Tradition, technology and transitions are the drivers for coastal home design in 2016. In oceanfront landscapes, that means simplifying – even when fully mature trees are planted and massed for grand effect.

In architecture, the Shingle Style still rules, although modernism is making advances on contemporary homes located along the Atlantic seaboard. On the West Coast, cutting-edge glass and steel still rule the roost.

Inside, smart appliances in living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are radically changing the way ocean homeowners interact with technology for easy, no-fuss, fully automated living.

As for color, crisp white is fading fast while coastal blues of all hues are on the march. Grays and taupes are sprucing up modern kitchens and baths, accessorized with fixtures in natural brass and gold finishes.

So let’s take a tour of emerging coastal trends for 2016 – from lush landscapes to design-driven interiors and expansive outdoor entertaining spaces for relaxing with family and friends in style and comfort.



In New England, leading Rhode Island landscape architect Katherine Field says her clients no longer have the patience to watch plants mature on site. Instead, they want their trees fully mature – in some cases 30-feet tall – and right now. “Nobody wants to wait,” she says.

The shift for 2016 is away from expansive and busy landscapes and back towards simpler yet spectacular outlooks. “It’s not Zen, but people are just getting smarter with outdoor design,” she says. “They want a little less, and that makes for a smaller footprint in the landscape.”

Miami-based landscape architect Deena Bell Llewellyn sees a move to minimalism, although South Florida’s distinct architectural heritage is more of an influence. “What we’re seeing is architecture with the Miami Modern style,” she says. “People are renovating old midcentury buildings, and clients want to translate that into their homes.”

So 2016 Miami is all about the Mad Men look of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Old properties are being preserved, and new construction is inspired by it, including modern landscapes.

“Minimalism is about using large massing of plant materials and very few different species in one garden, and then using geometric forms with very clean lines and few curves,” Bell Llewellyn says.

South Carolina-based architect Chris Rose reports the Shingle Style endures as the favorite for coastal homes in that region, with most in the 5,000 to 6,000 square foot range.

But owners are also dipping their toes into a new twist in swimming pool design. “Clients are requesting a shallow ledge on the edge of their pools where they can put lounge chairs in four to six inches of water,” he says.

In Wilmington, N.C., architect Michael Kersting is seeing a more contemporary touch inside and out for upscale beach homes, with fewer requests for classic Carolina cottages and more clients asking for clean, crisp architectural designs.

“Outside, there are still quite a bit of wood shingles, but we’re contrasting them with HardiePanel material, organizing it in modular panels for a more contemporary look,” says Kersting.

In Denver, Colo., E. J. Meade, a partner in Arch11, calls his aesthetic “unapologetically modern.” Residences he designs have dropped in size significantly from the 15,000-square-foot homes of 2009.

“There is a marked increase in quality and a distinct decrease in square footage,” he says. “Now we’re seeing a lot of new homes in the 4,000 to 6,000 square foot range.”

Arch11’s striking glass and steel structures are renowned for merging seamlessly into their landscapes. “The homes we are designing use a 50-percent glass envelope, which allows the house to be of the site rather than on it, whether mountainside or oceanfront,” he says.



When it comes to coastal home interiors, America is racing rapidly towards George Jetson’s futuropolis – and to hear Randy Fiser talk about it, we may already be there.

“There’s a refrigerator on the market now that not only understands when you’re out of milk but will also place the order for the milk and have it delivered,” says Fiser, CEO of the American Society of Interior Designers, based in Washington, D.C.

He also cites a washing machine that powers down automatically if the dryer is running too hot and spiking energy use and the light that knows where you are, even when you’re not home. “It tracks the GPS of your phone and turns on when you’re nearby,” he says.

With offices in Banner Elk, N.C., and Port Saint Lucie, Fla., interior designer Dianne Davant keeps her finger on the pulse of the East Coast. And to her, de-cluttering is today’s watchword.

