Can You Mix Contemporary With Coastal?

There are specific rules and parameters to follow when it comes to traditional interior design styles if you are hoping to achieve a particular look. However, the great thing about designing and playing around with the styling of your own place is that the rules don’t really matter.

When creating your home interior, it’s all about the things you love and the space you wish to develop. If this means an amalgamation of various interior design styles, no design police will tell you otherwise. Of course, we all still want our homes to look beautiful and not as if a blender exploded all over the place. To ensure that you include what you love in your interior design but still realize the overall feeling you want to create, certain guidelines can assist in achieving your goals.

You can mix contemporary and coastal design; in fact, these two styles work well together. Styles can be easily combined if they have similar core design values. Both contemporary and coastal design relies heavily on bringing the outside in; therefore, these two styles blend seamlessly.

To combine these two styles, it is vital to gain a basic understanding of what each entails. Once you understand the base characteristics of coastal and contemporary, it is then possible to see how to work with the various elements to achieve the look and feel you are envisioning.

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What Is Coastal Design?

As its name denotes, Coastal design is all about life at the coast but more inclined towards the beach. It is often confused with a nautical design. Although it may have some elements in common, both being ocean-related styles, coastal design steers away from the more obvious sometimes kitsch elements of nautical.  You won’t find the navy blue and red color scheme, mass amounts of anchors, or cliché “gone to the beach” signs with coastal design. It is also not to be confused with tropical or Mediterranean styling.

Coastal design is all about blurring the lines between the exterior and interior and takes inspiration from nature. This leads to a neutral color palette of soft tones, which applies to the walls and large furnishings mimicking coastal areas’ sand and seagrass colors. Pops of ocean blues are then layered on top of the neutral base to create magical bursts of color as found in nature.

In taking inspiration from nature, coastal design also includes many natural elements. These are introduced in the flooring, rugs, furnishings, and even the walls and ceiling. Some of these include timber in various stains and finishes, wicker, driftwood, rattan, weathered wood, seagrass, jute, stone, cotton, and raw linen.

One of the main aspects of coastal design is light. There should be no dim, dark, cramped spaces if you want a coastal look. Again this is leaning on the elements of nature and the attempt to bring the outside in by allowing for the maximum amount of natural light to enter all spaces of the home.  To achieve this, coastal homes are usually designed with plenty of windows, skylights, and large glass doors that open up onto outside areas. Sheer curtains are then usually added to windows to continue to allow light into the interiors. The structural design of coastal homes is also open to assist with a natural flow and permit the light to reach right through the house.

To further enhance the light within interior spaces, coastal design calls for plenty of white walls, reflecting light and making rooms feel more extensive and airier. The use of white can even extend to the ceiling as well as furnishings and linens.

Light is one of the most vital aspects of coastal design, and for this reason, much of the rest of the design works around trying to amplify this element. Therefore, it is crucial with coastal design to avoid clutter and create open, minimalistic type spaces where light can easily penetrate.

Coastal design is all about the lifestyle. It’s meant to reflect the easy-going, relaxing nature of beach-side living. The design features comfortable furniture, usually with slipcovers for convenience in cleaning them. Coastal style also lends itself to mismatched furniture, which feels casual and uncontrived.

When you walk into a coastal designed space, it should feel like a breath of fresh air, light breezy, and relaxing. Everything about the design should guide you to take it easy, appreciate nature, and obtain that feeling of a calm day at the beach.

What Is Contemporary Design?

Contemporary design is quite simply what is in fashion right now. It refers to whatever the current trend is in interior design and, for this reason, is fluid and ever-evolving. It’s not to be confused with modern design, a set style of clean lines, and minimalism in monochrome.

As contemporary design is merely about the current, it’s difficult to define as there are no fixed elements or rules. The one factor that is a common theme throughout the evolution of contemporary design is connecting the outside and the inside. This core value makes contemporary design compatible with coastal design as they both work to achieve this same goal.

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How Do You Mix Contemporary With Coastal?

As with contemporary design, this will evolve based on whatever key elements become a popular trend in interiors. But with the desire of both styles to bring the natural world inside, there will always be common ground and, with this, the ability to merge the two styles.

Contemporary coastal is already its own popular style with the premise of coastal design, but with contemporary elements added to give it an updated edge. This means it follows much of the design path laid out for coastal-style homes, especially in terms of the more prominent aspects such as the white walls and neutral palette. The coastal theme becomes the backdrop onto which the contemporary theme is styled.

To mix contemporary with coastal, you’ll want to maintain the crucial aspects of coastal style, namely light, nature, and open, flowing, clutter-free spaces.

Current interior design trends are perfect for coastal style design as they include textured natural features such as wicker, rattan, and jute. Basket lights are a huge trend and are a lovely addition to creating a relaxed atmosphere in a coastal space. The contemporary look is also seeing curved and arched shapes taking much of its inspiration from the 1970s. These shapes blend in flawlessly with coastal design, imitating the movement of the ocean and dunes.

Indoor plants have once again acquired popularity and look great in anything from a basket to a cement pot or even hanging. Greenery is an integral part of connecting with nature, and this aspect of contemporary design melds perfectly with the values of coastal design.

Adding contemporary styling to coastal design opens up the option for bolder designs. Feature walls, unique 3D or textured artworks, and accent furniture are all a current trend. Painting a single wall in a dark, deep-sea color, but keeping the rest of the room’s design restrained, will maintain the integrity of a coastal look but with a modern twist. Likewise, adding a glimmer of a vibrant color such as coral behind a bookshelf hints at an update without overpowering the soft neutral tones of coastal spaces.

When it comes to fusing these two styles, it’s best to look at the contemporary trend you love and assess whether it’s a good fit for enhancing a coastal design. If it’s made of natural material, mimics the ocean or beach in shape, texture, or color, or has a relaxing feel about it, chances are it will be an excellent addition to updating your coastal home.


There is no reason why you cannot mix contemporary and coastal styles. These are two design styles that work in harmony to create a cohesive and classy home. All the relaxed neutral tones of a coastal design produce a perfect backdrop to the bolder choices of contemporary style. With both looks relying heavily on natural materials and a mutual love for exterior spaces, they are a perfect pair to complement each other.