5 ways to decorate with a coastal color palette for a beach-inspired, calming scheme

Create a soothing interior scheme with these coastal color ideas

coastal color palette in home decor ideas
(Image credit: Paloma Contreras Design/photography Aimée Mazzenga, Peter Dunham/photography Annie Schlechter, Coddington Design, photography David Duncan Livingston)

There's nothing quite like coastal decor to create a fresh look throughout the home. Especially at this time of year as we eagerly await the summer months, coastal decor is a great way to uplift the home with its soothing, beach-inspired feel. 

Within a coastal decor scheme, the choice of colors is one of the most important decor decisions you'll make, setting the tone for the whole space. While blue and white is the color combination most of us naturally associate with a coastal theme, many other coastal-inspired colors also create a fresh, beachy look.

If you're looking to decorate with a coastal theme in mind and are on the hunt for some inspiration in the color department, these ideas have you covered. We spoke to interior designers to round up their favorite coastal color palettes, ranging from classic blues to more unexpected orange tones as a modern take on coastal decor. 

What is a coastal color palette? 

coastal entryway with white dresser and blue artwork

(Image credit: Paloma Contreras Design, photography Aimée Mazzenga)

Despite what you might assume, a coastal color palette does not just mean decorating with blue and white. Although this is a timeless color combination that feels instantly nautical, designers explain that other colors still create a coastal look, albeit in a slightly more subtle way. 

Essentially, a coastal color palette is anything that's inspired by the coast. Typically, coastal decor feels soothing with plenty of natural textures found in bright and airy spaces, and so naturally, coastal colors follow this same theme. While you can decorate with coastal colors in any room, these schemes work particularly well in a bathroom or bedroom, rooms we generally want to feel calm. 

It's also important to remember that a coastal color scheme doesn't always have to mean drenching all four walls in a beach-inspired paint color. There are plenty of ways to decorate with a coastal palette, whether that's through the color of furniture, accent paint, or decorating with art – all depending on how obvious you want the coastal theme to be. 

5 coastal color palette ideas

Below, we've rounded up interior designers' top coastal-inspired color palettes, to give you some ideas for your coastal decor scheme. With any of the ideas to follow, always try to maintain an overall pared-back feel with the room's decor, as this will ensure the end look feels calming and relaxed. 

Interior designer Gaelle Dudley explains: 'When designing with a coastal aesthetic in mind, it is of utmost importance to think light, bright and airy. Don’t over-clutter with furniture and make sure to mix in natural textures throughout the space. Keep your walls bright to complete a serene space and try for airy lighting that gives the semblance of bringing the outdoors in. Think “less is more” always so you feel like you are being transported into vacation mode in your own home.'

Gaelle Dudley
Gaelle Dudley

Gaelle Dudley is the founder and creative director of GLDESIGN, an interior design firm based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Inspired by her childhood in France, New England shorelines, California Dreams and Florida pastels, Gaelle and the GLDESIGN team weave beach living into every client’s home.

1. Classic blue and white

Grand entryway with blue mosaic tiled flooring and blue accent chairs

(Image credit: Betsy Wentz Interior Design, Sargent Photography)

For a truly coastal look, decorating with blue and white is the best way to go. These classic hues are instantly synonymous with a nautical style and also bring a fresh feel to the home. 'You can never go wrong with a blue and white color palette for a coastal beach interior design motif,' says designer Kathy Kuo. 

There are many ways to pair decorate with blue and white, whether you use white as the backdrop wall color and blue as an accent hue, or vice versa. As shown above in an entryway designed by Betsy Wentz Interior Design, blue makes a statement through vibrant mosaic floor tiles and accent chairs. 

'Use varying shades of blue in the fabrics, rugs, walls, or accessories from room to room to create a flow throughout your house,' advises Betsy Wentz. 'The blues can range from a very pale duck egg to a teal, to a rich, deep indigo navy.'

If you're looking to make blue paint the standout feature of your coastal decor, you can opt for either highly saturated tones or more muted blues, depending on how bold a look you want to create. Ashley McCollum, color expert at Glidden suggests two blue paints to try: 'Keepsakes is a light and airy blue, the perfect paint color for a coastal-inspired bedroom or bathroom, or a fresh, clean kitchen. Pair it with white trim for fresh appeal.' Alternatively, 'Freedom Found is a deep gray-blue that makes a perfect nautical-inspired accent wall or color for cabinetry.'

kathy kuo home
Kathy Kuo

Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry. 

