Is Coastal Décor Tacky?

Coastal décor is often confused with styles such as Nautical, Tropical, or Hamptons décor, which incorporate specifically themed fabrics, ornaments, and furniture designs that can become outdated. So how does one differentiate between these décor styles and avoid falling into the tacky trap?

Coastal décor, when done right, is not tacky. In fact, it offers an open, light and breezy beach feel which is free of clutter and ghastly ornaments that accumulate dust and grime, which can make a place look and feel tacky. Coastal décor is light and straightforward; it is chic and timeless.

Gone Fishing. So, if there’s a “Gone Fishing” sign hanging at the front door, does it mean that the place you’re about to enter is tacky or chic? Do you need to brace yourself for lots of handmade ornaments made from wood glue, sea sand, and seashells, or are you going to lounge in an airy room that feels like you could be overlooking the beach and watching dolphins frolicking in the ocean?

Is Coastal Décor Tacky Or Timeless?

Coastal décor provides an airy and relaxed feel by incorporating natural light, open spaces, soft, neutral tones, and natural textures and fibers. Its clean lines, coastal color palette, and subtle beach reminders are minimalistic.

When done right, coastal décor is timeless and chic yet relaxing. Think of a day on the beach, the colors, the light, the fresh air; that is what coastal décor embodies.

What Are The Different Types Of Coastal Décor?

There are four main offshoots of coastal décor that you can employ when decorating your home, namely French, New England, Italian, and Scandinavian Coastal Designs. They provide a framework to which you can add, making it your own.

French Coastal Design

French coastal design is ideal for those who appreciate beautiful antiques, chandeliers, or French baroque items. These homes still have the peaceful feel of a beach retreat, but with some ornate and refined pieces artfully added.

There is no wrong or right when choosing these pieces, which enables you to experiment with unusual items and how you may incorporate them into your home.

New England Coastal Design

New England coastal décor looks like a British seaside cottage. The furniture is easy-going and relaxed, and the artwork is sparse.

It employs more whitewashed wood cladding to complement the beachy feel and appearance. The artwork is more classic landscape or seaside-themed while avoiding being tacky.

Italian Coastal Design

The architectural grandeur in Italian coastal décor adds a Mediterranean flair to coastal interior design. This variation is distinguished from the others by its arched windows and cornice decoration in the ceiling.

Carved elements such as statues and terracotta tones, whether in tiles, textiles, or pottery, will offer a casual room with the ideal amount of European grandeur while making a statement.

Scandinavian Coastal Design

Scandinavian coastal décor is calm, controlled, and cool. These interiors are a little cozier than the others, but they feature plenty of distinctive light wood.

The light woods used in Scandinavian coastal design have a hue and texture that resembles driftwood. It uses a more muted color scheme with huge seaside features for a Scandinavian twist on coastal home design.

What Are The Characteristics Of Coastal Décor?

The primary characteristics of coastal décor will help you stay on the straight and narrow when decorating, especially if you are inclined to venture into the Nautical, Tropical, or Hampton’s décor trap. By adhering to the following basics, you will stay in the safe zone of coastal decorating.

1. Layer The Neutral, Beachy Colors

The color palette of coastal décor is inspired by the basic elements at the coast – sky, sand, and clouds. The popular coastal-theme colors include blue and light blue, beige, khaki, sandy tones, and crisp white, which is usually prevalent. Greens and grays can also feature in this palette.

2. Coastal Décor Equals Comfortable, Linen Furniture

If you want to relax, you don’t want to be worried about satin or suede. Linen slipcovers offer comfort, feel good to the touch, and are usually not synthetic or shiny.

3. Enjoy Open-Plan Spaces With Unrestricted Airflow

Open-plan spaces give the feeling that there is no boundary between the outdoors and indoors. Such design brings in more light and fresh air and lends itself to being more conversational – especially when mixing cocktails for your guests, for instance.

4. Use Beach-Inspired Décor And Motifs Tactfully

Subtle beach-themed pictures or textured items incorporating sand, rock, shells, or driftwood are sensibly employed for decoration, avoiding overuse or kitsch designs, of course.

5. The Occasional Burst Of Color Is Fun

You can choose a theme color in a room or throughout the home that does not overpower the neutral theme but adds a bit of zing or intrigue, breaking possible monotony.

6. Expose The Floors And Lose The Wall-To-Wall Carpets

Wood or concrete floors have a minimalistic look and are easier to clean, a definite bonus in coastal homes.

Weathered wood floors with their light coloration can add a coastal feel to your home and make it look more spacious. Vinyl or laminate floor coverings with a faux-wood finish can offer the same effect if your floors need an upgrade.

7. Natural Fibers And Textures Look And Feel Good

Visiting the beach at any time is naturally a multi-sensory experience. To emulate this in decorating your home, you can use seagrass textured area rugs, light curtains that flutter in the breeze and scatter cushions made from rough, textured linen. Furniture can be made of rattan, wicker, or light weathered wood.

8. Invite In Natural Light And Fresh Air

This is best achieved with large windows, but it is not always possible. You can increase the light by using eggshell paint on the walls and mirrors that reflect light into the room. Windows can be dressed using tule to add to the sensory experience, especially when there is a slight breeze that could make it look and sound relaxing, or a cupola can be added for light and extra ventilation.

9. Bring In Indigenous Plants And Foliage

If you want to add some plants for color, consider plants that are found along the coast, like palms. A few small palm fronds in a large vase can add to the simplistic coastal feel.

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What To Avoid When Using Coastal Décor

You can use the following list of décor fails to sidestep the tackiness trap when decorating your home in a coastal theme. Avoid (AVOID!) the following:

  • Overused themes like sea life, anchors, or boats, as they may become outdated or kitsch.
  • Too much nautical memorabilia as it detracts from a coastal theme.
  • Too many tacky signs with puns.
  • Furniture and mirrors made with items salvaged from the beach (and lots of glue!)
  • Cold, artificial light.
  • Outdated patterns or motifs, including shells, anchors, or fish.
  • Too much blue, yellow and beige.
  • Wall-to-wall carpets.
  • Cluttered spaces or surfaces.


Coastal décor is motivated by coastal living, but you don’t need to live at the seaside to enjoy it. It is often confused with nautical décor, which is synonymous with paraphernalia encrusted with seashells and sea sand, punny signs, and crusty beach finds thrown into the mix.

Coastal décor, with its bright, open, and airy feel, errs on the side of minimalism. It offers a space where you can laze on comfy furniture and feel as if you are on an island vacation. It is chic and timeless, and devoid of nautical nonsense.