7 Mistakes You're Making When Decorating in Coastal Style

coastal style decor

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The coastal design aesthetic continues to be popular regardless of whether one lives by the sea. It's calming, laid back, and incorporates plenty of texture and natural elements—what's not to love? However, how do you know that you're executing this design style correctly and steering clear of basic mistakes? We asked the pros to weigh in on common issues that people run into when trying to introduce the coastal look into their homes. Read on to learn what to avoid—and how to remedy any mishaps in your own space!

1. Going Too Literal

"Coastal can get kitschy fast, and that's the biggest mistake I see," says Meg Young, founder of Cailini Coastal. Young suggests veering away from pieces that are too literal (such as sailboat or shells) and instead focusing on colors, textures, and patterns than lean coastal. "We believe in the 90/10 rule for an elevated coastal home," she says. "90 percent of your home should reflect the coastal [environment] through serene hues like blues, grays and neutrals; textured pieces using natural materials like rope, seagrass and rattan; and stripes," she explains. "10 percent can be literal coastal—we like these pieces to be smaller ones like decorative accents and art."

Tina Delia, the lead interior designer at Delia Designs, expresses similar sentiments. "It is easy to get carried away with coastal design by adding in too many seashells, starfish, and coral decor elements," she notes. "It can tend to feel overwhelming and cluttered. Keep the decor to a minimum adding in texture for depth and dimension."

2. Confusing Coastal With Nautical

Coastal and nautical style are not one and the same, Delia comments. "Nautical style is an ode to sailing and the elements of a sailboat while coastal style is all about emulating the relaxed, laid back vibe of being at the beach," she says. Interior stylist and home blogger Lindsay Lewis agrees, adding, "Coastal style is almost always neutral shades and has a much more relaxed aesthetic."

coastal decor mistakes

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3. Not Focusing in on One Coastal Style

And in that vein, there are many coastal styles from which to choose—not all coastal homes will appear the same. As Delia says, "One should also determine which coast to use as inspiration. Is it the East Coast, West Coast or the coast of Australia?"

4. Making a Home Appear Too Formal

Now isn't the time to get ultra fancy, Delia says. "Coastal design is all about creating a cool, effortless vibe," she explains. "It's not a formal, stuffy feeling. Think lots of light, airy drapery in natural fabrics, and other natural elements found at the beach, like driftwood."

5. Choosing the Wrong Fabrics

Skip materials that appear heavier, like velvet. "Adding in velvets, even in the blue color palette, is the wrong move," Delia notes. "It's more about creating a natural and serene atmosphere versus a formal, elegant atmosphere."

Not sure where to shop for the right pieces? Coastal living blogger Helen Phillips shares a few tips. "Of course you can get that coastal feel with elevated furniture, like pieces from Serena & Lily," she says. "If you're working with a more modest budget, I love to scour Facebook Marketplace for affordable high-end pieces." Either way, just ensure that the pieces you choose ultimately appear nice and welcoming. " If you want that coastal, beach house vibe, your furniture should make guests feel like they can just plop down on the couch after coming in from the beach," adds Phillips, who appreciates performance fabrics for this reason.

6. Going Overboard With Neutrals

coastal decor mistakes

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Neutral pieces will appear right at home in coastal spaces, but there is such thing as too many of these tones. "Every space needs its color, and coastal style is no exception to this rule," Lewis notes. "Use pops of color throughout your neutral home in items like coffee table books, trays, art, and throw pillows." Be sure to vary wood tones in your home, too, says designer Christina Kim of Christina Kim Interior Design. "Use those coastal whitewashes with restraint!"

7. Only Using Blues and Whites

coastal decor mistakes

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When selecting colors, note that there may be more options than are obvious. As Erin Banta, co-founder of Pepper explains, "Coastal design doesn't mean everything should just be blue and white, have fun with color!'