Coastal living room ideas – 10 essential style rules for modern beach house decor

Echo the beauty of maritime getaways with our favorite coastal living room ideas

Coastal living room ideas
(Image credit: Rikki Snyder / Becca Interiors)

Create a relaxed, carefree interior that will evoke memories of sunnier climes with our curated selection of coastal living room ideas.

A little outpost of sunny seaside style may once have been reserved for roadside motels, but forget the preconceptions that come with that and get ready for a dose of California cool and New England nautical.

With the lure of living by the coast more popular than ever, we show you how to recreate the beach house aesthetic in your home, one that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Coastal living room ideas – simple design tips for beach house interiors

Disregard notions of themed, overly-decorated schemes with our curated selection of living room ideas that will provide a refuge from city living.

1. Evoke Cape Cod cool with wall paneling

Simple living room ideas with white shiplap wall

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair / Future)

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.'

2. Make coastal feel cozy with wood

A living room with vaulted ceilings and large triangular-topped windows, white armchairs and black leather stools

(Image credit: Amalia Graziani/Alice Gao)

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.' 

3. Introduce modern rustic elements

Living room with wood floor, walls and beams

(Image credit: Brent Darby / Future)

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. 

4. Modernize your coastal living room

Living room ideas for men

(Image credit: James Merrell / Future)

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.

5. Decorate in tonal color palettte

Long living room with neutral color palette

(Image credit: Rikki Snyder / Becca Interiors)

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. 

6. Decorate for peace and tranquility

Coastal living room with blue and white soft furnishings

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

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.

7. Take an easy living approach to coastal decorating

White living room ideas with Scandi interior

(Image credit: Future / Jon Day)

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.

8. Curate a coastal color scheme

Coastal living room ideas with blue and yellow color scheme

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

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.

9. Create a contemporary coastal scheme that works throughout the year

Neutral home decor ideas

(Image credit: Rikki Snyder)

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.  

10. Mix white with warm neutrals and layers of texture 

Coastal living room ideas with whitewashed walls and cane furniture

(Image credit: Tom Leighton )

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.

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

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.