Modern Coastal Style: 8 Decorating Tips for Nautical or Seaside Charm

The ocean draws people to its soothing waves, cool breezes, and beautiful views. With modern coastal décor, you can bring some of that calming seaside aesthetic home to enjoy between vacations. Use these decorating tips to help you select the right colors, furniture, and decorative accents to create your beach-inspired paradise.

Coastal Decorating at Home

What Is Coastal Decorating Style?

Above all else, coastal style is breezy, airy, and calm. The style can work across your entire home, or you can feature it in a single room, such as the living room or a guest bedroom. Coastal design focuses on sunlight, glass, and the natural elements found in and around the sea, with a palette inspired by the ocean.

How to Capture Coastal Style at Home

1. Start with a modern coastal or nautical color palette

Specific color combinations immediately evoke beachside living. The reason you start with the palette is that most of your other design choices will build off those colors.

Nautical palettes:

  • Navy blue, pure white, red
  • Royal blue, battleship gray, ivory

Oceanside palettes:

  • Deep blue, natural jute, parchment white
  • Stormy gray, sage green, taupe

'Day at the beach' palettes:

  • Sunny yellow, cornflower blue, eggshell
  • Sapphire blue, antique white, seafoam green

Tropical palettes:

  • Turquoise, white sand, sea green
  • Coral pink, seashell white, azure blue

2. Declutter rooms to instill a sense of calm

Temporarily remove all of the accent pieces, artwork, candles, and lamps from the rooms you're designing with a coastal aesthetic. Then take a critical look at what's left. Do you have too much furniture? Coastal design has room to breathe, so consider removing pieces to declutter the space.

Next, decide if any of the central elements and accent pieces clash with the beachy vibe you're trying to achieve. Coastal matches well with transitional, Craftsman, and even farmhouse style décor, less so with ultra-modern and classic styles.

Emphasize Natural Light

3. Emphasize natural light

Sunshine is essential for a dreamy coastal feel. Here's how to maximize natural light indoors:

Keep window treatments simple. Remove any dark drapes and go with something lighter. Gauzy white curtains that catch the wind like sails are perfect. But you can also add shades in the lightest color in your palette, or curtains with nautical stripes in white and navy or white and blue. For a fun accent, choose heavy rope curtain tie backs resembling mooring lines. If you prefer interior colonial shutters or wood blinds, choose white or a light stain.

Reflect light with mirrors. Position mirrors to elevate the natural light in a room; just check the positioning at different times of day to avoid glare. Choose mirrors framed in shells or weathered wood. You can even showcase a round mirror designed to look like a ship's porthole.

Feature glass accents. Decorative glass bottles in ocean blue. Blown glass orbs held in roped netting. A bubble glass vase in sea green. Glass is an excellent way to incorporate oceanic hues throughout a room. Set these evocative elements on shelving, coffee and side tables, or on the mantle.


4. Favor light colors and natural materials

Linens and upholstery in white and off-white give rooms the brightness you want in your coastal-inspired sanctuary. Wood furniture in light stains or with weathered paint in light hues has the same effect. If you have a sofa or chairs in dark hues, you can lighten the overall effect with white, light grey, or light yellow accent pillows and throw blankets.

Feature area rugs with natural fibers, such as jute or seagrass in your living room or entrance hall. Or, select rugs in a mix of colors reminiscent of sand, dune grass, and sea that are soft enough for bare feet.

5. Add a coastal or nautical showpiece

Try to find one piece of coastal-themed furniture to use as a focal point. Here are some ideas to help you choose a signature piece:

  • A reclaimed wood dining table worthy of a ship's galley
  • A coffee table gray-washed the color of driftwood
  • Large-scale wall art featuring a peaceful harbor view, a ship on the high seas, or abstract shapes in a coastal palette
  • A sofa featuring light gray or sand-colored upholstery
  • Club or wingback chairs in blue, green, or gray

Explore Coastal Accents

6. Explore coastal accents

Coastal accent pieces tie together your coastal theme, and they're an excellent option if you want a hint of ocean style without going overboard. Accents to consider:

  • Pulls and knobs. Swap out the hardware on your kitchen cabinets, a sideboard, or desk with ocean-inspired styles. White ceramic, smoked glass, and hammered bronze support coastal style.
  • Accent pillows and throw blankets. Go for ocean-inspired prints, nautical stripes, or coastal colors.
  • Light fixtures. Look for lamps and fixtures with elements that complement your coastal design. Consider a floor lamp featuring a roped pole or a table lamp with a nautilus or capiz shell base.
  • Serveware. Share your coastal style when entertaining with a lazy susan resembling a ship's wheel or a serving tray etched with an anchor or seashell design.

7. Continue your coastal theme outside

Create a relaxing outdoor escape with a porch or patio featuring coastal elements. Here are accents that bring a touch of the seaside to your outdoor living:

  • Caged glass LED pendants reminiscent of fisherman’s lanterns
  • An outdoor ceiling fan with blades shaped like tropical leaves
  • Teak chairs with plush white linen cushions
  • A wood love seat with distressed blue paint
  • Accent pillows in light gray and blue
  • A sawgrass area rug
  • An outdoor lamp with a base shaped like ocean coral

Don't Go Overboard

8. Don't go overboard with the coastal look

Coastal can all too easily slip into kitschy. Use the tips above to create a coastal oasis at home, but be careful of over-indulging in the anchors and starfish motifs. Think of it like flavoring clam chowder. Yes, you want a peppery bite, but too many turns of the grinder make it difficult to swallow.

Now you're ready to embrace your inner beachcomber and bring all the best parts of coastal living home.