Coastal living room ideas – 15 essential style rules for modern beach house decor
Echo the beauty of maritime getaways with our favorite coastal living room ideas
Our collection of coastal living room ideas can create a relaxed, carefree interior design that will evoke memories of sunnier climes.
Being by the water, and especially by the sea, is renowned to create a feeling of relaxation and calm. By bringing this positive energy inside the home through a collection of coastal decor ideas, such as natural materials, curated accessories and an ocean-inspired color palette, you can create a timeless and inviting living room space that pays homage to the beauty and power of nature.
From California cool to New England nautical, we present how to recreate the beach house aesthetic in your own home - and how this style can be enjoyed all year round for your living room ideas.
Coastal living room ideas – simple design tips for beach house interiors
With the lure of living by the sea more popular than ever, explore our favorite living room coastal ideas to help you create your own beachy paradise in the comfort of your own home.
1. Enhance a coastal design with wallpaper
From simple blue and white stripes to nautical motifs, there are a range of beautiful wallpaper ideas to choose from to enhance the coastal design in your living room.
Depending on your chosen style, using wallpaper can be both bold and subtle when establishing a theme in a room.
The wallpaper in this living space, defined by a painted, brush-stroke effect, uses a pretty palette of blues and grays to create a modern, coastal design. The wallpaper is beautifully elevated by the use of material and texture, with the dark wooden shelf creating a platform for unique decorative designs in the same, coastal-inspired color palette.
2. Use inspiring artwork
When decorating with art, looking at a chosen piece of artwork for color ideas and inspiration is a great place to start when working with a theme for your interior design ideas.
Perfect for coastal living room ideas, taking the lead from the colors and textures found in a beautiful piece of coastal artwork will create a sophisticated and unified scheme.
In this living room, designed by Margaret Ash Design, she states of the process, ‘the clients wanted to incorporate a variety of soft gray tones as an ode to the quintessential San Francisco fog, and add in accents of blues and greens to further round out this Bay Area, nature-inspired color palette. The living room scheme was based on the client's existing art by Matthew Cusick.’
The beautiful wave designs establish a calming focal point in the room, with the elegant use of gray, blue and white for the furniture, accessories and paint ideas acting as the perfect complement, creating a relaxed coastal scheme.
You can also use these ideas to bring a lifestyle edge to your coastal kitchen ideas.
3. Incorporate the beauty of shells
Shells have seen quite the resurgence in interior design over the last few years. From bold shell prints and wallpaper designs, to scalloped furniture pieces and shell trinkets, these recent seashell trends mark a unique, modern take on traditional coastal decor.
Incorporating thee shell designs into coastal living room ideas can create a stylish and contemporary coastal scheme. Whether you go bold with brightly colored shell vases, or choose an elegant shell print for a cushion or throw, the simple beauty and form of this natural object can be appreciated through many different mediums in the home.
4. Keep things subtle
If you want to embrace a coastal theme but in an understated way, using a curated selection of accessories and decorative pieces can add a stylish yet subtle touch of coastal decor to your space.
In this modern living room space, painted by Farrow & Ball, a collection of delicate starfish ornaments have been positioned above the tiled fireplace. The rounded mirror with brown leather strap placed above these decorative pieces also adds a subtle, maritime reference.
These styling choices create an elegant, coastal-inspired zone in the living room, making way for other themes and design ideas in the space to create a rich, modern look filled with character and contrast.
5. Use stripes for a timeless effect
Decorating with stripes is a timeless choice for both classic and contemporary interior spaces. When planning your coastal living room ideas, introducing a striped element can add a stylish, nautical feel to the space.
A simple striped pattern, whether you opt for classic blue and white, like for the inviting armchairs in the living room above, or pair different stripe sizes and colors, is a versatile and long-lasting design choice for upholstery and soft furnishings in a living room.
6. Evoke Cape Cod cool with wall paneling
Weathertight shiplap has long been popular in areas with harsh climates – particularly the north-east coast of the States – but used inside it creates a light, informal space resonate of beaches and summer sun, as demonstrated in this coastal living room scheme.
'If you are opting for a traditional hardwood panelling, it is essential to commit to looking after it correctly,' says Brian Purnell, owner, Distinctive Country Furniture. 'The very hot and dry atmospheres found in modern homes can cause damage, so it is worth trying to mitigate that by either keeping the heating set at a lower temperature in the panelled rooms or by introducing some humidity to the atmosphere.'
7. Make coastal feel cozy with wood
Using wood in the home is nothing new – it has been a popular choice for years because of their timeless appeal, not to mention the fact wood is a durable material that gets better with age. But if you think that using an abundance of wood in your home will feel too traditional in a modern living room, think again.
Created by New York-based designer Amalia Graziani of Noor Property Group, honest materials and raw finishes lend natural charm in this calming coastal retreat in Amagansett Bay, East Hampton.
‘The space is great for gathering, but felt cold prior to renovating,’ explained Graziani. ‘To offset this, I introduced unfinished oak wood paneling on the walls. It warms up the space and keeps a calm, uniform palette throughout.'
8. Introduce modern rustic elements
This coastal living room was designed to offer warmth in the winter and freshness and tranquility in the summer. The aim was to create a room that was calm and considered yet restrained and not overly decorated – less is so often more when it comes to beach house style.
Here, the combination of darker tones with lighter finishes balances the feeling of solidity and depth, whilst still making the most of any natural light. Plus, the horizontal cedar wood shiplap cladding gives the living room a New England-style charm.