2. Muted orange

Coastal living room with white walls and orange accents

(Image credit: Coddington Design, photography David Duncan Livingston)

However, decorating with a coastal color palette doesn't have to equate to blue and white. Opt for muted oranges inspired by autumnal coastal grasses for a more subtle nod to a coastal theme. 

'A coastal color scheme need not adhere strictly to the typical blue, white, and weathered wood,' suggests interior designer Melanie Coddington, founder of San Francisco-based Coddington Design. She explains how the living room pictured above takes a more subtle approach to coastal colors: 'In this Nantucket endeavor, we drew inspiration from the autumnal coastal grasses, which take on a delightful pale orange hue and are complemented with a gentle teal green. This combination brings the essence of the outdoors into the room throughout the year. Additionally, we incorporated a rustic blue stone hearth and mantel, discovered right on the property, adding a unique touch to the space.'

Kathy also recommends these warm orange tones for a coastal look, adding: 'If you're looking for a contrasting pop of color, try adding decorative objects and wall art in shades of coral reds and oranges, and warm neutrals like sand and terracotta.'

3. Layered blues

blue armchair against blue wall and blue patterned curtains

(Image credit: Peter Dunham, photography Annie Schlechter)

Decorating with blue on blue is an on-trend way of embracing a coastal color palette. By layering different shades of blue, you can make a statement that feels aligned with this year's hugely popular blue color trend. Think of this approach as reaching for blue where you would typically opt for white in a more traditional coastal scheme. This will create a playful look that again, doesn't feel overwhelmingly coastal. 

'The color of the sky and sea is always a good idea by the ocean,' says Los Angeles interior designer Peter Dunham of Peter Dunham Design & Associates. But don’t just call it ‘blue’ – depending on the setting, it’s the leaning into or layering of shades from pale indigo to bright turquoise to rich sapphire.'

4. Aqua tones

coastal bedroom with blue wall and white bedding

(Image credit: Robin Gannon Interiors, photography Michael J Lee)

For a coastal color scheme that feels a bit softer than classic blues, decorating with aqua brings a hint of green and can be a great way to create a calming look, perfect for a relaxing bedroom such as this one designed by Robin Gannon Interiors. 

Massachusetts-based designer and founder of the firm, Robin Gannon explains her approach to decorating with these tones in a coastal interior scheme: 'It's all about the colors I see outside on the coast and bringing them into the home to create that feeling. Introducing some of the many shades of blue and not just sticking with one or the other will give a space a little bit more sophistication. But in thinking beyond that, there are the marsh grasses, the beautiful sand tones, and coral colors from the sunsets – there are so many different things to introduce that will give a home a lot more livability year-round than just blue and white.'

Robin Gannon
Robin Gannon

Robin Gannon is the founder and principal of Robin Gannon Interiors, a full-service interior design firm in the metro Boston, MA area. Winner of Boston Home's Best of Boston Home® 2023 – Most Versatile Interior Designer, the firm is known for their use of color, pattern, and layers to make each client's home as distinctive as they are.

5. Fresh whites

Coastal bedroom with white walls and pale green throw on bed and blue artwork

(Image credit: Paloma Contreras Design, photography Aimée Mazzenga)

If you want to create a more neutral and pared-back coastal scheme, keep things simple by decorating with white. With the right decor, white can create a subtle coastal feel that feels timeless. 

Interior designer Paloma Contreras, founder of Texas-based Paloma Contreras Design talks through the approach she adopted in the coastal bedroom shown above, which uses white as the primary color and some softer, subtle green and blue accents to complete the scheme. 

'Because beach houses can easily become clichéd – with a shell lamp here, a nautical rope mirror there – we worked hard to give the home a coastal aesthetic while avoiding the obvious route and any semblance of cheesiness. We took a lot of our cues from nature beyond the windows, especially the color palette: the cerulean blues and fresh greens of sky and sea. Bedrooms don’t need an ocean view to get the relaxed feel of a vacationland. Hanging a choice piece of art – like this one, where bathers dip in clear turquoise water – can have a similarly calming effect.'

Decorating with a coastal color palette is a great way to create a calming, nature-inspired feel throughout your home. With these five ideas, you can tailor this style of decorating to suit your own tastes, whether that's colorful blues or more pared-back whites.

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.