed cottage feel with nautical themes of light houses, boating parafenalia and other sea faring influences with palettes of red, navy blue, white and yellow. Shutters, beadboard and the weathered look are right at home along with the presence of Traditional American Colonial accents.

    The Gulf Coast style includes wicker, rattan and a West Indies influence with more vibrant tropical colors and a modern flare in furnishings with touches of art deco and cleaner modern lines.

  • COLOR PALETTE: Let the tranquil beauty and moods of the land, sea and sky of the coast guide you in your choice of color palette, keeping the décor on the quiet, pale, subdued side with a few fanciful touches of color here and there.

    Traditional sand and sea colors such as variations of blues, greens, azures and neutrals are particularly attractive when spotlighted using soft, sunbleached combinations of color. Accents of crisp yellows and whites are refreshing additions to any coastal room. Bold fluctuations of hues that are characteristic of the ocean also produce dynamic color groupings. Navy and white color duos, highlighted with red accents demonstrate a timeless nautical flavor.

    Special effect paint techniques, such as a delicately sponged blue sky, are often established to reflect coastal themes. Decorative paint techniques can be applied to solid colored walls, or partnered with wallpaper or fabric wallcoverings. Painted beadboarding can be gracefully applied to wall or ceiling coverings to evoke a refreshing coastal style. This technique is particularly effective when subdued colors are selected to reflect sunwashed interiors

  • ACCESSORIES: You can get the look of the Coastal Style in your décor without having to scatter shells, lighthouses, and anchors on every available flat surface.

    Try using a few painted nautical signs or vintage nautical paintings can be propped up on fireplace mantels or hung on exterior walls to compliment outdoor living spaces. Hand painted seaside murals may be fashioned on accent walls to coordinate with headboards, chests of drawers and bedside tables. Ocean-like designs can be painted directly onto floor coverings to create a "faux" accent rug.

  • FURNITURE: Coastal style, wherever it is found, is breezy and relaxed. Natural fibers are common on upholstery and floor coverings. Sea-themed prints on fabrics with images of seashells, tropical flowers and light houses can be used, as long as it's not too over-done.

    White washed, distressed and painted furnishings compliment the casual coastal feel. Wide, narrow, horizontal and vertical stripes painted on special pieces are classic coastal favorites, simple enough that even the novice, do-it-yourself painter can achieve.

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