Maybe it’s partly the fact we’re an island, with thousands of miles of coastline surrounding us, but the seaside look is a perennial style favourite in the UK. However, while endless blue and white stripes, driftwood sculptures and carved seagulls might look great in your AirBnB, when you’re back home, getting the cool coastal look right can be more of a challenge. Here then, is how to nail this tricky trend (whether you live by the sea, or in the heart of the city), so it’s less saucy postcards and sticks of rock, more elegant boutique coastal retreat.
1. Pick the right palette
Choose muted seaside colours…
Think ‘coastal theme’ and chances are you’re picturing white, blue and red stripes, with a few anchor motifs – with ships in bottles optional. But modern coastal doesn’t have to be so prescriptive. This room features an elegant Scandi palette of chalky blue-greys and acid yellows, bringing to mind stormy seas and windswept dunes. The coastal theme continues in subtle, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them details: a restrained boat painting, chunky knitted pouffes (think fishermen’s jumpers) and an ultra-minimal seagull model. All seaside signifiers, but not a lady made out of seashells in sight.
…or more dramatic ones
It probably wouldn’t be coastal if blue and white didn’t feature somewhere. But one way to make seaside more modern and bold is by choosing a darker shade, such as indigo or navy. This bedroom is still distinctly oceanic – particularly thanks to the cheeky motto on the cushion – but the inky blue walls and bedding create a distinctly grown-up feel. The New England-style slatted bedhead is another instant seaside signifier.
2. Use tongue and groove
Paint it white for seaside simplicity…
It should, by rights, be out of fashion by now. But there’s something inspiring about tongue and groove’s longstanding popularity in interiors. This simplest of panelling techniques lends an instant laid-back beach-hut vibe, while pulling off the trick of seeming classic, rustic, leftfield and quaint all at once.
Painted white it’s at its fresh and uplifting best; here the casually propped driftwood, rickety stools, striped cushions and vintage books create a relaxed all-at-sea atmosphere. And who knew beige floral curtains could look so charming?
…and try installing it along just one wall
In this shipshape room, a wall of horizontal tongue and groove almost gives the impression you’re inside a yacht’s cabin. What also works here are the pared-back accessories: the wall-mounted oars, model yacht and twists of rope in glass bowls all nod to the boaty trend, but in a way that’s contemporary and chic. Loving that precise mix of yellow, navy and white patterned cushions, too.
3. Use coastal motifs cleverly
Remember, nautical doesn’t have to be naff…
Who can resist a scale model of a lighthouse, or a screen print of a beach hut? Not us. But it’s also possible to find such nautical motifs used in a creative, modern way. The beautiful yacht wallpaper in this child’s room is a case in point, adding a magical, romantic feel. The wide striped linens add another spin on the seaside theme.
…but sometimes classics are still best
Anchors, yachts, oars, sailor stripes and helms – this nursery features almost every coastal motif in the book, and looks all the better for it. Nautical can be a great unisex theme in kids’ rooms; stylish enough to appeal to the grown-ups, while still stoking little ones’ imaginations.
4. Coastal is often about a feeling
Think vintage and cosy…
Seaside style can be as much about a feel and tone as a set of interiors ingredients. So go for anything you might uncover in a 1950s beach hut, cosy cliffside cabin or vintage seaside camper van. In this home, the granny-square crochet blanket adds some nostalgic charm and slots right in with those candy stripes and yacht-print blinds. Photo by Colin Cadle PhotographySearch coastal living room design ideas
…or choose just one eye-catching piece
If all-out coastal isn’t your thing, try focusing on just one or two great details. In this 1930s home, the fantastic driftwood ceiling light and heart-shaped wall art indicate the sea isn’t far away; while the bright turquoise exudes beach-house glamour.
5. Set sail for the bathroom
Pop in a porthole…
If you only try the coastal look in one place, make it the bathroom – it just works in here. This bathroom nails the trend in a quirky, different way. The blue walls, driftwood stool and lobster-pot style storage are fun without descending into tacky, while the star is the customised tub with two portholes in the side (spot the porthole mirror too). Aye, aye captain. Discover more bathroom ideas
…or go classic with blue and white stripes
This airy bathroom is a lesson in upmarket seaside chic. Key to its success is the judicial use of modern blue and white stripes – witness the towels and bin – as well as the single feature wall painted mid-blue, alongside, yes, our old friend white-painted tongue and groove.
And don’t go too modern in your coastal bathroom. We tend to picture seaside bathrooms as classic, even old-fashioned, which is why the pedestal basin and Shaker-style storage works so well in here.