What is classic coastal style? Think French Riviera meets the Hamptons. The look is sophisticated: crisp linens, perfectly painted beadboard, bold stripes and a distinct palette of whites, neutrals, blues, charcoal and black. Classic coastal style uses beautiful accessories, such as specimen shells, coral, maritime instruments and coastal art, and it aims for a clean, sophisticated feel.
You don’t have to live by the sea to get a coastal look for your home. Just by putting a few tips into practice, you will feel like you’ve got the ocean on your doorstep. Classic coastal is easy to achieve—keep it simple and edit ruthlessly to get this look.
Light neutrals and stripes
Painting the whole room in varying shades of white makes a great background for showing off soft furnishings and accessories. Use striped fabric—particularly widely spaced stripes—for upholstered furnishings to create an instant coastal look.
Paint your fireplace surround and alcoves in neutral shades to create a great backdrop for displaying specimen shells, coral and coastal art. A limed or weathered oak coffee table completes the look.
Gather nautical or coastal images in a specific theme to hang on your walls. You might choose photos classic yachts in black and white and mix in some closeups of rope, a ship’s bell and other maritime accessories. Frames can be bought really cheaply from discount stores or from your local flea market, auction house or eBay. Paint them, lime-wash them or just use a mix of different woods for a well-weathered look.
Roman blinds always look smart. I often have them made with a mitered border to add definition—try matching the borders with the paint color of your walls. This deep indigo (above) instantly says classic coastal.
Simple linen curtains are perfect for this look. To create more impact, use a white pole and put a contrasting border on the curtains to complement the walls and soft furnishings. You also can use a striped fabric with a plain border to give definition.
Shutters are a great option for a timeless look. When painted in a neutral color, they won’t detract from a fabulous view.
Revamp a piece of furniture by painting it—use a strong color to make a bold statement. A deep blue creates a perfect backdrop for model yachts.
An ottoman provides extra seating for visitors and also works as a base for a lovely display of shells and coral.
This traditional Chesterfield leather suite is softened with a mix of fabrics in ocean colors. Crisp linens and soft velvets in a coastal palette work well with the life-buoy wall art. Shells give the classic chandelier a twist. Rugs in bold, monochromatic stripes ground this room.
Traditional and elegant furniture styles and layouts work best for the classic coastal look. Slipcovers are a great idea for sofas and chairs—white or cream always looks upscale, or you can mix it up with some stripes as well. Experiment with contrasting piping to match your wall color for a sophisticated look.
Beadboard—known as butt and bead in the United Kingdom—is a decorative wood paneling often used in coastal homes. It’s easy to install and you can get it in sheet form. Here, crisp white paint keeps the look simple.
Use beadboard as wainscoting in a bathroom to give it a nautical feel.
Tip: An easy way to work out wainscoting height is to divide the height of the room into three, then cut your boards to two-thirds the height of the room. This will ensure that the wainscoting is perfectly proportioned and easy on the eye. Finish it off with decorative molding and a coat of oil-based eggshell emulsion for durability in a wet area.
Natural flooring, such as coir, seagrass and sisal, make great rugs. This rug looks very effective against the dark timber floor.
It would be very easy to give this room the classic coastal treatment—simply swap the green paint for deep blue, change the cushions for stripes to complement the wall color and add a few well-chosen accessories. That coffee table looks perfect for a display of shells and coral.