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Your Beach Cottage: Coastal, Not Kitsch

Create an elegant, shore-inspired beach cottage that doesn't go, well, overboard.
by Danielle Taylor | Photos by Nicole Rice

Pastel colors and beach-gathered accents infuse this room with the same sense of serenity found on a quiet beach.

Pastel colors and beach-gathered accents infuse this room with the same sense of serenity found on a quiet beach.

Ahh, the draw of the ocean. Whether it’s the soothing sounds of the crashing waves, the gentle brush of a salty sea breeze or the radiating warmth of the abundant sunshine that pulls you in, a blissful vacation to the shore is, for many people, the ultimate idea of peace and relaxation. But you don’t have to book an expensive trip to enjoy the delights of the beach. No matter where your cabin is located, a coastal decor scheme can give your home the simple atmosphere associated with a tranquil, seaside location.

However, if you don’t think out your decor plan before you start outfitting your home, you may soon find it looking more like a cheap seafood restaurant than a breezy, shore-inspired beach cottage. We consulted interior designer Nicole Rice for her tips on creating a coastal-themed cabin with class.

Plan It Out
“To me, what ‘coastal’ really means is the serenity and peace of the ocean,” says Rice, owner of Coastal Decor & Interior Design ( in Fair Haven, New Jersey. “There are so many ways to do coastal decor without plopping down a shell.”

To start planning, Rice suggests keeping a collection of ideas, photos and magazine cutouts that showcase the design style you want to emulate. She often finds inspiration in home-decor catalogs, such as Wisteria, west elm and Pottery Barn, as well as magazines that specialize in that style of home, such as Coastal Living. Online resources such as Houzz and Pinterest also offer a wide variety of ideas that are frequently updated and easy to filter through. When you’re ready to start buying furnishings and accessories, she says, don’t discount the value of mom-and-pop stores, which often sell unique or whimsical products you won’t find in a larger chain.

Once you’ve gathered your base collection of decor items, infuse your walls with colors that complement your accessories and channel the essence of the seashore. “When you start to use blues and grays,” says Rice, “the cool tones actually make you feel cooler, like a cool ocean breeze.”

Keep It Simple
The key to a relaxed beach cottage is a lack of clutter, so a coastal-themed cabin should stay relatively simple without a lot of knickknacks collecting dust. As you plan each component of your home’s decor, ask yourself questions like: Would this wall look crowded with three framed prints? Will this mantel seem overloaded if it’s covered by an entire starfish collection? How can this solid wall of books become less dense?

If you have a large inventory of coastal decor pieces, maintain a tidy ambiance by rotating items seasonally instead of revealing them all at once. Likewise, break up collections you want to display to avoid visual overload. If you have a wide array of seashells, for example, choose a few showcase pieces and use them throughout your home as paperweights, bookends and the like. Then show off the rest in an organized centerpiece that serves as a focal point for one room. Collections of smaller items, such as sea glass, can add colorful accents around the home in small, clear vases or bowls.

“A beach style is more about being relaxed in your space,” advises Rice. So instead of focusing on incorporating lots of sand dollars and starfish in your decor, aim to create an overall comfortable space that takes its cues from the sea. With careful planning, a well-designed coastal-themed cabin can make every day feel like a day at the beach.

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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