How to Pull Off a Coastal or Nautical Interior Design Theme

Nathan Law

Photo: Mona Makela (Shutterstock) Rent a vacation home on or near basically any coastline in the country (including those surrounding lakes), and there is a good chance that the decor will be nautical in nature. But it doesn’t end there. It’s not uncommon to see coastal themed interior design in […]

Illustration for article titled How to Pull Off a Coastal Theme Without Your Home Looking Like a Long John Silver's

Photo: Mona Makela (Shutterstock)

Rent a vacation home on or near basically any coastline in the country (including those surrounding lakes), and there is a good chance that the decor will be nautical in nature. But it doesn’t end there. It’s not uncommon to see coastal themed interior design in completely landlocked areas too—just because there isn’t a boat within 200 miles doesn’t mean you can’t make your home look like a sailing vessel.

On top of that, after being stuck inside more than we ever thought imaginable during the pandemic, many people decided to give their homes a little refresh. For some, that included adopting a coastal theme to at least help them feel like they were on vacation at a time when travel wasn’t an option.

While some coastal-themed decor is timeless, other times it can veer dangerously towards resembling the dining room of a Long John Silver’s, minus the hush puppies. To help us avoid that, design expert Amanda Lauren shared some tips for getting the nautical look you actually want—instead of throwing some seashells in a dish and calling it a day. Here’s what to know.

Types of coastal decor

There are a few different approaches to coastal-themed decor, some of which are more literal than others. Some nautical-style rooms are loud and proud. The second you walk through the doorway, you know you’re in a space designed to remind you of the coastline. Primarily, this is because there are actual beach- and boat-related objects all over the place—think fishing nets, nautical flags, perhaps a captain’s bell, anchor-print fabric, and, of course, seashells galore.

Other coastal-themed rooms are far more subtle, opting to stick to a palette of blues, whites, and other neutrals, with a few key pieces that transport you to your friend’s rich cousin’s vacation home. In the end, it’s the difference between decorating your home like a breezy beach house, as opposed to the actual beach.

How do you get a coastal look?

Of course, interior design is subjective, so ultimately, fill your home with things that make you comfortable and happy. But, in the event that you’re aiming for a coastal theme, but feeling as though you’re falling short—or going a bit overboard—here are some of the decorating strategies Lauren discussed in an article for Forbes:

Err on the side of subtle

Instead of fishbowls filled with sand and then topped with (what’s hopefully a faux) starfish and a collection of shells from your last trip to the beach, dial it back a bit, and let your furniture, color, and other design choices do the talking.

“Incorporate details like stripe or natural fiber rugs, blue and white-hued pillows, grasscloth covered decorative boxes, sea glass beads, bamboo photo frames, etc,” Meg Young, Founder of Cailini Coastal told Forbes.

Pick a calming color scheme

One of the hallmarks of coastal-themed decor is sticking to a palette of mostly blues and neutral colors, but that still leaves you with a lot of choices to make.

“Currently and most consistently, we are seeing trends in color palettes, being light, earthy tones with accents of color, but also keeping color palettes minimal and playing with textures for added depth and feel to coastal living,” Samantha Gallacher, founder of IG Workshop told Forbes.

Incorporate some wood

Even though few new boats are made of wood today, we still associate nautical decor with wood because we tend to picture old-timey wooden boats and ships, as well as clapboard seaside homes. According to Lauren, you can add the wooden element through exposed beams or shiplap, as well as pieces of furniture, like chairs or end tables.

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