Two Ways To Design A Coastal Living Room

Like everyone, we’ve been spending our days hunkered down and working from the comfort of our home offices (aka the living room sofa, then our beds, then our kitchen table, then back to the sofa).

With spring in full swing and temperatures getting warmer, we’re craving all the time we can get outdoors and, honestly, a real vacation. We know we’re not alone in feeling like we could use a major getaway right about now. Specifically, we’re dreaming of lazy days by the ocean and afternoons spent lounging out at a coastal-style beach house that’s filled to the brim with laid-back decor. Naturally, any real vacation will have to wait. But the good thing is that it’s easy to channel that calm and comfy coastal beach house vibe in our homes with some simple and affordable decor updates.

coastal living room

How do I design a coastal living room?

For instance, you can layer nautical motifs and materials with bold stripes and beach decor. Or you can add relaxed furnishings and some handmade woven pieces that play up a sense of coastal ease. You can rearrange your spaces to create family-friendly rooms with breezy open layouts like those you see in airy, light-filled oceanside homes. And you can switch up your color palette to include more blues, whites, and earth tones, which are classic beach-inspired hues.

However, keep in mind that there are many ways to approach coastal living room design, which can range from refined and sophisticated to eclectic and modern. So before you dive in, take some time to consider the coastal look you want.

Do you prefer a casual and comfy coastal vibe? Or are you after a tailored and refined look? Knowing the aesthetic and atmosphere you want to play up in your spaces will help streamline your decor choices. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

To provide you with some inspiration and guidance, we’ve broken down two of Modsy’s most popular coastal-style living room looks—the refined Nantucket-style home and the comfy-casual California beach house. Read on to find out how to bring these looks into your rooms!

Coastal Living Room #1: East Coast Nantucket Style

Does your style lean more tailored and traditional? Do you love the idea of a space that’s less of a family hang-out and more like a sitting room in a charming seaside villa? If so, this East Coast take on a coastal living room design might just be the look for you. This is a popular style in New England homes as well as Hampton’s escapes for New York interior design clients!

With this approach to coastal style, you’ll get rooms that have a refined edge and more formal appeal. It’s the sophisticated Nantucket home you’ve probably seen on Instagram and Pinterest, with its classic and tailored furnishings, symmetrical layouts, elegant nautical motifs, and woven accents. It all adds up to a coastal living room that’s chic and composed but still perfectly relaxed and welcoming.

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The Key Elements

To pull together a Nantucket-style coastal living room, you’ll be layering lots of classic flourishes, artisanal textures, and seaside accents. Start with these essential design components.

A formal layout. When it comes to Nantucket-style living rooms, symmetry and balance are paramount. It’s what gives them their formal and elegant look, and you’ll often find these rooms decorated with furnishings and accents in pairs that mirror each other. This is a great way to kick off your design as it establishes a sense of order in the space.

A classic and crisp palette. Strong shades of blues, white tones, and light natural hues are the name of the Nantucket style game. That means these spaces often feature muted palettes with bold contrasts, like a deep-blue sofa amid creamy and bright white pillows and accents, and neutrals coming from materials like jute and cane.

Beautiful natural materials. A mix of elegant materials, from wicker and bone inlay to light driftwood and sisal and seagrass, are quintessential Nantucket. Combine all these gorgeous textures in your accents—like a jute rug, a woven lamp, an inlaid side table—with breathable linen to play up a soft and airy vibe.

Refined furniture. Opt for foundational pieces with a classic appeal to anchor your spaces. That means sofas with streamlined shapes, carved details on tables, and traditional-style armchairs and lamps. You want clean-lined designs that are rooted in comfort and formality. But pay attention to the details also. Design elements like rolled arms, gourd-shaped lamps, and even basketweaving texture can add major visual intrigue and truly shine in your neutral room.

Nautical touches. It wouldn’t be Nantucket coastal style without nautical and seaside accents. Consider coral sculptures, rope lamps, mariner art, and anchors for wall decor, bookshelf accents, and coffee table accessories. Start with a few large accents and layer in smaller ones throughout for an elevated look that’s easy on the eyes. And don’t forget to work in some natural motifs as well, like bird prints and floral patterns, which will complement the nautical theme.

