Use a combination of cool whites, greys and off-whites as a backdrop, then introduce more interest, warmth and life with sandy shades or small measures of stronger colours, such as coral, red, aqua, seaglass green or blue. For the best effect, look for tones that are slightly faded and seem a little aged or bleached by the sun.
2. Key features
Natural materials are at the heart of this look – think whitewashed woods that have the appearance of seaworn materials, shaped and softened by the elements. Or try painted wood in shades of white, blue or watery green, with hits of bolder colour. Seaside-themed accessories will immediately conjure up a coastal feel – a pair of oars or a weathered sign, perhaps – but avoid using too many or the look may become clichéd.
Choose plain, textured heavyweight linens or homespun designs that have a traditional appearance, such as striped linens and cottons. Checks and utilitarian tickings are great choices, or opt for printed patterns with nautical or seaside motifs. Fabrics such as denim (another good utility option for curtains or upholstery) or faded florals are a stylish way to introduce colour to a pale scheme. Lightweight sheers also work well and come in a variety of designs, including printed or embroidered.
Driftwood pieces are perfect for this style but can be hard to find. Instead you could opt for items in reclaimed wood with a distressed paint or limed finish to create a weather-worn feel. Woven items in wicker, rope, rush or jute look the part or incorporate elements into chair seats or backs. Outdoor furniture, such as bleached teak or hardwood or folding metal styles, used inside can have a similar effect.
Wooden boards that have been sanded back and treated with pale wax or lye soap to give them a silvery, worn appearance are simple but stylish. Porcelain tiles, which are more durable, are now available to mimic this look. Solid painted boards in whites, creams and greys (use floorpaint for best results) are another good option but are less hardwearing. Natural coverings – seagrass, sisal, coir and jute – have a textural appeal and are ideal used wall-to-wall or as bound rugs.
Aged, worn and distressed, or chalky, matt and rough – furnishings with these qualities are an integral part of the look. Rope, woven cording or tough sisal all speak of the seashore. Choose furniture or lampshades made from woven materials or add design features such as a rope bannister. Use chalky matt emulsion paints or a reclaimed stone floor or worktop for plenty of surface interest.
Rustic or old artefacts are good ways to introduce a coastal feel. Displays of shells, driftwood or storm lanterns work, as do marine artworks, seascapes and vintage bird prints. A nature table covered with collected finds creates an evocative still-life, while a collection of straw hats can summon up holiday memories. Glassware arranged on shelves, a mantelpiece or windowsill has a watery appeal – try blown-glass buoys, demijohns, bell jars or storm lanterns. Other elements that strike a nautical note include postcards and maps, carved shorebirds or model ships and boats.
For authenticity, go for styles that have a nautical heritage or resemble ships' designs. Choose utilitarian fittings, enamelled pendant shade or floor lamps and metal finishes with a rugged aesthetic. Tripod lights, based on a theodolite, in brass and wood look effective. Woven lampshades, and those covered in raffia or burlap, have a textural quality. Alternatively, opt for industrial-looking styles based on ships' bulk-head lamps and table lights with glass bases in watery tones.