What is Coastal Interior Design? Cornish Design Tips for 2024


In the picturesque coastal region of Cornwall, the demand for coastal interior design is soaring. Homeowners and second home buyers are increasingly drawn to the timeless aesthetic of coastal interiors. So today, in this article, I wanted to delve into the essence of coastal interior design, various styles within this genre, practical tips for incorporating coastal elements into your home, and a case study showcasing the transformation of my most recent client’s holiday home at 67 Sea Road.

coastal interior living room

What is Coastal Interior Design?

Coastal interior design is all about creating spaces that evoke the calm, relaxed, and breezy atmosphere of seaside living. This design style often features light, airy colours, natural materials, and nautical elements that bring the serene, relaxed feel of the coast indoors. Key characteristics of coastal interior design include:

Light and Airy Colours: Coastal interiors often use a palette of crisp whites, soft blues, sandy beiges, soft pastels, and gentle greys to mimic the natural hues of the seaside. These colours can be used on walls, furniture, and accessories to create a bright and open feel, making spaces seem larger and more inviting. For example, a white-washed wall paired with soft blue throw pillows can instantly give a room a coastal vibe.

Natural Materials: Wood, stone, and woven textures are prominent, reflecting the organic elements found along the coast. Incorporating materials like driftwood for furniture, rattan for light fixtures, and stone for countertops adds warmth and texture, bringing a touch of nature indoors.

Nautical Elements: Subtle hints of the sea, such as shell motifs, driftwood, marine life artwork, and maritime accessories, help to solidify the coastal theme. Decorating with items like seashell-encrusted mirrors, driftwood sculptures, and marine-themed artwork creates a connection to the sea and enhances the coastal ambiance.

coastal interior cabinet and mirror

What is the difference between coastal and nautical design?

While coastal and nautical design styles are often used interchangeably, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart.

Coastal Design is inspired by the natural beauty and tranquillity of the seaside. It focuses on creating light, airy spaces that evoke a sense of relaxation and comfort. Coastal design uses a soft, muted colour palette reminiscent of the beach, including whites, beiges, soft blues, and greys. The materials are natural, like driftwood, linen, and rattan, and the overall feel is laid-back and breezy. Think of coastal design as bringing the calm and serenity of the shore into your home, with elements that reflect the natural environment, such as sea glass, shells, and subtle nautical hints.

Nautical Design, on the other hand, is more theme-specific and directly influenced by maritime elements. It often features a bolder colour scheme dominated by navy blue, white, and accents of red or yellow. Nautical design incorporates more overt maritime symbols such as anchors, ship wheels, and ropes. This style evokes the feel of being on a boat or at a marina, with furnishings and decor that include brass fixtures, model ships, and marine life motifs. The emphasis is on capturing the adventurous and dynamic spirit of seafaring.

Types of Coastal Interior Design

Coastal design, however, is an umbrella term, and it actually encompasses various styles, each bringing a unique twist to the seaside aesthetic. Here are some popular types:

Classic Coastal features traditional nautical themes with a blue and white colour palette, striped fabrics, weathered wood, and maritime accessories like anchors and ropes. For example, a living room with whitewashed walls, navy blue striped cushions, and a reclaimed wood coffee table adorned with a ship wheel centrepiece embodies the classic coastal look.

Modern Coastal offers sleek, minimalist designs with subtle coastal elements. This style is characterised by clean lines, minimalist decor, and a restrained colour palette with occasional pops of coastal hues. An example is a kitchen with sleek white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and a single bold turquoise backsplash.

Scandi Coastal combines Scandinavian simplicity with coastal aesthetics. This style emphasises light wood, white walls, simple furnishings, and functionality and comfort. A bedroom with light wood floors, white bedding, and simple, functional furniture with a few seaside-themed decorations is a perfect example of Scandi Coastal.

Tropical Coastal embraces bright, vibrant colours and lush greenery. Bold patterns, tropical plants, and a mix of vibrant and natural hues define this style. A living room with bold tropical prints on cushions, vibrant green plants, and a mix of coral and turquoise accents showcases Tropical Coastal design.

How do you create a modern coastal interior?

