Making Waves: Beach House Style

Is beach brain a thing? I think I’m suffering from it, especially with all the hot and humid weather! All I want to do is go to the beach and park myself there with a good book, soak up some sun, and splash around in the ocean every so often. That’s what summer is all about, right? Hot days and warm nights and hopefully a little bit of time cooling off in the water.

Needless to say, envisioning a dreamy beach house is part of the very serious beach brain condition. What I love about beach style is that it can take so many different forms: surf style, shabby chic, cottage, rustic. Whether you choose to keep it casual or dress it up, it’s a look that can be infused with tons of color or mellowed out with pale hues.

I recently found some designs that put a twist on typical beach style—some perhaps intentionally, and others perhaps not! One of them is this entryway by Seldin Design Studios of San Francisco, which also happens to be where this residence is located. San Francisco may not immediately bring the beach to mind, but its water views and access are a big part of the landscape, so it’s not an unlikely influence. This space is vintage beach chic—the wallpapers above and below the chair rail are the perfect balance of casual and formal. The woven details on the mirror and table drawers add extra texture, and the subdued wood tones make me think of driftwood and sand. The vase of wildflowers brings to mind the random flora that sometimes grows along the beach in patches of grass. It’s possible that the beach had nothing to do with inspiring this design, but I could definitely see using this space to inspire a pretty beach house.


This dining area by Helen Bergin Interiors, based in Marblehead, MA, is full of natural elements and sandy colors that are totally beachy but far from stereotypical. The whimsical fixture over the table is a subtle nod to the home’s seaside location.


In Manhattan Beach, CA, Waterleaf Interiors used a bright peacock green wallpaper with metallic accents on the inside of this bar cabinet. I love the formality of the elegant barware, traditional kitchen cabinets, and marble countertops combined with the retro, midcentury colors. It’s grown-up but with a touch of surf style.


This bathroom, also by Waterleaf Interiors, is refreshing in pink and blush hues. I’m not sure I would think to use pink in a beach-inspired bathroom, but it makes so much sense. There are pink sand beaches, after all! The classic subway tile in this shower has a lovely sheen to it that reminds me of mother-of-pearl, and the pattern on the wallpaper echoes the shape of both sea plants and pebbles. Even the knob on the drawer has the texture of an urchin shell.


I’m always drawn to spaces where a mix of styles are used, so naturally this powder room by Nicola’s Home, a designer based in Yarmouth, Maine, appeals to me. This is such a thoughtful combination of modern and vintage mixed with elegant and casual. And it’s topped off with that fantastic oyster shell mirror, which is just perfect for a home that’s close to the ocean.


This bedroom by the same designer has a similarly eclectic look. The yellow and citron accents bring a lot of warmth to the space, and the room has a distinct seaside feel to it despite its minimal use of blue. It’s a great example of using texture and pattern to evoke a sense of place.


Tracery Interiors, a design firm located in the Florida panhandle, also chose citron for this beach-side bedroom. When you stop to consider how sunshine plays a big role in a good beach day, it’s no wonder that shades of yellow can successfully evoke a beach vibe. The decor helps reinforce that idea with the tortoise shell on the wall and items on the sand-colored nightstand. The geometric patterns in this room give it a formal look, but the bright colors and natural linen fabrics on the bed and lamp shade help keep things feeling cozy instead of stuffy.


All of these interiors are imaginative and distinct. They do, however, share some common elements such as weathered wood, woven baskets, uplifting colors, organic accents, and a mix of punchy and subtle patterns. If you had to choose one of these photos to jumpstart your beach house design (and potentially cure your case of beach brain!), which one would it be?