9. Modernize your coastal living room
Coastal style can be a lot more design-led than you might imagine. Forgo the notion of weathered and rustic furnishings for a contemporary take on farmhouse living room aesthetic.
Modern coastal designs have stepped into the light in recent years. The traditional hues and craftsmanship of antique and rustic furniture have been deftly brought up to date with the introduction of contemporary lines and detailing that bring drama and an almost-sculptural luxury to modern coastal schemes.
In this minimalist living room, a delicate blend of light oak, soft white, caramel and dusky grey accentuates the soaring architecture of this serene mid-century modern space situated by the sea. The reinvention of this coastal living room is a masterclass in marrying high tastes with a relaxed beach lifestyle.
10. Decorate in tonal color palette
Coastal decor has been having its moment in the spotlight over the past few years –and for good reason. This living room trend strikes the perfect balance between sophisticated and rustic; like an escape to the countryside without leaving the city limits.
This renovated living room, designed by Becca Casey of Becca Interiors, surprises with a serene aesthetic that showcases the stunning light of its coastal location.
'It is incredibly easy to over-furnish a coastal space, but that is one mistake you don't want to make,' says Casey. There is a tendency to create chaos in a themed space. 'I advise taking a less is more approach when it comes to furnishing,' says Becca. 'A simple color scheme is the perfect excuse to create a haven of peace and tranquility.'
Breathing new life into the classic coastal look, this scheme features a breezy palette of blues, from soft shades of pale sky through to denim. Plus, neutral living room favorites such as taupe, magnolia and chocolate for a sophisticated take on coastal decorating.
11. Decorate for peace and tranquility
The interior won’t make you stop and stare, but that’s precisely the point of this seaside scheme which, thanks to a skilful overhaul by Sophie Ashby, Studio Ashby, feels as calm as a schooner on a millpond-smooth sea; an inviting, maritime retreat of azure, indigo and cerulean blues where deep sofas beckon and light floods through the windows.
Re-jigging the floorpan to create an open-plan living room provided an excuse to reassess the furniture and furnishings in this coastal home. ‘It was a chance to create a fresh, contemporary look mixed with antiques that don’t detract from the lightness of the room,’ says Sophie.
12. Take an easy living approach to coastal decorating
Inspired by the timber-clad summerhouses of Scandinavia and New England, this relaxed decorating scheme, which also echos the delicate shades of nature, has been designed to blur the boundaries between indoors and out.
Here, a living room fireplace filled with real and faux potted plants creates a verdant focal point, while the relaxed seating including a hand woven sofa designed for outdoor use, enhances the garden-like feel.
Recreate the look indoors with plants carefully chosen to replicate an authentic seaside surrounding. For a true coastal aesthetic, we recommend rosemary, kentia palm, fiddle fig leaf and westringia.
13. Curate a coastal color scheme
A shade that’s always been popular in the world of interiors, soft blue is the color du jour for coastal decorating. This powder-like blue has the quality of being both soothing and invigorating and offers plenty of design versatility. Used with crisp white, it creates a calming coastal feel, while as one block of color it can be an enveloping breath of fresh air. For a more transitional coastal scheme come winter, pair this living room color scheme with earthy shades like rust, ochre or mustard to really make this color sing.
14. Create a contemporary coastal scheme that works throughout the year
Take inspiration from your coastal haunts and add a nautical note to your interiors – the modern way. The latest maritime look goes beyond bleached cotton and seashells to embrace tonal color, themed sculpture, loose linens and nature-inspired artwork, giving interior depth and interest. This heritage home has been reimagined as a relaxed refuge from city life.
Once summer draws to a close, introduce warmth underfoot and darker furnishings mixed in with brights for the perfect winter living room.
15. Mix white with warm neutrals and layers of texture
If you think white living room ideas are only reserved for ultra-modern homes, think again. Surprisingly, a white decorating scheme will work beautifully in a coastal home. Evoking purity, cleanliness and serenity alongside confidence and sophistication, white is a wonderfully versatile color for your coastal living room.
Avoid a predominantly white space looking too clinical or sterile by decorating with neutrals. One important aspect to consider when decorating with a pale color palette is to bring in as much texture as possible as it creates interest and layers –important factors when strong colors are out of the picture. For an authentic modern rustic coastal aesthetic, consider using raw materials such as natural wood elements alongside linens, rattan, jute and seagrass.
How do you decorate a coastal home?
Make your home feel like summer all-year round by decorating in a bright and breezy style.
Light living room ideas are key, with whitewashed walls, painted shiplap cladding and blonde wood floors, with large picture windows and skylights to let maximum light in.
Living room furniture and furnishings have a relaxed, lived-in feel – think woven wicker, weathered wood and bleached linen – while natural details add a coastal element, from pebbles and driftwood pieces to seashells and imitation coral.
What is modern coastal design?
Modern coastal unites the essence of coastal design - a relaxed and carefree vibe - with a contemporary, minimalist feel, where natural textures and simple color palettes take center-stage.
Many modern coastal designs move away from using just blue and white to embody the feeling of being by the ocean, instead, they focus on versatile neutrals such as beige, cream and brown to create an inviting atmosphere.
The result is a spacious and uncluttered look where statement pieces such as artwork, ornaments or a chosen wallpaper design create a relaxing coastal design.
Not all modern designs need to focus on minimalism and the use of neutral colors however. Having subtle touches that reference the coast, whether that be through a print or decorative ornament, can help bring those peaceful feelings of being by the sea into your space.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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