Incorporating coastal design into your home involves careful consideration of a few different factors. Here are practical tips to help you create the perfect coastal space in each part of your home:

Living Room: Use light colours and neutral tones like white, beige, and soft blues to make the living room feel spacious and serene. For instance, white walls with beige sofas and soft blue throw pillows create a cohesive coastal look. Opt for slipcovered furniture for a casual, beachy feel, and include wicker or rattan pieces. Slipcovers are practical and easy to clean, while wicker adds texture and a natural feel. Decorate with coastal-themed artwork, such as seascapes or nautical prints, and use accessories like shells, driftwood, and maritime items to enhance the coastal theme and add personality to the space.

Kitchen: Include nautical accents such as boat cleats for handles or rope-wrapped lighting to add character and a subtle coastal touch to the kitchen. Use natural materials like wood and stone for countertops and backsplashes, which are durable and add a rustic, natural element. Open shelving can help create a spacious feel and display coastal-themed items, making the kitchen feel more open and allowing for decorative displays.

Bedrooms: Soft, relaxing colours like pastel blues, whites, and greys create a calm and restful atmosphere perfect for bedrooms. Light blue walls with white bedding and grey accents are ideal. Choose bedding with coastal motifs or colours to tie the room together and reinforce the theme. Light, airy curtains in linen or cotton allow natural light to filter through, enhancing the airy feel.

Bathrooms: Use beach-inspired accessories like starfish, coral, and seashell motifs to create a coastal feel. Opt for materials like stone and wood to add a natural, beachy touch. Light, airy colours, similar to those used in other rooms, help maintain a cohesive coastal theme throughout the home.

sea road property bathroom

Incorporating Specific Cornish Elements

To infuse your beach house with a distinctly Cornish flavour, I would urge you to consider incorporating local materials and motifs. Cornish slate is a fantastic option for flooring or feature walls, adding a touch of local heritage. Using locally sourced wood for furniture or accents can bring an authentic touch to your interiors. Cornish-themed artwork, such as paintings of local landscapes or historical prints, can add a cultural and regional flair to your design. Furthermore, integrating traditional Cornish patterns and colours, like blues and whites reminiscent of Cornish pottery, can help your home reflect the unique character of the region.

Case Study: 67 Sea Road

My most recent project at ’67 Sea Road’, in my opinion, serves as a perfect example of what coastal interior design theory can look like in practice, and implements many of the ideas that have been covered in this article so far. I believe that this project in particular achieves a perfect blend of coastal charm and modern luxury; check it out and see if you can identify the coastal elements we used:

Coastal interior design living room with natural light

To begin, the living room (pictured above) offers a stunning ocean view through expansive glass doors, flooding the space with an abundance of natural light. The two deep blue sofas contribute to creating a cosy seating area that’s functional and looks great. The neutral rug adds texture to the room without overwhelming the serene coastal ambiance.


coastal interior hallway at sea road

The downstairs hallway and central staircase exude warmth with a soft neutral palette and natural light streaming in from the stairway. The natural wood console table and minimalist decor enhance the welcoming atmosphere and rely on the colours and materials that I believe fit the ‘coastal interior’ design aesthetic well.

coastal interior snug room

The Snug, painted in blue, contrasts beautifully with this home’s light, airy feel. Comfortable leather seating and a surfboard-style coffee table add a beachy, coastal touch to this space too.

Coastal Interior dining room

The dining room (which is connected to the living room, pictured above), further exploits the gorgeous ocean views and natural light on offer.

As you can see, every design element, from furniture to finishing touches, has been carefully selected to reflect the serenity and beauty of coastal living.


Coastal interior design offers a timeless, serene aesthetic that can transform any living space into a relaxing seaside retreat. By incorporating light colours, natural materials, and nautical elements, homeowners can create spaces that reflect the beauty and tranquillity of coastal living. Whether adopting a classic, modern, Scandi, or tropical coastal style, there are endless possibilities for personalising the coastal design to fit your taste. Moreover, integrating specific Cornish elements can add a unique local charm to your interiors. As showcased in our case study, coastal design can be both functional and beautiful, making it a perfect choice for homes in Cornwall. Please get in touch if you’d like some more information, we’d love to help.