Home Lifestyle Coastal Style: A look at the history behind it and how it’s changed regionally

Coastal Style: A look at the history behind it and how it’s changed regionally

by Heather Warthen
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For those of us who don’t have the luxury of beachfront living, yet dream of ocean waves and sandy toes, we can emulate it through our home decor. Coastal style allows us to bring a bit of the ocean inside, even if we’re nowhere near the coast. But don’t go running to your nearest home decor store to grab every anchor and seashell trinket in sight – coastal style may be much more casual and refined than you may think. Keep reading to see what defines one of the fastest growing decorating styles and the variations that have evolved from it. 

Coastal Does Not Equal Nautical

Coastal and nautical styles are commonly mistaken as synonymous. Though they share some similarities, they are actually distinctly different. An article by Thistlewood Farms explains that nautical is heavy on anchors, bold red, white and blue colors, and stripes. It is more reminiscent of the military and Fourth of July than relaxing summers on the beach. Certain aspects of nautical style are too cluttered or cliched to fit into the coastal category.

What is coastal style?

Instead, coastal style is easy, natural and minimal. House Beautiful explains that the goal is to evoke the breeziness of the beach and minimize the boundary between the indoors and outdoors. The style is perfect if your home has an open floor plan and floor-to-ceiling windows, but work with what you have to let in as much natural light as possible. Crisp white walls and minimal window treatments can help.

Pineapples, Palms Too recommends sticking to three colors in a room: 1) a foundational color for the walls, carpet/rug and fabrics; 2) a secondary color for decor items; and 3) a sparsely used accent color to add flair. Beachy blues, seafoam green, tangy yellow and coral are popular coastal colors, according to The Spruce

Use furniture made from natural materials, like wicker, rattan or light, weathered woods. You’ll often find light cotton or linen slip-covered furniture, which add dimension and a relaxed look – not to mention, it’s practical if you have pets or children! Spruce up the neutral tones by adding a variation of textures. Think straw and jute rugs and bowls of driftwood and shells. Greenery, twigs, and stones are other natural elements you can collect that will remind you of your beach vacation. Patterns can also add vitality to a space; try using them on dishes or accent pillows. 

History and evolution

What is described above is an amalgamation of design and architecture seen throughout coastal homes across America. Yet, according to the Kate Walker Design team, there are still contrasts between the different coastal cities. For example, Malibu’s coastal decor is influenced by rural European farmhouses, with wood paneled ceilings and bleached oak doors. Palm Beach’s decor, on the other hand, is influenced by British Colonial style, with lush plants and tropical colors. 

Coastal style has quickly grown and branched out into various substyles. Afterall, your beach vacation in Hawaii likely had different vibes than your friend’s in Greece. An article by The Spruce explains two other common coastal styles: tropical island and Mediterranean coastal. Inspired by the islands of the great Pacific, tropical island style reflects the customs, colors, and beliefs of its native people, using bright tropical patterns and cultural decor. Greece and coastal towns of Spain and Italy influence Mediterranean coastal style. Sun-baked colors, terra cotta, black iron and heavy woods are incorporated. 

Overall, coastal style should embody a relaxed and outdoor feeling and lifestyle. Hopefully it reminds you of your favorite beach location and your memories there.

Article by Megan Kong, REX Homes

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