Beach-Inspired Decorating: Because All You Want to See … Is the Sea

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Siesta Key FL

Picture it: A sugary-white beach, stretching for miles until it disappears around a gentle bend on the horizon … cerulean water shimmering under a full sun … the frothy waves as they tumble ashore … and a slight pop of green from a palm tree, its trunk bent into a willowy curve from the ocean breezes. There’s nothing quite as relaxing or as beautiful as a deserted beach on a sunny day. Why wouldn’t you want to bring a touch of that serenity to your décor – even if you don’t live anywhere near the ocean?

Beach-inspired decorating isn’t reserved for those living along the coast. No matter where you are, you can bring a hint of the beach to your decor — or go a step beyond and create your own tropical cabana — even if you live in, well, Montana. (Sorry! No more rhyming.)

There are different beach-inspired decorating styles. You can go with nautical, coastal, or tropical. What’s the difference? Well, quite a lot, actually. Know what look you ultimately want before you get started. Here are the basics of each:

Tropical: Imagine large, ceramic floor tiles, paddle fans, and lots of bright floral patterns. Think of your favorite Hawaiian shirt and pull inspiration from that. Look for furniture with bamboo or wicker frames, and use the vivid colors found in lush tropical blooms, such as the hibiscus or the bird of paradise. Include planted palm trees, hurricane lamps, and lots of reds, yellows, vivid blues, and deep oranges. Tropical décor is light and breezy – avoid clutter and heavy fabrics. Stick to lightweight cotton and linen, and avoid adding too many accessories – a dish of seashells and a potted bromeliad, soft accent lights, and perhaps a painting of a tropical beach scene (think Miami or Honolulu) on the wall.

Coastal: White-washed, shabby wood furniture, pale walls, bead board, stripes, lots of creams and blues – coastal, although also beach-inspired, is very different from tropical. For coastal décor, think of a New England cottage on a rocky coast. Sort of shabby-chic-on-the-beach: well-worn, comfortable, carefree. Your color palette, unlike the lush, vibrant colors of tropical décor, will be shades of white, pale blue, and beige. For accent color, add hints of red and yellow. You’ll want shutters on the windows, and linen, canvas, and natural fibers for throw rugs and window coverings. Add a cozy neutral-colored cotton throw on the couch, some lighthouse-inspired accessories, perhaps a scene of a rocky coastline dotted with sailboats on a foggy morning, and your coastal-inspired décor is complete.

Nautical: Blue and white stripes, ship’s wheels, anchors – think salty sailors and yacht clubs (with maybe a hint of pirate). Unlike tropical and coastal décor, which is mainly beach-inspired, nautical is ocean-inspired – or, more specifically, boat-on-the-ocean inspired. You want your space to look as if it could be leaving port at any second. Look for porthole-shaped mirrors, wooden wheels, actual sails, lots of teakwood, cork, canvas, rope, driftwood, and fabrics with stripes or nautical patterns (sailboats, anchors, fish, life preservers, etc.). Hang an antique map on the wall, and decorate with parts of a ship, netting, oars, signal flags, etc. Colors are crisp white and navy blue. Add some red or yellow accents, a classic ship-in-a-bottle, a model sailboat, a compass rose, and some seashells or starfish and you are ready to set sail. Ahoy!