Types of Coastal Design Styles

If you are looking to decorate and create a lovely coastal-style home; whether it be a beach house or not, you may be wondering where to start and what will complement and contribute to achieving this particular style. So, what types of coastal design styles are there for us to choose from?

There are three main types of coastal design styles: Mediterranean, Tropical, and American coastal styles. The American coastal design style can also be further subdivided into American contemporary coastal and American cottage coastal design styles.

We now know that we have various options to choose from, but what will be the most ideal for you and your specific desires? We will break down the elements of each of the styles mentioned above, and hopefully, you will walk away with the style ideas that best suit your taste.

Mediterranean Coastal Design Style

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Your comfortable home meets luxurious decadence, where bright and neutral tones come together to create a splendorous marriage of hues and color. There are rustic elements that are combined with lavish finery.  

What is Mediterranean coastal style?

The style has its roots embedded in places surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Capri, and Morocco. When one thinks of these places, we contemplate beautiful sandy beaches and warm and vibrant people. Thus it is with the style itself, which, although older, has stood the test of time.

Colorings such as turquoise and blues stem from its Greek heritage. Capri gifts us with beautiful ceramics, and from Spain, we can expect striking tile work, and terra-cotta flooring is an absolute must.

Morocco lends us wholesome texturing and elaborate wooden carvings. When examining Mediterranean interiors, we will note the distinctive use of stone and wooden materials, rich textiles, and textured walls. This space certainly brings the tranquility of nature and the outdoors, inside.  

Colors predominant to the Mediterranean style

For all the other elements and décor which are to follow, the backdrop is typically that of a neutral hue. You would use lighter and warmer tones such as white walls, and wood colors that are warm and make the space feel more spacious and ultimately lighter as the sun’s illumination reflects off the various surfaces.

In contrast, yet entirely complementary, you will add vibrant and bold colors to bring about a tremendous feeling of vivaciousness to the space. The sort of pallet you would likely work with will include:

  • Ocean blue
  • Barro Verde
  • Sunflower yellow
  • The greens and purples of Rosemary
  • Periwinkle

Materials, finishing’s and décor elements of the Mediterranean style

The walls are often textured, and there are usually elements of wood incorporated into the mix, such as exposed roof trusses as ceiling boards. There is an emphasis on the use of natural materials such as terra cotta and ceramics.

Tile work, as mentioned before, is an intrinsic aspect of the Mediterranean coastal style, and the flooring is often in contrast to the stark white of the walls and has deep and rich color to it. Rock and stonework are also elements that are wonderful to incorporate into the building and finishes of your home.

In the décor and furnishing, you are likely to find detailed carving work in wooden items as well as wrought iron and cotton fabrics. Other things to add to your home are items such as:

  • Demijohn bottles
  • Rustic, woven baskets
  • Biot Jars
  • Oyster Baskets
  • Collections of seashells and other seashore finds
  • Gilded mirrors
  • Leather furnishing
  • Ceramics
  • Pot plants
  • Extravagant light fittings

Tropical Coastal Design Style

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When it comes to the tropical style, we can think of palm trees and vibrant colors. There is definitely the inclusion of lush green indoor plants, and wicker, cane, and bamboo will help add the finishing touches to your home.

What is tropical coastal style?

A tropical coastal style would incorporate a palette that mirrors the bright and colorful foliage in such landscapes. You may think of parrots with magnificently bold feathers and floral leis of vibrant tones.

Tropical styles are incredibly exciting and full of life. The inspiration for this style comes from the likes of Hawaii, Bali, and the Caribbean. All in all, you will have a home that is alive with bright and bold décor.

Colors predominant to the tropical style

Like the Mediterranean style, you are going to be looking for a base color that is light in tone, such as pure white or ivory, or perhaps a slightly darker hue such as beige or light browns.

The main difference here though, is that the colors of the décor and furnishings are even livelier. You will likely have a vast array of colors that will need to be carefully selected and combined in ways to complement one another. Think of using the following colors:

  • Sea green
  • Coral pinks
  • Ocean blues
  • Hot pinks
  • Olive tones
  • Warm reds and oranges
  • Earthy browns
  • Navy
  • Turquoise

Materials, finishing, and décor elements of the Mediterranean style

Rattan and bamboo are, without a doubt going to be your go-to materials, especially where furnishings go. A similar type of texturing could be achieved by adding anything made from wicker. This type of material lends an incredibly informal and relaxed atmosphere to any space.

Tropical prints on couch pillows and throws are also an excellent way to bring the tropics into your home. For your flooring, you may want to add sisal rugs, and the best type to get for this would be hand woven, as their “imperfections” will give a great sense of character to the room. Other items to consider incorporating are:

  • Shutters for the windows (the more rustic, the better)
  • Tropical or big leafy plants
  • Brightly colored flowers
  • Barkcloth
  • Pineapple ornaments and decorations
  • Parrot and flamingo imagery

American Coastal Design Style

There are 2 sub divisions of the American coastal design style which are: American contemporary coastal design style and American cottage coastal design style.

American Contemporary Coastal Style

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First, we need to be aware that contemporary coastal is not the same (although slightly similar) as nautical style. In a nautical style, you will be predominantly looking at excessive blues, ocean, and boating themes and an almost traditional aesthetic in general. In comparison, contemporary coastal will mimic the surrounding sea, sandy beach, and beautiful sky. This style has its origins based in the 19th century Hamptons.

What is the American contemporary coastal style?

When you think of the contemporary style, you should instead think more along the lines of a beach aesthetic. The house will generally have a very open and breezy layout with plenty of windows and doors which open wide to let in the fresh coastal air. You want to feel as though you are living inside a perpetual summer destination.

