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