Whether it’s a house in the Hamptons or a converted fisherman’s hut in Whitstable, a sea-side retreat is high on the list of fantasy homes. While other interiors fashions and colours come and go, there is something timeless about the look of a house by the sea, with the classic elements of beach house style being governed by a mix of solid practicality, the exceptional light levels, and that feeling of having escaped everyday rules that a spell at the seaside brings. Whether your ‘beach house’ faces onto the dramatic Atlantic, the English Channel or just your own back garden, we’ve got a few suggestions for how to capture beach house chic in your own project.
1. Go all white
No matter how big or small, fancy or humble, white has got to be the colour of choice for a beach-side home. An all-white interior is light, bright and breezy, even on the dullest of days, and acts as a blank canvas on which the views from the window are the star. Going for an all-white palette will also set your beach house apart from a city pad or family home – the normal rules of decorating, where pattern and colour add warmth and interest as well as expressing personality – need not apply here. If a beach house is an escape, then it can also be an escape from keeping up with interiors fashions and worrying about expensive upholstery. Create a simple white base that is full of its own warmth and depth by combining different shades of white for each element – floors, walls, windows, woodwork… As the sunlight plays over the surfaces you’ll find all the richness of decoration you need right there.
2. Add a pop of colour
Because the sun doesn’t shine every day. A single pop of bright colour will add a sunny feel to your space that you’ll appreciate come October, and can also be used to ground the whole space in the landscape. Got a Greek island house (or would like to create that feel)? Then a bright blue or turquoise hit is ideal. Cornish bolt hole? Perhaps a pop of Sea Thrift pink or soft lichen green will be the perfect link to the view outside.
3. Show the woodwork
Wood and the seaside go so well together, with wood cladding being a feature of many seaside homes. It has a natural, organic feel to it that suits an outdoorsy lifestyle and feels welcoming and timeless in a way polished plaster, marble or concrete won’t. For an instant beach house vibe wherever you live, try adding tongue-and-groove panelling to the walls, or leaving wooden beams in the ceiling exposed – all given a calming white finish of course.
4. Be inventive
As a beach house is a magnet for guests, and is probably not a full-time home, it’s traditional to fit it with multi-purpose, adaptable solutions. Built-in bunk beds or mezzanine sleeping areas seem a charming guest room when by the sea. And rather than filling up your light and airy space with lots of heavy furniture that will only be partly used – who needs a big wardrobe for a bikini and shorts? – instead think about simple built-in solutions like open shelves or storage alcoves screened by fabric rather than wood doors. Steamer trunks are perfect for storing blankets and beach towels.
5. Let the light flow
The light by the water is beautiful, so don’t block any of it from flowing through the whole house. Instead of solid wood doors go for glass in the upper panels, and add internal windows that let light pour into spaces like a hall or landing. The white colour scheme will help bounce it around, as will a strategically-placed mirror or two.
6. Make it practical
Kids, dogs, wetsuits, picnics… any beach house worth its salt will see plenty of sand, damp clothes and other challenges to an immaculate interior. So go with it. Wood floors will be easier to sweep free of sand than a carpet, and loose covers on sofas and chairs will be easy to stick in a hot wash. Simple blinds will keep things neater than curtains, which might attract damp salt air over the winter. And if in doubt, put a throw on it – easy to wash, great for protecting furniture, and ideal for wrapping round your shoulders for an impromptu evening walk by the shore.