Whoa – it feels like an eternity since I’ve talked about decor. If you’re wondering why, I have one word for you… toddler. His ability to make messes far outpaces my ability to clean them up. Consequently, all decorating and interior projects have taken a backseat to the daily triage of keeping the house from looking like a stuffed animal bomb went off. I feel I’m always juggling things, waiting for the ball to drop.
Perhaps that’s why our family cottage and its subtle coastal decor seem more appealing to me than ever?
I absolutely love visiting this place. It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan and holds so many of my childhood memories. The spot is zen-like… refreshing, soothing, nautical. I know it’s normal to sing your parent’s praises. But seriously, my mom has a gift for design! She exercised such restraint with her decor. It’s warm and inviting. You know this is a lake house the minute you step inside, yet it dodges the “kitschy” feel that can easily overtake a coastal space.
Looking to add nautical vibes to YOUR home? This post will walk you through a few subtle coastal decor ideas. Some are DIY and all are affordable!
Slipcovered Sofa (in Buckwheat) | Coffee Tables (similar) | Potted Faux Olive Tree | Reclining Chairs | Flower Petal Pillow (similar) | Decorative Globes, Vase Filler | Compass Side Table (similar) | Silver Sunburst Mirror (similar) | Smaller Sunburst Mirror
By far, my favorite design element in the entire house is this stunning chandelier. Bet you’d never guess it was a initially a mistake! The light fixture was originally a dark brown wood tone. While beautiful, it didn’t work in the space and seemed to drag the lofty ceiling down. Nothing a can of paint couldn’t fix!
To begin, my mom decided to paint this chandelier white (here’s a similar option). Then, she found glass floats and seashell garland to drape below. She also swapped out the chandelier’s shades, opting for a seagrass variation. These woven, earthy shades certainly feel coastal!
Painting light fixtures can be time consuming, but it’s a super-affordable (and easy) way to update a piece you’re not crazy about. For instance, instead of buying a new fixture when we moved to Indiana, I painted our existing black chandelier a silver tone. It lightened up the space just enough to fit my aesthetic. Best of all, it cost just $10 (craft paint & brushes), rather than the hundreds I would have paid for a new chandelier.
You can use regular wall paint for an opaque look, or opt for thin layers of craft paint to create a “weathered” coastal vibe. Martha Stewart’s brand has always performed well for me).
Pro tip: Buy several variations of the color you are thinking of using. Because we are dealing with lighting, shadows and highlights may drastically change the look of your color. Test out a small, inconspicuous area first. This allows you to find the right technique/paint ratio.
I love blue as much as the next gal, but subtle coastal decor often sidesteps the blue/white theme. Instead, it embraces all the colors of the coast. Think warm sands, driftwood grays, aqua-toned beach glass, the crisp whites of sailboat canvas, or muted greens like sea grass and kelp.
This room all started with a fabric. It’s not overtly coastal, but the tones are reminiscent of sandcastles, beach stones and sandy toes. In fact, this fabric set the palette for the entire house.
Have a wall, a shelf, a ledge, you don’t really know what to do with? One cost-effective way to fill that empty space is to employ a bit of word art. Can you think of a phrase that makes you happy, perhaps a saying that brings joy? You can find these type of letters at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels, as well as online. Etsy has a very similar style to what we used. Pottery Barn Kids has a great white version. Here’s a wood option from Amazon.
If you love nautical and coastal elements, you are bound to have a few pieces that take this theme quite literally – a life ring, oars, a model boat, a ship’s wheel… The trick to making them work without “kitsch” is balancing any overt coastal references with traditional, classic lines. It also helps to stick with a minimal color palette. For instance, the clean silhouette of this chest, neutral colors, and flanking table lamps create a soothing, subtle vignette. It’s elegant, not over-the-top.
Remember our chat about painting lamps? Here is another example of what you can do with simple craft paint. My mom thought these were a tad boring. She wanted to jazz them up, so she added metallic stripes. It was a quick, cheap project. The rock collection is where our family injects a bit of personal meaning into the space. Each of these came out of Lake Michigan and brings back memories of the fun times we’ve had together. The powder room also holds a ton of personal meaning. I talk about it in this post.
You can find another example of balancing coastal references in the entryway. Nautical style is best when it’s limited and edited. Like jewelry, one statement piece is plenty. Therefore, instead of clustering overtly coastal items, my mother was careful to spread them out. My dad loves old wooden boats and got this model as a gift. He really enjoys seeing it on this table and the pop of color added a nice punch to the crisp, white space.
Are you a fan of coastal style? How have you incorporated the water and nature into your space? Let me know in the comments below. I always enjoy getting ideas from you guys! Finally, if you have any questions on design sources or projects, just let me know.