Much of what affects and directs the style comes from the surrounding environment; this will aid in establishing the tone, which is usually earthy and layered with varying blues and refined, pure whites. Other elements which find their inspiration from the environment are the textures and materials used in both building and decorating of the house.

Colors predominant to the American contemporary style

When it comes to the color pallet for a contemporary coastal home, your predominant colors will be very neutral and white. Although the likes of greens, blues, and potentially even navy may make appearances, they will not be nearly as prominent.

Apart from drawing inspiration from the white fluffy clouds and foaming waves, one particular reason for this is that white helps to make a space feel warmer and more spacious.

So, we have identified our base color, which happens to be pretty much a through-line when we are examining coastal styles in general. The main difference here is that the other colors and tones we add are merely complementary and not meant to juxtapose the primary canvas. Think of including a warm beige, light blues, and general earthy tones to create a harmonious and inviting space. 

One way to add other colors to your space is by using striped décor, such as on pillows and cushions or chairs and bedding. Also, wooden furniture is a delightful way in which to incorporate various shades of browns.

Materials, finishing, and décor elements of the American contemporary style

When opting for this style, like the others, you want to obtain a relaxed and calming space, and to do this, as we have just seen, add soft colors and tones to the house. In conjunction with this we want to reflect the natural beauty of the seaside, so we need to add in many natural elements.

This will mainly be gained by selecting décor and furnishings made from light woods, wicker, and rattan. Another alternative to ensure a laid-back atmosphere would be to add slip-covered furniture as well to the mix. Straw and jute are also fantastic elements to incorporate to make you feel like you have brought the outside indoors.

Most of the finishing and décor will be paler in hue, and things like chrome and shiny surfaces are not compatible with this look and feel for which you are going, so metals and polished textures are unlikely to be incorporated into your contemporary coastal styling.

Instead, you will find many wooden pieces of work, whether it be in the bedroom or the kitchen. Although darker woods are an option, one would usually go for a white-washed or coloring. Other elements and things to consider adding to your home are:

  • Stacked, sliding, or French doors make the space feel more expansive
  • Weathered timber
  • Shells and beach finds
  • An outdoor shower for when you come off the beach
  • Making the house as open-plan as possible
  • Sand-colored flooring
  • Incorporate various textures
  • Dynamic use of lines
  • Include pastel colors
  • Extend the aesthetic into your garden with hammocks

American Cottage Coastal Style

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When we think about cottages in general, the first thing which comes to mind will most likely be their coziness and warmth and there is no exception to the coastal variant of this style. The only real difference is that more beach and sea elements are incorporated into the overall aesthetic and styling of the coastal cottage.

Its main inspirations are drawn from the likes of sailboats, lighthouses, and certain aspects of nautical themes. Think of your grandfather sitting on the back porch, in a rocking chair with a refreshing lemonade in hand and his fishing rod by his side, and your grandmother baking cookies in the kitchen while she admires her well-tended garden out of the window.   

What is the American cottage coastal style?

As mentioned above, we are going for a quaint and cozy feel for this particular style. It is still casual and lends itself to being an incredibly laidback space, but there seems to be a more ‘proper’ and refined nature to this option of coastal styling.

Patterns and textures are rather important when aiming for the cottage style, and everything seems to fit neatly and snug into its proper place. The sea and surrounding flora are brought into the home, but in a refined and limited manner. You may have the odd vase with flowers from the garden or a small pot plant on the coffee table.

Colors predominant to the American cottage style

As we have noticed, most coastal styles tend to use white as their go-to base color, which is true, too for the cottage style. Along with a nice clean white, often both externally and internally, cottage décor comprises neutral tones and placid pastels. Some colors you may wish to consider are:

  • Sage green
  • Muted yellows
  • Baby blue
  • Light apricot
  • Dusty pink

Materials, finishing, and décor elements of the American cottage style

The cottage style lends itself to feeling vintage – a space with various items collected over a period of time. You can include an array of older alternatives to modern furnishings, which will only add to the homely character of the space. The American cottage style creates a warmer ambience than the other types of coastal stylings and is often home to one who likes to collect and display books, vinyl or models.

The furniture in a cottage style home can often have a homemade feel to it, but this may be married with more modern elements. The two come together in a manner that creates a wondrous mirage of old-meets-new. Don’t hesitate to include DIY, restored items along with more contemporary and stylish furniture.  

As we have mentioned, the old and pre-loved are hallmarks of a cottage style, and including weathered and rustic elements will only aid in making the space feel more like a home than a house.

At the end of the day, the best rule of thumb is to opt for simplicity when it comes to cottage style. You do not want things that are too vibrant or intricate. You want a warm, inviting home that emanates homeliness and hospitality. Some elements which will help you to achieve this are:

  • Cocktail tables
  • Churchill sofas
  • Wingback chairs
  • Tassel pillows
  • Vases
  • Bonfire chandeliers
  • Paintings and photographs


Whether you are looking for the luxurious and intricate detail associated with the Mediterranean coastal style; the bright, vibrant, and lush flare of the tropical coastal style; a calm and serene setting that you will find in the contemporary American coastal style; or the homely and warm feelings to be found in a cottage coastal style; you are certainly spoilt for choice with an array of options and possibilities.

Now that you know your options and have a greater insight into them, you can not only make the choice which suits you best, but you can also mix and match as you see fit.

A coastal-style home is a marvelous property to have and will be the envy of all who long to live in such comfort and decadence. So go out there and start looking for the right elements to add to your style of choice.