From expansive beach views to chic decorations to open floor plans that blur the line between the indoor and outdoor, coastal California homes are known for their casual comfort and easy elegance. Blame that on the golden state’s perfect year-round weather.
But even if you don’t have a beach cottage or a cliffside mansion, you too can inject a California vibe into your current home decor. All you need are a few key elements—aside from the perfect coastal-inspired rug, of course! Here we asked interior stylists for tips on how to decorate for a coastal chic home with the least amount of effort and without breaking the bank.
1. Aim for casual and laid-back, but elegant and put-together.
“California coastal homes exude casual elegance,” says Jenny Gericke, interior designer and owner of Gather Home and Design. “There is a unique attention to detail: arched doorways, large columns, ornamental ceiling beams and ironwork. There is also a focus on natural materials, like white stucco walls, wood doors, and natural fibers like jute or hemp. The mixture of these two elements really brings together the lifestyle of California: sophisticated yet relaxed.”
“It’s comfortable yet stylish,” adds interior stylist Bonnie Aunchman. “It is light, open and airy with really no boundary between indoors and outdoors. It evokes the feeling of the beach—breezy, tranquil and relaxed. Bringing the outdoors in is an important element to the design of coastal chic home.”
2. When choosing a color palette, start with white, then take hints from nature.
“You want to stick with primarily neutral or coastal colors,” says Jenny. “Neutral or white walls should be the backdrop for your space since there is a vast mixture of materials in this style. Plus, painting your walls a light white will instantly open up your space and make it feel more casual and elegant.”
“White and bright is key to this style,” adds Bonnie. “For accent colors, take a cue from the outside: think seafoam green, pale blue tones, warm sand beige or khaki.”
3. Bring in as much natural light as you can.
Thanks to the mild West Coast climate, California homes usually have outdoor patios or doors that open up to a courtyard, creating wide open spaces. But even if you don’t live on this side of the world, you can easily mimic this ambiance by letting more natural light in.
“A coastal California look is open and airy,” she says. “If you don’t live in a mild climate where you can have doors and windows open, focus on letting lots of natural light into your space. This means trading out those heavy window blind or curtains for white, sheer curtains that are light and beautiful.”
4. Opt for furniture with natural materials and textures.
“Furniture should have clean lines and made of natural materials—think dining chairs that are woven out of a natural fiber,” says Jenny. “You can mix this with a modern chandelier or dining table to achieve the casual-plus-elegant style.”
Bonnie agrees, suggesting furniture with natural textures like wicker, rattan and weathered, distressed, or white-sashed woods. “You can also achieve texture with items like jute baskets and driftwood,” she says. “Relaxed, light linen or cotton fabrics in both drapes and pillows, as well as slip-covered sofas, are also staples in coastal design.”
5. When it comes to decor, less is more.
According to Bonnie, you don’t need much when decorating a coastal chic home. Adding a few decor elements, like glass bottles, woven baskets, a few seaside touches like seashells, and textures like jute, rope, and driftwood, is enough to invite that California vibe.
“You can even do some DIY coastal decor by wrapping rope around a glass vase, placing shells in a white wash bowl or dough bowl as a centerpiece,” she says. “It can also be as easy as changing out your hardware pieces on kitchen cabinets or dressers with a coastal motif or a cluster of glass vases with some simple branches or single greenery stems. The key is to keep your decor understated and your space light and airy.”
6. If you don’t have a nature view, turn to art.
Don’t have floor-to-ceiling views of the beach or swaying palm trees? Not a problem. Jenny says a well-placed artwork can give you that same appeal. “In a typical California home along the coast, your view of the ocean would be your introduction of color and the “art” for your space,” she explains. “However, iIf you don’t have a scenic view, you can use an artwork that depicts the beach, the Mediterranean, or simply has lots of blues and greens in it to get the same vibe.”
7. Use ceiling fixtures to instantly elevate the look of your home.
“Ceiling fixtures are often overlooked but are an inexpensive upgrade,” says Jenny. “Even renters can change out light fixtures and swap them back when they move out. A ceiling fixture can really set the tone you want in your home.”
For that coastal California charm, we love those wood-finished chandeliers, glass orb pendants and rustic open-cage lanterns.
8. Personalize your space with a coastal-inspired rug.
“If you can’t afford to rip up your flooring, rugs are a great solution,” says Jenny. “They can really add color and pattern to get the vibe you want for an inexpensive look. What’s more, a rug can help you personalize your home. If you want it to be more bohemian, nautical or mid-western, a rug is a great way to do that.”
“Rugs are great statement pieces to your rooms where you can really show the personality of your room and style. adds Bonnie. “When selecting a rug for this style, take your cues from the outside—the tones and colors you see in nature. Opt for a comfortable, relaxed style with that indoor/outdoor feel, and also easy to care for, like Ruggable, which is machine washable.”
9. Use your rug as inspiration for your decor.
According to Jenny, a rug is a great jumping off point for decorating your room. “You can pull colors and patterns from your rug to furnish the rest of your room,” she says. “It’s easier to match paint colors to a rug or fabric than vice versa! If you go with a colorful or large patterned rug, stick with neutral or white walls, and your furniture should be mostly natural materials as well, like wood, metal, and natural woven fibers.”
“You don’t want to cover your rug too much,” adds Bonnie. “So when I’m styling, I would select minimal pieces to decorate around the rug in keeping with the light, airy style of a coastal home.”
Coastal Rugs You’ll Love
Ready to decorate your home? Here are the best coastal rugs to start with according to pros!
“This rug has a great casual vibe. It brings in some of the blues and greens that are typical of the California coastal style without being too bold or overbearing.” – Jenny
“This rug’s rope-like motif is perfect for a California coastal design. It ties the entire look together and really grounds the entire space. You can echo this rope motif by using a rope for accents throughout the room. For example: use rope to hang a mirror, or to wrap a glass vase. Again, taking those outdoor elements and bringing them inside.” – Bonnie
“Stripes are a safe bet when you want a coastal style in your home. However, I love this rug because the black and white color scheme makes it a little more modern.” – Jenny
“I love this rug! It has all the color elements of the outside that you can bring in: the different shades of blues and the sand, earth-tone shades. It adds the “wow factor” into your coastal space. It’s bright and bold while still sticking to the elements of coastal styling.” – Bonnie
“This rug is a more traditional pick for those who want a formal California style. Since it’s one solid color, it would be easy to decorate around it, and I love the abstract pattern that reminds me of water!” – Jenny