Coastal Interior Tips

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Interiors Association member Rosemarie Carroll of RCD Design offers her expert tips on how we can use the coast as interior inspiration.

Coastal Interior Tips

Rosemarie Carroll of RCD Design

Coastal interiors are on trend at the moment and people often want to create that look in their homes, no matter where they live. But, while it’s perfectly possible to achieve that with fabrics and accessories, a coastal-style interior is always going to look superficial in an inland home. For me, the most authentic interiors take inspiration from the surrounding environment. A coastal interior always works best when it’s actually near the sea. That said if you have a deep attachment to the sea, but live inland, consider bringing in small touches of coastal décor. In a recent renovation, I worked for a client who did a lot of sailing and wanted to be reminded of it, so we placed a model of a boat in the window. It brought in memory of the sea, and how important it was in her life, without trying to impose a coastal theme on the whole house.

Coastal tips

Coast Collection from Ian Mankin

If you’re lucky enough to have a sea view, let it have the centre stage and work everything else around it. I recently designed a home in Dalkey where the kitchen window looked out over Dublin Bay. It didn’t need coastal styling, the window said it all, but the colours in the seascape were reflected in the dark blue larder, plain white units and ceramic sink. It wasn’t a large kitchen and the layout was inspired by the way that storage is managed on a boat. When you’re on a boat, space is very confined. Storage is very important but limited. Everything has to fit, without taking up too much space, and it has to close away. We’ve actually used brass cup handles like those you’d find on a boat. So the whole concept came from the sea, but the styling was minimal and subtle. In coastal homes, I often like to use an engineered oak floor, which adds character and texture in an unobtrusive way. If the budget is limited, oak floor laminate looks the part and is easy to clean. In other areas, where you might consider carpet, seagrass or jute flooring comes into its own. It’s not a strong feature but it adds to the texture of the ensemble.

Not every coastal home will have a sea view – fishermen’s cottages tend not to look out to sea – but they will still have the quality of light that you only get beside the sea. If the windows are small, use mirrors to reflect the light around the room. Round convex mirrors can create the effect of a ship’s porthole. Salvaged portholes can be hard to find but the brass and aluminium surround make wonderful frames for mirrors. Light fittings upcycled from navigational lighting also offer a subtle and effective way of creating a maritime atmosphere. But keep it simple. The space has to be right and the light has to be right to pull it all together.

 

Coastal Interior Tips

Coast Collection from Ian Mankin

One of the biggest problems with coastal interiors is that people have too much stuff. Coastal interiors are meant to be simple and clutter absolutely kills the style. A room that is full of objects and design features will be confusing and not at all restful. Too much colour or too many different colours will destroy harmony. I always find that panelling works well in a coastal interior, and you can always add hidden storage behind it.

Coastla tips

Once you have all the basics in place, the décor should be easy. White walls are traditional, combined with natural unvarnished wood and basketry. Then, bring in a little pattern and texture to break things up a bit and make them more interesting. Netting, which is reminiscent of fishing nets, can be very effective, but don’t just put it in for the sake of it. A hammock in a child’s room would be lovely if there was enough space, or on a patio by the door. Plain white voile curtains are atmospheric and offer privacy, and you can hardly go wrong with blue and white stripes on the bedlinen, with variations on the same theme for cushions and curtains. I like to shop around for patterned and striped fabric when considering soft furnishings for a coastal home. Stripes aren’t for everyone, though. One of my clients was renovating her seaside home and she found them too obvious, opting instead to move towards a more sophisticated and luxurious interpretation of a coastal style using colour and texture alone.

Coastal tips

Coast Collection from Ian Mankin


Professional, qualified members of the Interiors Association offer everything from one-off consultations to fully bespoke design schemes for every style and budget. For more information visit theinteriorsassociation.ie

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