From expansive beachside views to bright and airy floor plans to nature-inspired decors, 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 and a coastal rug (or two!) to pull them all together. 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.”
2. Bring the outdoor in.
Another coastal chic element? That laidback, serene feel that comes with being close to the coast.
“It’s comfortable yet stylish,” adds interior stylist Bonnie Aunchman. “It is light, open, and airy with no real boundary between indoors and outdoors. It evokes the feeling of the beach or a tropical paradise—breezy, tranquil, and relaxed. Bringing the outdoors in is an important element to the design of coastal chic homes.”
3. 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.”
4. 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.”
5. 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 home design.”
6. 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 casual California vibe.
“You can even do some DIY coastal decor by wrapping rope around a glass vase, placing shells in a white washbowl 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.”
7. 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, if 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.”
8. 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 the looks of burst chandeliers, basketweave pendant lights, open-cage lanterns.
9. Anchor the look with a rug.
According to Jenny, a rug is a great jumping-off point for decorating your room. “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 bohemia- style, nautical-themed, or mid-century modern, 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, like blue and green. Opt for a comfortable, relaxed style with that indoor/outdoor feel, and also easy to care for, like Ruggable, which is machine washable.”
When styling around a rug, “pull colors and patterns from your rug to furnish the rest of your room,” suggests Jenny. “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. Select minimal pieces to decorate around the rug in keeping with the light, airy style of a coastal home.”
READERS: Do you have love the coastal chic look? Tell us why you love it and how you styled your space in the comments section below!