How to decorate a coastal home – with Emma Sims Hilditch's expertise

Bring a fresh and beachy look to your home with the interior designer's expert tips

white coastal home with elegant balcony
(Image credit: Emma Sims Hilditch)

A sense of place is essential to any successful interior design, whether that’s a sandy beach on your doorstep or the fields stretching beyond your back gate. But knowing when a reference turns to pastiche is key. 

‘When designing an interior incorporating coastal decor ideas, subtlety is the golden rule,’ suggests interior designer Emma Sims Hilditch. ‘There are plenty of clever ways to hint at a home’s seaside location, without being swept away by nautical trends and an excess of blue white and red.’

Emma owns a home in Cornwall and has decorated many a seaside pad via her design agency Sims Hilditch. Her advice is to tone down sailor style for a more pared back seaside aesthetic – here, she explains now to get the balance of beach house ideas right.

Interior Designer
Emma Sims Hilditch
Interior Designer
Emma Sims-Hilditch

Founded in 2009, the Sims Hilditch design practice has become one of the most trusted and respected in the industry. Its couture approach combines interior architecture, interior design and procurement management within one concept-to-completion, fully bespoke service. Creative Founder, Emma Sims-Hilditch is passionate about her belief that good design can transform not only how people live but also how they feel. By creating characterful, beautiful and intelligent interiors, Emma and the Sims Hilditch team empowers clients to radically improve the quality of their lives.

Open up the space

The inside of the pool house has tiled flooring matching that outside, a bench with storage, a mirror, and glass doors

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

To create an airy and spacious feel befitting of a coastal home, Emma recommends knocking through walls where possible to open up the space. That might mean looking at ideas for open plan kitchens or ways to create an open concept living room. But there's another surprising space that can help nail the nautical look.

‘This is particularly effective when you're looking at entryway ideas, as it sets the tone for the rest of the home. Applying a rough boarding to the ceiling of this space adds a certain texture and charm, and when painted in an emulsion of 50:50 paint and water, it’s reminiscent of the fresh seaside setting that surrounds the home.'

This might also be the opportunity to connect the inside of your home to the coastal garden ideas outside.

Find your focal point

emma sims hilditch living room in cornwall home with sofas and fireplace

(Image credit: Emma Sims Hilditch)

Oftentimes, a coastal living room that benefits from beautiful views will be centered around the scene outside the window. However, this is not always the best way to organize a room, according to Emma.

'The sitting room in my Cornwall home has a lovely view of the bay beyond, but I have arranged the furniture in the space using the fireplace as the focal point,' she says. 'This allows the view to act as a beautiful backdrop to the room, while remaining a practical, social and inviting space.’

This option works well for family room ideas with fireplaces, allowing you to maximise the cozy get-togethers associated with having a beach house, while still making the most of the coastal setting.

Incorporate coastal artworks

living room with coastal decor scheme with yacht decoration and view of sea

(Image credit: Emma Sims Hilditch)

Decorating with art is an excellent way to interpret a home's coastal location within the interior. You might think of seascapes and beach views, photography of boats and yachts, or artworks that depict seaside plants and flowers.

'Artwork is an excellent opportunity to nod to a home’s coastal location,' agrees Emma. 'Visit local artists, dealers and antiques specialists to find paintings, ornaments and crockery depicting the local area and thread these throughout your home.'

While you will naturally find yourself looking to add art to your living room and bedroom, also think of the more functional rooms of the home – a watery landscape can totally transform your coastal kitchen ideas

Add Hamptons-style shutters

Family bathroom with panelling

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

If you want to bring a touch of New England coastal style to your home, make a start with the window treatments, suggests Emma.

'Shutters create a wonderful Hamptons-style aesthetic which is perfect for a coastal home,' she says. 'What’s more, they are a great solution to dressing awkward shaped windows in a pitched roof, which simply will not accommodate curtains or blinds.' 

The color, shape and size of slats should be taken into consideration for your shutter ideas. For a beach-themed look, the emphasis will be on coastal colors and designs that allow you to regulate and increase natural light in your home.

Curate your coastal color palette

coastal decor bedroom emma sims hilditch

(Image credit: Emma Sims Hilditch)

'A palette of cool whites paired with blue-grey accents works well in a coastal interior,' says Emma. 

'It’s worth bearing in mind that the colours will seem to alter throughout the day, depending on how the light hits it, so I recommend ordering samples before purchasing your paint. I used Farrow & Ball School House White on the ceiling and woodwork in my Cornwall home, paired with Shaded White on the walls and De Nimes on the joinery.’

Andrea Childs

Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title 

With contributions from