“People have collected so much and are now looking for a more calming, simpler environment,” she says. “The things you want to keep you find a spot for, and the other things you donate, give away or put in a closet.”

Palette-wise, blue is the color du jour. “Turquoise is huge right now. It works well with any color and can be mixed and looks great,” Davant says.

Tile specialist Deborah Osburn is also heading into the blue. The owner of San Francisco-based Clé Artist Tiles unveiled her indigo-stained porcelain tiles in 2014 and is now seeing Prussian blue for kitchen cabinets, along with shades of gray. “Ten years ago, everything was Tuscan and modern,” she says. “Now it’s more like Belgian farmhouse.”

That means wood, steel and metal in the kitchen, with a shelf replacing upper cabinets, and refrigerator and range at lower levels.

“Command central is happening below the counter, and maybe there’s a shelf up there, with a pot or a plant,” she says. “Walls are stripped of utility and people are tiling the entire wall, with nothing to mar the look but a decorative shelf.”

Gray is the new white for hard surfaces in kitchens and baths, says Sara Baldwin, CEO of New Ravenna in Exmore, Va. “Gray lends itself to pops of color for contrast,” she says. “And color is coming back, especially peacock blue, emerald green, forest green, cranberry and saffron.”

Like Osburn, Baldwin is seeing combinations of textures in kitchens and baths but more in stone, glass and metal. They’re complemented by brass fixtures – not the shiny stuff of 20 years ago but something with an older look to it. “We take the sealer off the brass fixtures and dissolve it,” she says. “If you allow it to patina naturally, it’s pretty classic and back to basic.”

David Emmons, director of marketing for Newport Brass, confirms the trend towards brass, adding that it’s important to be sure that brass is the fixture’s base material.

“People like the aged look, but it’s difficult to control how the product will change over time,” he says. “Some parts might age more than others, depending on what part of the country you’re in.”

Based in Santa Ana, Calif., Newport Brass offers fixtures with a coating called Physical Vapor Deposition that works well in coastal environments. “It’s durable and also resistant to corrosion, tarnishing and discoloration,” he says.

Pedro Uranga, managing director for THG Paris, also sees brass hitting its stride, with gold coming on strong as well. “We introduced rose gold to our collections this year,” he says. “You can put it in a contemporary white bath for a little touch of class.”

At Hastings Tile & Bath, with a showroom in midtown Manhattan, Director of Bath Products Bob Gifford says natural brass mingles well in baths with his company’s contemporary mix-and-match colors for vanities.

“We design bathrooms that fit your needs,” Gifford says. “So instead of buying a vanity unit out of a box, you can have a blue drawer and a white drawer if you want. Flexibility is the key.”



Outdoor spaces have gone from humble backyards to extraordinary entertaining spaces that are mirroring glamorous landscapes and interiors on almost every front.

“People want to be outside as much as possible, especially on the coast,” says Newport, R.I.-based landscape architect Katherine Field. “They want outdoor showers and spas, and they’re paying attention to the sky and lighting and making sure there are enough attractive furnishings.”

They’re cooking, too, and not just with gas and charcoal but with high-end electric grills like the Electri-Chef. Initially introduced in 2000 for condos and apartments, sales have soared as its market has expanded.

“It’s electrically powered and performs like a gas or charcoal grill with high temperatures to sear steaks, seafood or vegetables,” says Bill Jones, president of Electric Grilling Technologies, located in Temple, TX.

In a similar timeframe, Connecticut-based Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens has evolved from outdoor cabinet manufacturer to the creator of entire outdoor living, dining and entertaining spaces.

“What we’re seeing is the outdoor space as more for entertainment with music, movies, TV, wine, beer and cocktails,” says Mitch Slater, president of Brown Jordan’s parent company.

That makes perfect sense at a time when nearly every architect, interior designer and landscape specialist works overtime to bring the outdoors in – but now it’s vice-versa. And that’s a trend the pundits say will be around for a long time to come.

Image Credits: Photo credit: Raul J. Garcia.