This coastal design style is perfect if you…

  • Enjoy a living room that has an elegant formal look but doesn’t sacrifice comfort and ease.
  • Want a space for conversations that resembles a formal and composed sitting room in an oceanside mansion, except without the overt grandeur.
  • Prefer a more subtle coastal look where the accents are seamlessly worked in throughout the space without appearing overly beachy.
  • Love the idea of a living room that also doubles as an entertaining hub that can serve any occasion, from cocktail parties to cozy weeknights in.
  • Are after a living room that’s timeless and designed to last for many years.

Coastal Living Room #2: West Coast California Style

The California coastal look needs no introduction. Just think of the modern and slightly rustic houses lining the Western coast, from Los Angeles interior design schemes to San Diego spaces. Laid-back, cool, and unfussy are the underlying sensibilities of the West Coast Cali look. There’s also a bohemian edge to these spaces that make them the complete opposite of East Coast seaside homes.

So if you love the more bohemian living room look that’s all about keeping it casual, the California coastal style is for you. With this approach, the main focus is on casual comfort and an eclectic mix that combines mid-century modern designs, punchy fabrics, bright colors, and a range of beachy art. Just imagine a beach bungalow that’s open and exudes that laid-back West Coast ease.

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The Key Elements

To bring the coastal California look into your living room, you’ll want to combine big comfy upholstery, mid-century designs, colorful boho touches, and plenty of patterns. Consider the below pointers to get started.

A casual layout. Keeping your furniture arrangement open and asymmetrical will help set the relaxed tone for your California coastal living room. It also works best here given that there are so many eclectic touches, from bright colors and mismatched pieces to woven textures and beach art. The free-form layout provides a bit of visual levity to these various elements.

A vibrant palette. Here, neutrals and blues are the color foundations. From there you want to pull in more saturated hues, like red, ochre, yellow, and fuschia to play up a boho note. And don’t worry about going over-the-top with color; the neutral colors (white upholstery, earthy wood tones) will keep things grounded and cohesive looking.

Mix of breezy materials. What sets this look apart is the diverse mix of materials, which includes brass and leather along with natural woods and stone. There are also crisp white fabrics mixed with punchy textiles, like kilims and indigo-dyed pillows. The power is in the mix here! Start with your white upholstered pieces and then ground it with a colorful traditional rug. From there, you can work in colors that tie back to the rug and then a few additional bright pops.

Mid-century elements. There’s a strong mid-century modern design influence with this style approach, meaning you want to aim for furniture that’s simple and comfortable. Look for accent pieces that have a Scandinavian sensibility, like tapered legs, slender silhouettes, and warm wood tones. With so much color and pattern, these modern pieces will provide a versatile neutral foundation for all the bolder colors and accessories in the space.

Pattern play. Lots of patterns is a signature of the Cali coastal look. And the sky’s the limit when it comes prints you want to mix together—organic motifs, geometrics, traditional florals, you name it! The more diverse your pattern mix, the better too. Work these designs into your pillows, rug, and art to add instant colorful impact. And don’t forget to keep these outdoorsy, beachy, and nature themes in mind for your art—they add to the pattern mix, too!

This coastal design is perfect if you…

  • Love a casual and cool living space that’s less by-the-book and more organic in its design and layout.
  • Enjoy an open living room that’s all about kicking back with friends and family for game nights, movie viewings, and takeout dinner get-togethers.
  • Are a fan of the beachy California bungalow look that’s big on Mid-Century comfort and ease but still has elements of fun.
  • Need a space that’s versatile and family-friendly but still feels curated and calm.
  • Want your home to evoke a beach house without it feeling theme-y or overly traditional or rustic.

Ready to design your coastal living room?

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Style Spotlight: Tour Our Coastal Style Dream Home

coastal style Whether it’s the beaches of California or the rocky coast of Maine, there’s no denying coastal living has its draws. There’s something about the simplicity of the lifestyle and the salty breeze that draws us in. And while we can’t all upend our lives and move to a small coastal fishing village, we can all achieve the laid-back, natural look of coastal style in our homes.

