11 Elements of the Pale and Pretty Coastal Style

Do you long to live in a whitewashed cottage by the sea? Do you favor natural textures, light tones and vintage finds? If so, the pale coastal look could be your interior style. Based on traditional beach-style interiors but with a minimalist twist, it’s a look that draws on bright and breezy days by the ocean and celebrates relaxed, simple living.

Neptune, original photo on Houzz


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Whitewash the wood. A coastal-style interior is, ironically, mostly about what’s outside. To hint at ocean views, wide horizons and sunlight reflecting off blue seas, create a bright, clean backdrop indoors to reflect as much natural light as possible for a fresh, breezy feel. 

This room is a master class in pale and pretty coastal style, thanks to its whitewashed floorboards, walls and rafters. Pale bedding and painted furniture add to the overall look.


Don’t go overboard with stripes. Stripes are an essential element of this look, but to keep your room on the softer side of coastal, use them sparingly. You want to create a hint of seaside rather than deck-chair overload.

A soft ticking fabric made into a Roman shade is just enough to add a nautical air without dominating a room.

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Add soft tones of aqua. It’s easy to think of blue and white as classic nautical shades, but pale aqua can create a softer feel in a coastal-style interior. Paint tongue-and-groove paneling for a wash of color, or bring in watery-toned accessories.


Cabbages & Roses Ltd, original photo on Houzz


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Celebrate vintage finds. Vintage and coastal styles can complement each other beautifully. A relaxed and simple coastal-inspired backdrop lets vintage pieces with patina and history really stand out.

The vintage-style lamp in this bedroom ties in neatly with the salvaged blue shutters, and both pieces lend depth and interest to the space.


John Lewis, original photo on Houzz


Bring in texture. Coastal style is a down-to-earth, tactile look and, as with “country chic,” texture is a key element. This bedroom is soft and inviting, courtesy of layers of natural cotton and linen bedding and a soft rug underfoot. 

To re-create this look at home, weave in plenty of natural materials and avoid anything synthetic or glossy.

Related: This Family Home Is Swimming in Style

Use shiplap. Traditionally, shiplap refers to exterior siding, but using a shiplap-style wall paneling indoors will create a nautical feel, reminiscent of a boat’s crisply painted interior. 

Used vertically from floor to ceiling, shiplap is also a great way to draw the eye up and create a feeling of space in a small room.


Include natural materials. A coastal home should have an integral link to the outside world, so natural materials are essential. 

Wood, rattan and linen will create an instant seaside feel, and the finish should always be light. 

Avoid dark woods and choose pale or light painted wood finishes instead. Mix in natural wooden cutting boards or butcher block for texture too.


Sally Gardner Interiors, original photo on Houzz


Focus on the details. Once you have a crisp, pale backdrop, you can have fun with coastal-inspired accessories. Don’t clutter up surfaces, but focus instead on one or two key pieces to add character and texture. 

Rope, shells and driftwood are good for bringing a little beach flavor into your home.

A monkey-knot rope doorstop like this one is functional and visually appealing, while a simple glass vase is perfect for displaying blooms from strolls near the shore.


Wickenden Hutley, original photo on Houzz


Smarten up. Coastal style often has a relaxed feel, but nautical- inspired interiors also can be smart and elegant. 

This little tabletop display draws on maritime emblems such as rope and brass, rather than beach finds. Set against a white wall, it’s a quiet and elegant nod to life on the ocean, without a stripe in sight.


McCaren, original photo on Houzz


Embrace simple living. To bring the feeling of a beach vacation to your home, try to keep the design elements as simple as possible. Think about seaside homes you may have stayed in — the interiors are usually pared back and uncluttered, so try to channel this in your scheme. 

In this kitchen, the clean coastal look comes from storing large items and packaged food inside cabinets while displaying a few select pieces on open shelving.


Water down your blues. Soft, watery shades of pale blue and soft gray are a great way to bring in a subtle nautical flavor. If in doubt, look to the sea and sky for inspiration. The soft tones of a moody day can transfer beautifully to an interior. 


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