Eight leading coastal home decor specialists show how sea-inspired furnishings and accessories can create the feeling of living at the beach all year ’round.  

There’s something delightfully organic about creating a breezy just-back-from-the-beach coastal lifestyle at home, mixing seashell photo frames and mirrors with driftwood lamps, coral-print pillows, nautical artworks, and tableware decorated with jaunty marine motifs. With contemporary design trends shifting toward more relaxed and comfortable home environments, a new wave of coastal decor specialists is offering an array of upscale and high-quality furnishings and accessories, all inspired by the sea, crafted by some of the most talented artisans in America, and priced to suit any budget. It takes a skilled eye and deft hand to pull off the coastal look successfully, but these eight savvy design experts with a passion for the ocean will help you navigate a sea of choices.

Beach House  Newport

Owner: Sally Emmett Dwyer, Newport, Rhode Island

With a passion for interior design, Beach House Newport’s owner Sally Emmett Dwyer has a competitive edge because she also offers consultations and coordinations of home design projects, in addition to selling stylish coastal homewares from her Rhode Island store and website.

“Our claim to fame is that we’ve shipped seashells to Florida,” she says, smiling at the notion. “It’s the way we put things together—the assistance and guidance we can offer—that earns us a solid reputation with our clients.” Dwyer’s focus on quality handmade home accessories, many crafted by leading artisans in New York and Rhode Island, lend her design portfolio a sophisticated East Coast allure. “The artistic sensibility in New England is different from elsewhere in the U.S.,” she adds. “There is a flair that’s distinctly regional yet is also timeless and classic.”

Dwyer believes the current trend is toward a more casual, no-fuss approach to interior design. “It’s just-in-from-the-beach and kick your shoes off,” she says. “It’s not a ‘don’t touch’ look but something more comfortable and relaxed.” Available in store (42 West Main Road, Middletown, RI, 401-619-1917)

Outer Banks Trading

Owner: Deanna Register, Florida Keys

Deanna Register and her husband Phil lived in North Carolina for seven years and loved sport fishing offshore of the Outer Banks but are now happily back in their
native Florida. “We had to get back to where it’s warm and sunny,” she laughs. “Now, it’s shorts and flip flops year round.”

That love of the sea inspired her to launch Outer Banks Trading in 2009, an online resource for upscale coastal home decor ranging from rugs, tableware, and lighting to handbags, jewelry, furniture, artwork, and outdoor furnishings.

Her passion for pillows—there are more than 1,400 on the website—is culminating in her own line with an all-pillow website being launched this year, along with a new non-coastal home decor website,
thesouthernhome.com. “I’m always on the lookout for great pillows,” she says. “They can change a room.”

With the exception of one artisan who lives in St Thomas, Outer Banks Trading works exclusively with U.S. designers, many of whom are independent entrepreneurs. “We’re always aiming to be unique and different,” she says. Available online only.

Caron’s Beach House

Owner: Caron White, San Francisco

Caron White doesn’t have a favorite item in her collection, but she does have a firm rule she always follows: “If it’s not a product we would have in our own home,” she says, “we don’t offer it to our customers.” It’s a policy that has kept her in good stead since she opened a coastal home decor retail store in 2002 in Poulsbo, Washington, near Seattle, which she relaunched as a dedicated website in 2010.

With an eye toward sustainable and eco-friendly products made by leading artisans across the U.S., Caron’s Beach House casts a wide net for unique items. Top-selling items are pillows and lamps with a trend toward vintage nautical themes and images. “We’ve just introduced a new line of sea-inspired luxury linen pillows designed by Coletti and manufactured by Barclay Butera,” she adds.

“For me, coastal decorating is all about creating a relaxed, warm, and welcoming environment for family and friends. Using natural elements from the sea in your home keeps that feeling of living at the beach every day of the year.” Available online only.

Seaside Inspired

Owner: Danni Elle, Nashville and Las Vegas

Don’t let the landlocked locations of Seaside Inspired fool you. Founder and designer Danni Elle has developed an innate sense of all things coastal since launching the company in 2006 and is passionate about sharing her contemporary beach design style with her global clientele.

“As a designer, I had difficulty finding modern beach decor for clients,” Elle says. “Everything was literal and theme oriented, so I decided if you can’t find it, create it, and that’s how Seaside Inspired began.”

All of the website’s products are hand-selected by herself or one of her staff designers and stocked in two warehouses in Nashville and Las Vegas for shipment across the U.S. and overseas. “We provide a lot of props for television, film, and print media, so we’re always on trend with our design style,” Elle says.Spring is the company’s busiest season for product launches, and 2012 is no exception with the arrival of a new line of accessories by leading designer Barclay Butera. “I believe successful design is how something makes you—and only you—feel,” Elle says. Available online only.


Lafayette &  Rushford Home

Owner: Linda Painter, Dunedin, Florida

It’s a family affair for Linda Painter, who, with her partner, Rick Davies, and children Grant and Kristen, runs Lafayette & Rushford Home from a stylish store and website based in the small Gulf-side community of Dunedin, Florida. Working just a block from the Gulf of Mexico, this talented team is surrounded by nature’s rich colors and textures, which lend constant inspiration to the company’s coastal design aesthetics.