So it’s no surprise that Coastal style is actually one of our most-requested looks. With its casual vibe and natural elements, Coastal style feels down-to-earth and lived-in while still looking put-together. So, to celebrate the arrival of summer days (hopefully) filled with sandy beaches and sunshine, we’re breaking down this rustic, beachy style and showing you how to get this look in your own home.

coastal style Root Your Look in Comfort

One of our favorite aspects of Coastal style is how approachable it is. There’s nothing stuffy or fussy about it. In fact, comfort is key. This look is rooted in more traditional shapes while putting a premium on livability.

When it comes to choosing foundational furniture for this look, steer away from overly modern lines and go for something a little more rustic in shape and color. We lean toward large, overstuffed sofas that you can sink into, topped with plenty of throw pillows. In the dining room, we love big tables in natural wood tones where the whole family can gather. But you want to make sure to balance this heavier furniture with lighter-weight accent pieces and neutral color palettes—because ultimately you’re going for an open, airy aesthetic.

coastal style Choose Light, Weathered Woods

The Coastal look is all about being easy and breezy. For this style, we like wood that’s reminiscent of driftwood—raw and unfinished, sometimes even with a sun-bleached look. Stay away from dark or high-gloss wood finishes, which add visual weight and formality. You want to keep things light and airy.

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The great part about lighter, weathered woods is that you can mix and match styles and tones, and it will still have a cohesive look. Your dining table doesn’t have to be the exact same shade of wood as your chairs or sideboard. By choosing light woods that have almost a grey or whitewashed undertone, you’ll achieve a cohesiveness that’s not too matchy-matchy.

coastal style

coastal style

Rattan is a great option for accent pieces as it easily complements lighter wood tones, offering structure while being visually lightweight. And this doesn’t have to be limited to the more traditional chair or footstool. We love the uniqueness of a rattan bar cart and the tropical feeling it lends a dining room.

With all of these pieces, there’s a livability to them that can’t be beat. It’s ok if these pieces get a little worn or weathered from use. A little patina only adds to the organic coastal look. So, don’t be afraid to really live with these pieces—because this style of wood only gets better with age and use.

coastal style Opt for Organic Materials + Natural Textures

Bring the outdoors in with organic materials and natural textures. This look takes its inspiration from nature—so look for materials like jute, rope, linen, unfinished woods, seagrass, cork, and rattan.

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How you use them can range from the more obvious—like linen bedding or rattan side tables—or have a more contemporary twist to keep your look more modern. Think: rope-wrapped armchairs in the living room or a mirror frame and footstool covered in chunky, hand-braided water hyacinth. Look for pieces that have streamlined frames made with natural materials that keep the beachy vibe alive.

You can accent the rawness of these organic materials with soft, textured throws and woven baskets. We love the natural look of soft wool baskets for blanket storage, books and magazines, or as a laundry basket.

coastal style Keep the Color Palette Neutral with Pops of Blue

When it comes to a color scheme, take a cue from nature—sandy beaches, weather-beaten boardwalks, and seagrass. These warm neutral notes will ground your look, giving it a summery, serene feeling.

And when it comes to adding pops of color, think in shades of blue for those soothing ocean vibes. You can mix and match tones of blue—from navy to sky blue—for visual depth, everywhere from throw pillows and vases to wall art and area rugs.

These decorative accents are also a great way to bring the beachy vibes of Coastal style into your home. Our favorite types of coastal decor are nautical-inspired wall art—like these blue coral prints or rope knot artwork. And we’re also big fans of using an oversized shell or piece of coral as a decorative accent on a bookshelf or coffee table.

And don’t forget to add pops of natural green. Every room should have some sort of plant element to bring the colors of nature inside. Some of our favorite plants for the Coastal look are the muted greens olive trees and eucalyptus or the bright pop of monstera plants. Even a single leaf in a vase creates a simple statement look!

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