Each summer, our minds turn to thoughts of a season spent lounging in elegant beach clubs and light-filled oceanfront villas. But why should their aesthetic be reserved solely for the holidays? A new wave of interior designers are turning beachside abodes into a mirage of seascape tones, soft-hued woods, subtle motifs and creams as light as sand – creating breezy spaces perfect for full-time living and vacations alike.
“Coastal is a concept that actually depends on the region,” explains Jay Britto, founding principal of Britto Charette, a Miami-based design firm based best known for creating luxurious residential properties throughout the US. “Coastal Key West and Palm Beach vs coastal Key Miami can look very different.” The former, he tells us, uses more woods that are painted or distressed and accessorise with linens, prints and plenty of materials – “Palm Beach homes are more transitional than the ‘clean’ Miami look, which appears a bit more sophisticated,” he explains.
“Designers still work with white materials but not necessarily linen. Instead we use refined lacquer and wood accents that show the veins and are in a matte finish. Start with earth tones and soft blues – these colours keep the design modern and clean – and be sure to just nod to the idea of nautical rather than overdo it. Always be suggestive, not literal.”
Keep it Classy
Once synonymous with anchors, nautical stripes and seashells for as far as the eye can see, today’s coastal decor is more chic and decidedly less kitsch, dictated by a clean palette of soft hues, plenty of raw materials and an abundance of natural light that makes it feel like a Balearic summer all year round. “Subtlety is key, so we achieve the coastal look through non-cliché furnishings and decor, which means staying away from anchors, bowls of seashells, starfish motifs etc. Instead, opt for a single piece of coral or string of wooden beads which are great touches for a coffee table or bookshelf,” explains Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, owner and creative director of Blakely Interior Design.
There’s always room for colour
Favouring a more vibrant coastal design aesthetic embodying both her love of confidence-boosting colour and coastal roots, Blakely Photopoulos’ projects range from sprawling oceanfront residences in Rhode Island, where the studio is based, to open airy spaces in New Jersey. “As a design firm in Rhode Island, otherwise known as the Ocean State, the majority of our projects are coastal-inspired in some way, even if that’s just a nod to the trend,” she adds. “It’s a fun niche to design for because it gives us and our clients an opportunity to make vibrant design selections that perhaps they wouldn’t use in their primary residence.”
One of Blakely Interior Design’s most impressive projects to date, the team worked on an incredible waterfront summer home with 360-degree water views in Barrington, Rhode Island, transforming its beautiful light-filled sunroom with shiplap walls and a bright coastal colour palette of blues, yellows and white. Natural textures come through in the side tables and accessories, while a sun-safe performance fabric custom sofa in blue and white stripes makes for a focal point of the room. Elsewhere, one guestroom comes complete with bold green grasscloth wallpaper, woven bed and punchy patterns, while the second guest room takes a more literal approach, with an oar art print, a blue, white and yellow colour palette, woven rug and crisp white furnishings. “Coastal accessories and artwork throughout complete the feel,” she adds.
Bringing the outdoors in
“There’s a sense of freedom when designing coastal projects,” agrees Pierre Josselin, studio leader at Jeffrey Beers International, who recently took the lead on a 20,000-square-foot private beach house in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah. It has since been nominated for an SBID International Design Award 2022 for CGI & Visualisation. Inspired by both the Arabian sand dunes and the villa’s luscious surroundings and pristine sea views, the project boasts a deep-sea blue and lush landscape-green accents, with a play of light and shadows.
Bringing the outside in, a custom lighting fixture by Lasvit in the grand stairs is made of floating crystal leaves, creating the impression of a light breeze throughout the space, while natural elements such as water, sand and palm trees, creating the ultimate retreat to relax and recharge. “The open air, the climate, the landscape, the views – all senses are engaged. You breath better, in a sense,” he says. Indeed, with the relaxed vibe part and parcel of a coastal home, incorporating plenty of natural elements is a must, be it furniture crafted from wicker, rattan or light weathered woods, statement pieces with woven detailing or jute rugs.
Invest in natural materials
“Materials that are resilient to salt water and sun are in high demand and definitely worth the investment,” adds Britto. “We use lots of Perennials fabrics and the Great Outdoors collection by Holly Hunt, while Sunbrella fabrics tend to go down well with our clients too.” One of the best things you can do it add a really nice area rug, too. “PET rugs look great and can withstand the waterfront elements, as do flat weaves, sisal or jute. Natural fibres help you to create a sense of the great outdoors,” he adds.
Britto is also a big fan of using mirrors to help their clients feel like they are on the beach, even when they are inside enjoying the air conditioning. “In a recent Hamptons project, we installed mirrored walls that do a fantastic job of increasing ocean views and making the water seem more accessible,” he adds. “We created a sunset lounge with a beautiful, mirrored wall that allows you to enjoy dramatic water views from all angles.”
Lighting is king
As with any interior design project, lighting should never be an afterthought – and even more so when it comes to a coastal feel, when more is most certainly more to avoid your space feeling dim and cramped. Light, open and airy rooms are key to nailing this aesthetic, so don’t be afraid to go all out with large windows that allow for natural light to flood in, glass doors, table lamps and skylights. “For coastal designs, we like to stay with glass (white or frosted),” adds Britto. “We have a pendant on the kitchen island of our project in Jade Signature that is a statement piece. The glass is like a giant lens of a lighthouse – our interpretation of nautical, only more sophisticated.”
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