5 Coastal Decor Ideas That Feel Chic, Not Cliché, for Homes on the Shore

Whether you're looking for beachy-style or waterfront sophistication, these coastal ideas will give your space just the right nod to your home's locale

(Image credit: Specht Novak)

You may not have a beachfront house but you can always have a home that feels like it's in Malibu! Coastal decor is a particularly popular decorating style for people with homes that sit on the shore (and sometimes for people whose homes don't, too) that effortlessly creates a sense of calm and escape.

It draws inspiration from the scenic landscape of the water and brings the natural beauty of the surroundings inside. Soft tones, found objects, natural accessories and materials all have intrinsic calming qualities and can create a vacation-like feel. However, it's easy to go too far when buying into coastal decor, and your space can quickly go, in a wink, from your location to a boardwalk attraction.

If you're looking for inspiration to keep it stylish, here's how to do coastal decor ideas the Livingetc way.

How should I decorate with coastal decor?

The ideas below will introduce beachy materials and nautical references, but they should be used sparingly. Using every coastal decor idea in one space will be overkill on the theme. In small doses, however, classic coastal references make sense for homes channeling their environment, so we're not afraid of being literal, as long as we steer clear of lobster print throw pillows.

1. Choose products made of cane or rope

A bedroom with rope lights

(Image credit: Ashby Collective)

Woven textures create a lovely, earthy aesthetic. To make your bedroom or living room feel more coastal, include smaller elements made in cane, rope, or canvas. These elements are representative of the outdoors and nature. An easy and subtle way to weave in these elements is with lights — think lanterns in basket weaving or rattan lights.

It may be a kid's room, but this design by Ashby Collective pitches coastal just right, without it becoming too much of a children's room theme. 'In this bedroom, we added Palecek sconces made of rattan and natural rope to sprinkle in a hint of nautical in the kid's room for their whimsicality,' says Anne Grandinetti, designer at Ashby Collective.

2. Include wood in your decor

A bedroom with live edge headboard

(Image credit: K Interiors)

Driftwood as decor is a bit of a coastal cliché, but introducing wood furniture with a live-edge is a nod to the idea, without having to comb the beach for flotsam.

'For this guest bedroom, the homeowners of this ocean-side home wanted a headboard that was reminiscent of a crashing wave, and that is how we decided on this particular piece of wood to create the headboard,' says Kristen Pena of K Interiors. 'This live-edge headboard brings a level of sophistication to this bedroom.'

3. Pepper the home with sea-themed colors

A living room with green and blue decor

(Image credit: Jeff Andrews Design)

Choosing a coastal color palettes is probably the most subtle, yet effective way to create a coastal decor scheme, and they can be more refined than you'd imagine. Think blue and white, or blue and green. Different tones of green like teal, sage green, and more go well together too. Then add an intriguing accent to set off the scheme in a modern way.

'I love to have a great white base throughout a beach house as it’s a clean slate to introduce other subtle colors,' shares Jeff Andrews of Jeff Andrews Design. 'I prefer a more pastel palette — think Sea Glass, Water, Sand and Sky. Also introducing brighter versions of those blues and greens that have a vintage, timeless quality and feel can be a nice way to add a little drama and texture while keeping the overall palette reduced and calming.'

4. Go for natural linens to inject a coastal vibe

A bedroom with a four poster bed and natural elements dotting the walls

(Image credit: Specht Novak)

Give a bedroom a breezy vibe by choosing natural bedding and materials. Linen bedding is best for capturing the relaxed, beachy coastal vibe, while you might want a crisp cotton for the preppier nautical look.

This coastal bedroom even used natural linens as curtains around a four-poster bed, for even greater effect. 'The bedroom was designed to maximize the feeling of being open to the environment,' says architect Scott Specht, founder of Specht Novak. 'The entire side of the room that faces the ocean is made of floor-to-ceiling wood louvers that can retract into the adjacent wall. This allows for a completely unobstructed view and for ocean breezes to sweep through the room. The homeowner preferred natural fabrics and pillows made by local artisans to complete the breezy coastal interior design that speaks to Tulum and its natural surroundings.'

'Choose soft linen bedding, subtle patterned throw quilt, and cane headboards to lend to a coastal feel without being too in your face with wave and palm tree decor,' shares Laura Williams of ATX Interior Design.

5. Choose shells, birch, and nautical curios as part of your decoration

A corner in a kitchen

(Image credit: Molly Culver Photography. Design: Meredith Owen Interiors)

Create a specially curated living room corner of all things coastal. Think sea glass placed in bottles, wicker baskets, seashell decoratives, pots with pampas grass, and pictures of the beach. These accessories are easy, simple, and non-expensive.

'Natural materials play a big part in representing coastal decor,' adds Anne. 'From incorporating coral fragments, to the use of natural fibers such as seagrass and raffia, you are paying homage to coastal elements.'

What are some budget-friendly accents you can add to costal decor?

The easiest and cheapest way to create beach decor is with decorative pillows. Choose ones in shades of watery-blues, and sea greens. You can also buy pillow covers in stripes and nature-themed patterns, Another way is to add some seagrass placemats on the dining table and to purchase nautical-themed dishes. Pepper ornamental grasses, rosemary, hyacinth, black-eyed susan, and others around in the house.

What is the difference between beachy and coastal decor?

Usually, coastal decor and beach theme are used interchangeably. However, if you were to get into the nitty-gritty, coastal decor is more tailored, traditional, and refined where every element is thought out and pieced together, whereas a beachy look feels more organic and relaxed. Sometimes a coastal theme can be even clean and minimalistic whereas beachy homes are more laid back and casual.

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.