Painter sees two opposing trends happening this spring—sleek, modern lines in black, white, and deep blue versus sandy neutrals with rustic textures such as burlap and driftwood—and says she likes blending both. “Not too long ago,” Painter explains, “coastal meant ‘beachy,’ but now it can be contemporary and glamorous–whatever you want it to be.”

The team works hard to source local artisans and small independent companies like Caskata and Beatriz Ball (the latter’s serveware is Lafayette & Rushford’s best-selling items). Then there’s Linda’s other son, Patrick, who owns The Dunedin Woodwright and designs and builds heirloom-quality furniture and cabinetry by hand using centuries-old techniques. A family affair indeed. Available in store (721 Broadway, Dunedin, FL, 727-735-0902) and online.

 Cottage  Coastal Store

Owner: Kim Root, Belvedere, California

“I feel blessed to live on the water,” says Kim Root, owner of San Francisco-based Cottage Coastal Store. “It’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last before the day ends. The ocean has always given me a lot of peace, creativity, and inspiration.”

Root was raised in Massachusetts, enjoyed childhood vacations on Cape Cod and Nantucket, lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for two years, and is now based in Marin County. A lifetime spent by the sea is the ideal backstory for a coastal home decor business and an owner passionate about the ocean.

“We went handcrafted in 2011 and work with a wonderful circle of talented artists,” she says. “Our look is ‘something old made new again’—reclaimed, repurposed furnishings, and keeping it as ‘green’ as possible. Our artists take a lot of pride in their work and it shows.”

Cottage Coastal plans to launch its own textile label this year and is gearing up for the America’s Cup in the Bay Area in 2013 with a range of new products. Available online only.

Home At Sea

Owner: Sandra Leyden, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Ohio may be a long way from any ocean coastline, but Cuyahoga Falls is less than an hour’s drive from the shores of Lake Erie, one of the most picturesque of the five Great Lakes and a continual source of wonder for people who love water and nature. “We draw inspiration from the beauty of nature,” says Sandra Leyden, owner of Home At Sea, “and we look for products that remind us of peaceful times by the water.”

Launched in 2001, the company offers quality coastal homeware sourced from more than 15 states. Leyden says simplicity and a light color palette are trending design influences this season, with her best-selling items being Rolf cut glassware, which adds a splash of coastal style to a kitchen or dining table.

A line of “Made in the USA” signs, fashioned from recycled materials and decorated with inspirational phrases, is a particular favorite. “We’re always sourcing and launching new products,” Leyden says. “We look carefully at each line to make sure it’s a good fit with our customers.” Available online only.

Cottage &  Bungalow

Owner: Pamela Hawthorne, Lake Wylie, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina

Having grown up in Rhode Island and spent many happy times on Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore, it’s no surprise that Pamela Hawthorne has a deep affinity for the sea. “The coastal lifestyle is just part of my visual orientation,” she says. With two offices in North and South Carolina, and a second home on the beautiful island of Edisto, South Carolina, this savvy home décor specialist offers an array of high-end furnishings and accessories with custom-painted furniture as a hallmark item.

“Color is the defining trend,” Hawthorne says. “Our customers want to express themselves with bold choices they might not normally use in an urban or suburban setting. Practical luxury is the key with woven cotton, easy-care rugs and textiles, pieces made from natural and reclaimed materials, and one-of-a-kind designs that act as a focal point for a room.”

A favorite piece? The May River Empire Chandelier from our Low Country Lighting Collection, says Hawthorne. “I will some day find a place in my own home to hang this. It’s breathtaking.” Available online only, cottageandbungalow.com

Sea-Inspired Decorating Advice from the Experts

“Stay away from the big box, mass-produced look, where things are just cookie-cutter stamped. Try to put your own spin on things and go with a mix. I really like antiques and classic design mixed with the beach look, so that it’s not strictly ‘beachy’ and there’s an element of surprise.” Sally Emmett Dwyer, Beach House Newport

“Add some bright, cheerful colors instead of traditional sand tones and blue and white. You can still have a breezy coastal look with brighter colors.” Deanna Register, Outer Banks Trading

“Keep it minimal, clean, and simple. Evoke your style through subtle sea-inspired accents. An inspiration of the sea is always better than having an entire coastline in your living room.” Danni Elle, Seaside Inspired

“Don’t be afraid to mix and match and have fun with colors, ceilings, and floors.”  Kim Root, Cottage Coastal Store

“Bring in nature from the shore to complete a coastal decorating look. Think about mixing treasured sea glass, sea shells you’ve found, or pieces of driftwood in a creative way amid more classic home accessories.” Caron White, Caron’s Beach House

“Surround yourself with things that bring you comfort, but be adventurous and add something completely unexpected.” Linda Painter, Lafayette & Rushford Home

“Be bold with color and have fun. Use sail-snapping whites to freshen and pastels to soften. Mirror your ocean views.” Pamela Hawthorne, Cottage & Bungalow

“Choose something unique that speaks to you and design the room around that piece.” Sandra Leyden, Home At Sea