Classic coastal style has a pared-down simplicity that can be achieved very easily. The most important thing to remember is that this is a classic look, so avoid driftwood hearts or shell garlands. This is all about sophistication — clean lines and a restrained color palette.

I live in Cornwall, a peninsula on the southwest tip of England, almost completely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. With its maritime legacy, history of smugglers and diverse coastline, there is a definite coastal theme to interiors here. But whether you live by the sea or not, a classic coastal look can still feel at home in your house if you stick to a few simple ideas.

Blues — from deep, inky indigo to classic powder blue — and neutrals — from pure white through to ecru — provide the perfect starting point for your materials palette. Use matte finishes, both in textiles and paint. Pure linen, raw silk and even humble cotton ticking can look very sophisticated. Use these fabrics for pencil-pleat curtains with a contrasting border on the leading edge and bottoms, or pipe some cushions in a plain color to pick up the stripe. If you want to use a cheap fabric, calico is great — just make sure you make your curtains really full to get that luxurious look.

Here are some more materials to play with in your own classic coastal look.


coastal interior design

ZeroEnergy Design, original photo on Houzz


Nautical Prints

Take one model boat and mix it with a nautically inspired wallpaper, and you have a vintage take on the classic coastal look. I just love this mix — it’s simple, and it works in any room.

Get the look: Taken from an 18th-century book of nautical drawings, this wallpaper and fabric from Lewis & Wood gives a distinct nautical feel to any room. With its crisp, salty seaside feel, it is ideal for bathrooms and beach houses.


coastal interior design

Maritime Fabric, original photo on Houzz


Lewis & Wood is a fabric house I always turn to when I want something different; it’s quintessentially English, with eclectic prints in beautiful and unusual colorways.

This classic wallpaper, Trade Routes, is from Zoffany. It is a beautiful design that would work in any room. It also comes in silk for soft furnishings. Mix it up with stripes for more of an eclectic coastal feel.

Find a Nautical Wallpaper Design


coastal interior design

Visbeen Architects, original photo on Houzz


Blue and White Fabrics

Classic coastal is easy to achieve with a strict color palette of blue and white. Keep things crisp with this stunning contrast on furnishings. The borders on the leading edge of these curtains add to the timeless look.

Get the look: Use this classic stripe anywhere in your room for an instant classic coastal look. Mix up the direction of the stripes for visual layering. Designers Guild has a huge range of prints and plain weaves, which makes it easy to put a soft furnishings scheme

This is the perfect blue for your coastal scheme. It also has a lovely texture, which makes it ideal for cushions and upholstery.

Elements of a Classic Coastal Style


coastal interior design

Crucial Trading Natural Floor Covering, original photo on Houzz


Natural Floor Coverings

Deep blue walls, white woodwork and a natural floor covering gives this beautiful bedroom a traditional, nautical feel. Try coir or sea grass on your own floors.

Get the look: I am a big fan of natural floor coverings, such as sea grass, shown here. They are hard wearing and work well in both contemporary and traditional settings.

This is a wonderful white for your coastal color scheme. It’s a pure white with lots of natural minerals rather than an optical brightner.

I always recommend using good-quality paint. A few of my clients have come unstuck when trying to match a color with a cheaper brand, and they’re disappointed when it looks completely different. Better paints often contain up to five times more pigment and more binder than cheaper paints, giving them a depth of color that is unique. My advice is to use the best paint you can afford.

This is a lovely deep blue to set off white upholstery or soft furnishings in a more refined classic coastal room.


coastal interior design

Philip Clayton-Thompson, original photo on Houzz


White Linen and Wood

Slipcovers in neutrals are great for a classic look. Create interest with textured fabrics for cushions and throws.

If you are lucky enough to have a house right by the beach, (or even if you don’t) wooden floors not only are practical but look very classy. For an elegant look, use bleached wood floorboards. Or, if you want to give your room a more traditional feel, then go for some dark wood boards in a wide width.

Get the look: This beautiful textured weave is great for soft furnishings or upholstery. I love this off-white shade — it looks great with everything.

Refinish Your Floors for a Polished Coastal Look