Coastal Decor Is Trending—Here's How to Nail Beach House Style (Without Going Overboard)

Embrace your inner coastal grandmother with these tips from our Real Simple Home designers.

Back Porch on Real Simple Home with cushioned bench
Photo: Christopher Testani

Whether you own a house at the shore—or you just aspire to—that laidback, beachy vibe is a red-hot trend in home decor. (And you can thank the coastal grandmother look that's all over social media for bringing it into the headlines.)

When introducing beach house style to your home, you can opt for bolder, more over-the-top decor choices (think stark navy and white color schemes, lots of anchors and seashells, and perhaps a funky surfboard headboard). Or look for ways to incorporate little subtle touches that give you that beach vibe without screaming "beach." The coastal grandmother style, which uses a softer hand with its coastal style interpretation, is perfect if you're not ready to go all-out beach house.

What Is Coastal Grandmother Style?

While coastal style has been around ever since beach houses were invented, "coastal grandmother" is a very specific subset of that style, popularized by TikTok stars and social media. Think beachy colors (sandy cream, sky blue, soft green), rich textures (a cable-knit throw, woven baskets, handmade pottery), and a laidback, casual vibe (hydrangea arrangements, slipcovered furniture, and stacks of beach read books).

How to Incorporate Coastal Style in Your Home

To add some beach house style to your current digs (whether the beach is 100 feet or 100 miles away), try these tips from the interior designers behind the Real Simple Home.

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Keep it subtle

Christopher Testani

Designing with fishing nets and surfboards can be kitschy cool. But if you don't want to go overboard with your coastal style, think beyond the literal and look for ways to get the vibe without veering into theme territory.

"I would recommend trying to channel a mood and feeling in the decor that is consistent with the exterior of the home, since coastal landscapes can differ depending on geography," says Carla Jung of Banner Day Interiors, who designed the primary suite in the 2022 Real Simple Home (pictured here).

That may mean just adding a few touches—like a color scheme and a bold accessory or two—rather than doing the whole room up in a beach theme.

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Think beyond the beach

Christopher Testani

While the sand and surf are the big draws of coastal living, there are many other natural elements around coastal areas that can inspire your home decor. "Take a more comprehensive view of nature at large on the coast, not just the ocean," Jung says.

Maybe you want to include decor that's inspired by unexpected natural elements, such as seabirds and coastal flora—like working the bold green of a local seaweed into your color palette.

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Add unexpected colors to your palette

Colorful Photo Print in White Frame

Soothing blues and creams are great, but you don't have to stick with sand-and-surf hues throughout your decor. The Real Simple Home designers opted for touches of bold hues that aren't typical of coastal decor—think sunset colors like pink and orange.

Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design used an unexpected color palette for artwork from Minted that was featured in the loft area. "The artwork is a photo negative that was dyed pink, orange, and white, but the picture is of a water landscape."

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Bring the outdoors in

Christopher Testani

Traditional coastal style often includes seashells, starfish, and other elements, but a more modern coastal style may skip those in favor of plant-based elements.

"One of my favorite ways to incorporate coastal decor in a modern way is with natural textures like woven rattan and seagrass in furniture and decor," says Erin Wheeler of Sunny Circle Studio, who designed the guest suite. "The materials embody the spirit of the beach, without making the room feel kitschy."

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Edit mercilessly

Christopher Testani

A big appeal to coastal decor is that it feels unfussy, relaxed, and casual. Cluttering up the space with a lot of knickknacks and accessories can work against that. "To keep the room evenly balanced, I like to embrace negative space so it doesn't feel overly crowded and has breathing room," Wheeler says.

If you've already invested in a lot of beach decor, don't worry—you can opt to store some elements and switch things out regularly, so every accessory gets a moment in the spotlight.

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