Coastal Decorating on a Budget

Pastel blue and white abstract oil painting on empty white wall with console table with flowers in vase and books
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

If you love the beach look, good news! Decorating in a coastal style is one of the most budget-friendly ways to go. However, sometimes it takes a bit of inspirational help to achieve the appearance that you want. If you love the look of an all-white decorating scheme but are stuck on how to pull it off, need to use what furniture you have already got, or aren't sure how to transform that drab table into coastal chic, don't worry. It can be done! Use these tips to help you achieve that coastal look you want.

Picking Color

White is usually the predominant color in the coastal-style home, but really there are no firm rules when it comes to color. However, sticking with one or two colors is a very budget-friendly way to go coastal.

Blue and white are popular color pairings for the modern coastal look but don't be afraid to go off that color spectrum. Think of the beach and ocean colors: use soft blue, teal, or green colors, and neutral beige or tan colors. These colors work well together and with whites, too.

Choosing Accessories

Accessories turn a plain room into something fancier and they also easily help capture the coastal look on a budget. Found objects are free, so don’t forget to scour shorelines for a great catch. Just be green and leave anything living alone. Shells that still have their buddy inside won’t lend a lovely look or smell to your dwelling space.

Small pieces of driftwood, sea glass placed in bottles, and seagrass or wicker baskets filled with seashells are all finishing touches that accentuate your home, giving it the beachy or coastal chic look. Fill some pots with pampas grass, add some beach-type pictures or a seashell framed mirror, remember not to overdo, and put in too many accessories. Simple is better.  

Slipcovers and Soft Furnishings

Use slipcovers to transform shabby furniture to chic and achieve that effortless, beachside look. For fabric, look for muslin or osnaburg which is usually much less expensive than linen or canvas. Don’t pay full price, either–Joann’s Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, and other fabric stores constantly offer sales and coupons.

There are several ways to fashion a slipcover but one of the simplest is to drape your sofa in fabric and add ties. If you have the skills or know someone who does, sewing a fitted slipcover gives your sofa a custom look and will appear as if you spent a fortune when really it’s just your old college futon underneath.

Throw in Some Accents

Incorporate pops of color with inexpensive accents in the rooms.

  • Add some decorative pillows. You can pull in some deeper, darker colors, or stripes and patterns with pillows, layering them on the furniture for a great accent to the room.
  • Put some brightly colored or seagrass placemats on the table with some colorful dishes along with some white pieces on top of them.
  • Bring in some flowers. The coast is abundant with flowers, so don't hesitate to scatter some vases around with these in them. Include ornamental grasses, rosemary, hyacinth, black-eyed susan, and others.

Wood Furniture Ideas

Outdated wood furniture can easily be transformed into a shabby chic coastal look with a bit of paint and sandpaper. Check unfinished wood furniture stores for great deals. Save even more by asking for distressed or dinged items or floor samples. Even a beginning DIYer can slap on a coat of paint and then sand it off again—and it’s great fun, too!

Reclaimed driftwood can make a gorgeous table, bench, stool, and many other types of furniture and creations. There are endless possibilities on what you can make with driftwood. Of course, this all depends on the size of the pieces you've collected. It is also up to you what look you desire in the finished product, whether you decide to keep it natural or put varnish or polyurethane on it to make it look darker and wet. Be sure to clean and disinfect it before using, as this will remove any sand particles or other stuff still clinging to the wood. 

The Coastal and Seaside Style Secret

In a word, it’s the light, texture, and overall feel.

Choose things that reflect or channel light easily, such as mirrors or mirrored furniture, chrome or silver, glass, and lightweight fabrics like linen, muslin, or cotton. Select items with a texture including seagrass rugs and pillows, and add accent pieces and knick-knacks, including driftwood, beachy pictures, and shells. Pick out colors for the walls that remind you of the sea and beach, keeping them a neutral and soft hue.

The secret? Keep the decorating to a minimum, and don't overdo it. Keep it simple. You'll achieve the beach style look you want, and your space will feel light, airy, and coastal.  

Seaside Reads: Beautiful Decorating Books to Inspire You

Books provide loads of inspiration and also look beautiful arranged on a table or shelf. Sign up at Paperback Swap to snag books for free, watch for Amazon’s deals, or check Ebay for bargains galore.

  • The Natural Home by Judith Wilson
  • Seaside Style for the Home by Andrea Spencer
  • Mary Emmerling’s Beach Cottages by Mary Emmerling
  • Beach Style House by Coastal Living
  • Coastal Style by Sally Hayden
  • Waterside Cottages by Barbara Jacksier