Subtle coastal decor: How to Get Beach Chic

subtle coastal decor

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 | 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


Subtle Coastal Decor – Idea #1: Beachify Your Light Fixture


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.


Subtle Coastal Decor – Idea #2: Think Beyond Blue


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.

subtle coastal style fabric

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.


Subtle Coastal Decor – Idea #3: Spell it Out


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.


Subtle Coastal Decor – Idea #4: Balance Nautical with Classical


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.

Buffet lamps (similar) | Sideboard (similar) | Round Silver Port Hole Mirror (similar)

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.

—Love, Lindsay

24 COMMENTS

  1. Emily Fata | 10th Sep 19

    Coastal décor is one of my all-time favourite styles! I always plan to get a beach house one day, and would 100% decorate it just like this.

    • laveremis | 10th Sep 19

      I feel the same! There is something so uplifting about a beachy space. Thanks Emily!

  2. Celebrate Woman Today | 10th Sep 19

    Lindsay, you have a lovely home and have decorated it with love and care. That is why this theme is so elegant and inviting. Thank you for the tour!

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Really appreciate your kind words – a lot of love did go into this home – so that means a lot!

  3. twinspirational | 11th Sep 19

    The decors looks great, so neat and relaxing for my eyes. Love what you done in there, great job..!

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Thank you! The goal of this place is to evoke quite relaxation. I’m glad it feels that way to you from the photos.

  4. LuciWest | 11th Sep 19

    Great ideas for a beach feel. I just moved to the beach in Florida – and these looks totally vibe with the atmosphere here.

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Yes, this would be right at home in Florida. We go to FL regularly and always get a lot of design inspiration there.

  5. Michael | 11th Sep 19

    I like how you fit in the photo. The pictures are looking perfect and you can pass as a model for it. Very nice.

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Thank you Michael! Really appreciate you dropping by the blog.

  6. Maartje van Sandwijk | 11th Sep 19

    This is really cute decor! Would be perfect for summer 🙂

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      And that’s the beauty of coastal decor – you can add just a few touches, even just for a season to give yourself a sense of the beach!

  7. Kylie | 11th Sep 19

    You’re so fortunate to be able to escape to this gorgeous space! Reading this is also perfect timing! My partner and I have just started decorating our apartment with a coastal / hamilton feel. I love these ideas especially the touch of rocks! Thanks for sharing! xx 🙂

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      How fun! The start of a new decorating project is so exciting. Glad this could provide a dose of inspiration. That sounds like a wonderful design concept!

  8. Sushmita | 11th Sep 19

    I loved the shell chandelier! I don’t even know how much coaxing is required to convince my husband to get that!

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Ha ha – yeah, I can relate. It does take quite a bit of coaxing to get husbands on board. Mine can be stubborn too!

  9. Kuntala Banerjee | 11th Sep 19

    I love the beaches of Florida. You wrote the article in a very professional manner which I really like. Do you have a YouTube channel? You can try that out.

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      Hi Kuntala, thanks for the kind words. I love Florida beaches too. Great idea about bringing some of this to YouTube. I do have a channel, but don’t post there very much because video editing is so time consuming. That said, I think you’re right – should definitely pursue that.

  10. mudpiefridays | 11th Sep 19

    This is such an awesome idea. Coastal decor is perfect for a beach lover like me, perfect since I am planning to have a quick room redecoration. Would consider these ideas.

    • laveremis | 11th Sep 19

      So happy you find it helpful! I love pulling design ideas and inspiration from other people, so I do my best to share plenty as well.

  11. Ellie Plummer | 12th Sep 19

    How stunning! I think coastal decor is so beautiful. I don’t think it would suit my house but I always appreciate looking at it.

    • laveremis | 12th Sep 19

      It definitely can be more appropriate in certain locations than others. That’s kind of how I am with modern decor. I love it, but it would look odd in my house. Thanks for reading Ellie!

  12. sarah | 12th Sep 19

    What a beautiful home.

    • laveremis | 12th Sep 19

      Thank you Sarah!

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