How to design your living room such that it has the airy, laissez-faire, simple yet chic and cool vibes of a beach bungalow?
Faced with this question, many of us will immediately think of a blue/white color scheme, wicker furniture, white slip-covered sofas, striped pillowcases, and any number of accessories that bring the sea, its inhabitants and surrounds directly into our living room.
While there is nothing wrong with these ideas, we believe there is a lot more to it to evoke a believable seaside ambiance.
MAKE IT AIRY, BRIGHT AND VERY CASUAL
Let’s start with the flooring and let us work our way up from there. A beach bungalow would have flooring that can stand up to sandy feet and is easy to clean. Chipped, painted wood panels would give it a worn and distressed look (Frederick, 2012, Gaskill, 2013). Similarly, reclaimed hardwood or bleached floorboards would also do the trick. Clearly, a wall-to-wall carpet or other resilient floorings such as vinyl, rubber, and linoleum would not feel right. But, to render the bare wooden floors more comfy, coir, sisal or sea grass rugs tend to look really good. In fact they are especially effective when you have chosen darker wood flooring as they create beautiful contrasts (Heane, 2012b). Choosing slate instead of wood flooring would add a more modern, contemporary twist. Colorful rugs (preferably in cooler hues such as green, navy or light blue, or turquoise), meanwhile inject an even more casual feel. For the most adventurous: a large white cowhide may just be the thing!
The living room furniture should be very forgiving and comfortable as well. Clearly, white slip covered sofas and comfortable wicker furniture (in white or neutral colors) meet that requirement. A large ottoman that may double as a coffee table is also a good idea. This said, even a glass table can work well in a beach-chic home, in particular, if it has a base made from reclaimed, antique or drift wood. Alternatively, you cannot go wrong with an oak or limed wood table featuring metal legs (Heane, 2012a). Apart from that revamped furniture (buffets, dressers, etc.) in bold colors can add interesting pops of color and help create unusual focal points.
In terms of wall treatments, the beach chic style offers many interesting options. The simplest solution is, of course, to paint both walls and ceilings plain white – white paint color is hard to beat when it comes to creating an airy, and bright atmosphere. Wallpaper is an interesting alternative though, especially as it makes it easy to add some (subtle) nautical or striped patterns to the overall design. Those who love wood and aim to recreate that easy-going boating feeling, may instead consider wood paneling, e.g. in the form of shiplap or bead board.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, CLEAN AND CRISP
The airiness and pared-down simplicity of the beach chic style is also reflected in its very simple window dressings if there are any at all. In fact, as beautiful views are better left unobstructed – the windows are often left bare. If a wall treatment is called for, however, either for reasons of privacy or personal taste, curtains and roman blinds made from simple fabrics such as linen are suitable options. Shutters, painted in neutral colors are timeless and won’t distract from the fabulous views either (Heane, 2012a).
In line with curtains and blinds, the fabrics chosen for soft furnishings (pillows, blankets, throws, rugs) should underscore the casual and natural vibes of a beach home. They can, of course, be patterned, but don’t necessarily have to: Beautifully textured fabrics as diverse as linen, jute, sisal, cotton, raw silk, calico and plain cotton create a lot of subtle visual interest in their own right. The key here is to always select fabrics that convey the crisp, simple and clean look of a casual seaside home.
GO EASY ON ACCESSORIES!
In terms of displaying pictures and accessories the keyword is again restraint. (Frederick, 2012). This is much easier said than done though. Seaside and beachy treasures abound and are generally easy and cheap to come by: shells, dried starfish, sand dollars, coral, ocean pebbles. Who would be able to withstand the temptation to turn them into decoration? Or what about those bluish colored glass bottles, nautical (rope) balls, ship lanterns, driftwood, oars, ropes, and other similar items? To see, how it should not be done, you may want to take a look at Montenegro (2012)’s hilarious collection of interiors that suffer from an impressive dose of beach accessory overload. But then, what would be a better way of accessorizing your beach-chic place? The short answer:
- Use only a few select items,
- Go easy on nautical and seaside motives, and
- Add mostly subtle accents.
How to accomplish that? For example, a tall straw flower arrangement may go a long way in reminding you of the swaying dry grass on the top of sand dunes; furniture adorned with rope may conjure up “life on a boat” without the need to display anchor or ship motives on every pillow; a drift wood table base subtly recalls a recent beach walk, while a capiz-framed mirror may bring to mind the brilliance of sea shells. In terms of pictures, it’s best to choose nautical or coastal images in a specific theme (e. g black and white pictures of yachts).
Photographs and smaller paintings are best hung in simple frames. If you have many they could be hung in groups to form an (organically grown) wall gallery. The frames, while simple, should preferably all be slightly different, that is, some may, for example, be made from painted wood while others are left untreated (Heane, 2012a). This detail will add to the casual and collected quality of the picture collection in particular and to that of the overall space in general.
Larger paintings (for example, abstracts or a pleasing beach related scene) – are probably best hung without a frame. If they look like as if they were just recently bought from a highly talented local artist who happens to sell his paintings at the beach, even better.
Frederick, L. (2012). So Your Style Is: Coastal. [Online]. 10 April 2012. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/1394923/list/So-Your-Style-Is–Coastal. [Accessed: 24 January 2015].
Gaskill, L. (2013). Outfit a Beach House From Deck to Drawer Knobs. [Online]. 27 May 2013. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/11579866/list/Outfit-a-Beach-House-From-Deck-to-Drawer-Knobs. [Accessed: 23 April 2016].
Heane, R. (2012a). Elements of Classic Coastal Style. [Online]. 23 August 2012. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3363370/list/Elements-of-Classic-Coastal-Style. [Accessed: 23 April 2016].
Heane, R. (2012b). Materials to Steer Your Style Into Classic Coastal. [Online]. 30 August 2012. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3501075/list/Materials-to-Steer-Your-Style-Into-Classic-Coastal. [Accessed: 23 April 2016].
Montenegro, N. (2012). 12 Signs Your Coastal-Style Home May Have Gone Overboard. [Online]. 27 December 2012. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/5867040/list/12-Signs-Your-Coastal-Style-Home-May-Have-Gone-Overboard. [Accessed: 23 April 2016].
Seidman, T., Cohen, S.S. & Buatta, M. (1988). Decorating Rich: How to Achieve a Monied Look Without Spending a Fortune. 1st edition. New York: Villard Books.
Stephens, M. (n.d.). Sourcebook: Coastal Style. [Online]. Houzz. Available from: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2126570/list/Sourcebook–Coastal-Style. [Accessed: 24 January 2015].