Whether you’re decorating a lake or beach house or are interested in updating your primary residence with a coastal vibe, the welcoming nature of nautical décor invites relaxation from the moment you enter the room. The soft blues emulate the caressing motion of the waves and, whether or not you’ve recently vacationed, you soak up the soothing elements around you. But how do you adapt this type of décor without the kitschy, overdone decorations? In this post, we share 5 tips for creating a coastal scene.

1.) One of the most charming aspects of the coastal theme is the low-frills attitude it embraces. For this reason, we start with furniture and fabric selections that don’t demand a lot of care. Indoor/outdoor options allow your belongings to withstand harsher weather elements, especially relevant in warmer climates. All-weather fabrics are also quite helpful in keeping up with wet swimsuits and towels as well as sandy feet. Sunbrella upholstery is one of our favorites and is known to go the extra mile. Even better, Sunbrella offers vibrant colors with stylish patterns, so you can choose what works best with the rest of your décor—whether you’re selecting primary cushions or accent pillows. Need to pull a chair outdoors to accommodate additional visitors? No problem. These indoor/outdoor fabrics look sharp year after year.

Sunbrella's indoor/outdoor fabrics can give a nautical look to decor.

Photo Courtesy of Sunbrella

Another simple furniture option is slipcovering. The loose look of the fabric pares well with the laid-back coastal vibe. Sand and water are no match for these handy furniture coverings. When soil shows up on the furniture, homeowners can simply place the slipcover into the washing machine for a worry-free clean. This option is also great for families with pets.

Wicker furniture remains a seaside favorite. Today, all-weather options like this furniture set from Wayfair can be used both indoors and outdoors, and in unprotected areas. They are also are typically light enough to move easily, so you can create different arrangements for your outdoor living needs. Customize the look with cushions and throw pillows. Rattan and bamboo are other weather-resistant materials that are popular in nautical scenes. Be sure to purchase or create a water and sun proof cover to extend the life of your outdoor furniture.

Wicker Outdoor Furniture from Wayfair

Photo Courtesy of Wayfair

Beyond chairs and sofas, a durable rug is a must. We love sisal rugs for nautical themes. Today, the outdoor rug options and synthetic fibers create nearly indestructible rugs.  They add safety for wet feet, reducing the risk of slipping.  Not only do they look good, but they keep your floors and guests protected.

2.) Natural woods are perfect additions for a beachy feel. The comfortable, lived-in look emphasizes the relaxed environment and reminds guests of the outdoor elements that go hand in hand with beaches. (Think of driftwood, piers, boats and oars.) Incorporating rustic wood into your interiors doesn’t have to be expensive either. Upcycling allows you to repurpose older pieces and embrace the shabby chic look. Consider wood furnishings for chairs, tables, cupboards or storage pieces. Wood paneling like shiplap —either left in its natural state or painted with a bright color —is a clever way to incorporate the nautical appearance.

Vivid colors for nautical decor

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Dibble for Country Living magazine

3.) Don’t feel like you must stick solely to ocean blues. We love “Ted Kennedy Watson’s (@watsonkennedy) punchy layers of sea-faring themed furnishings such as nautical flags, anchor pillows, and old lockers”* as seen in the April 2020 edition of Country Living magazine and shown above. The bold colors inject energy into the room, while the white floors, walls and ceiling emphasize a clean look.

Speaking of white paint, you can brighten any room with a fresh coat. Over time, paint can become dingy, yet paint is one of the least expensive ways to make a big impact. In this next example, the bookshelves and walls were painted white. Then, seaside colors were introduced subtly by painting the interior of the bookshelves. The fresh look is extended with white accents that keep the setting light.

Use of ocean blue paint in the back of bookshelves framed in white

Photo Credit: Julie Soefer; Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Pamela O'Brien discovered colorful buoys in Alaska that are vibrant options for coastal decor4). Get creative. There are plenty of playful accents that you can discover in coastal communities, if you have the time to explore. For instance, I found these colorful buoys on our recent trip to Alaska. Imagine hanging these on a bedroom wall for a unique backdrop. You could create a collection within a certain color scheme or go bold with the various vibrant hues. Farmers markets, estate sales and even souvenir shops offer lots of decorating choices that can be incorporated in unusual ways to create visual interest.

5). Whether you enjoy the outdoors or prefer the slower pace of the coastal scene, let the sunshine in with loose, breezy window treatments and large windows that allow you to enjoy the local scenery even when you’re indoors. The kitchen in the below photo from House Beautiful offers a breathtaking view of a lakefront. Whether you’re cooking a meal or entertaining family and friends, this large window above the farmhouse sink is a sure conversation starter. The openness seems to blur the line between interior and exterior. The thoughtful blue accents throughout the room weave in the nautical theme without overdoing it. The blue mercury-glass pendants from Gallery L7 are another great touch.

Coastal Decor in a Kitchen

Photo Courtesy of Francesco Lagnese for House Beautiful Magazine

Overall, coastal décor means light, breezy materials that are low maintenance, so homeowners and guests alike relax in a casual and serene environment. A few intentional design elements can create a space that lends itself to tranquil days year-round. It’s time to unwind.


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