Our first-ever list of top designers who create amazing style coast to coast.
1 of 10Photo: Eric Piasecki
Thom Filicia: The Revivalist
You knew him first as a designer and TV personality on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Today he is a fixture of the design world, with a galloping interiors practice and furniture and fabric collections. His signature style—clean, classic lines with a modern flourish—has earned him clients with bold-faced names like Tina Fey and Jennifer Lopez.
"I like to see design as personality driven," he says. "It should evoke the occupants. I try to create environments that are soulful and layered with that human element."
The best example may lie in Filicia's own vacation home on Lake Skaneateles, minutes from his hometown of Syracuse, New York. His recent book, American Beauty: Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat, recounts the transformation of the 1917 camp into a showcase for Filicia's couture version of rustic Americana. —Michael Cannell
2 of 10Photo: Andrea Fazzari
Anthony Baratta: The Maximalist
He is decorating's irrepressible firebrand, mixing riotous whirls of pattern and kaleidoscopes of color that are happily, brightly at home by the sea. Lime green canvas wallpaper, zebra-covered chairs—in Anthony Baratta's world, color is always a welcome guest.
He works, he says, "on the coast of everyplace" but finds his sweet spot in tropical towns like Jupiter and Palm Beach, where grand homes allow him to update the Old Florida look with his own hot pink prints and nautical patterns.
Down the coast, on Venetian Island, Baratta's personal getaway acts as a laboratory for his relentlessly sunny hues. "It's always about an American summer in my head," he says. —M.C.
3 of 10Photo: Jonathan Beckerman
Kathryn M. Ireland: The Globetrotter
The breezy interiors created by England-born, Los Angeles-based interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland reflect the international influences of a cultured world traveler. The core of her aesthetic is "California coastal meets English country," says Ireland, but don't be surprised to also find elements from countries such as Morocco, India, and Mexico mixed in.
A star of the Bravo TV series Million Dollar Decorators, Ireland also runs a successful fabric and wallpaper business, with collections that reflect her personal travels and her take on traditional batiks, ikats, and other textiles.
But no matter the country, Ireland always feels at home at water's edge. "I grew up on the beach in Scotland, so I have a huge affinity for the sea and windswept places," she says. —Tim McKeough
4 of 10Photo: William Waldron
Victoria Hagan: The Connoisseur
Her rooms are like classic film stars—elegant, tightly tailored stunners with dazzle. They're glamorous but surprisingly simple—crisply composed in shades of white that are offset by sculptural antiques and her own furniture and fabric lines.
The work compiled in Hagan's book, Interior Portraits, defines a thoroughly American sense of style—casual, honest, and optimistic. Her light-struck living rooms tempt you to put your loafers up and stay awhile. "I'm in the happiness business," she says. "I like my work to feel relaxed and natural."
From Malibu to Palm Beach, Hagan creates rooms that inhale coastal color and light. "The texture of the sand and the changing palette of the water are my inspiration," she says. "I try to connect that sense of water to the interior in subtle ways." —M.C.
5 of 10Photo: Patrik Rytikangas
Scott Sanders: The New Traditionalist
The fresh American style of Scott Sanders's interiors—firmly rooted in tradition, yet always presenting an inviting, easygoing vibe—make them not just places to be looked at, but places to be lived in. "I design rooms that can really be used, where nothing is off limits," he says. Comfort is key, he notes, but so are durable finishes and fabrics that encourage people to kick back.
"With a second or third home, people are much more open and willing to have a little fun and be more experimental" with color, pattern, and showpiece objects, says Sanders of the beach houses and waterfront getaways he designs for clients in Florida, the Hamptons, and the Caribbean.. "That's one of the reasons I love designing coastal homes so much—they're places where a touch of humor or whimsy is welcome." —T.M.
6 of 10Photo: Annie Schlecter
Meg Braff: The Pattern Whisperer
Braff has transformed homes from Bermuda to the Hamptons—and her line of wallpaper and fabrics with a vintage resort vibe breathes new life into timeless midcentury patterns in beach house-friendly colorways like pink, aqua, green, and beige.
Braff's flair for pattern extends off the wall, as she boldly dresses interiors with motifs that call to their surroundings—vintage-chic dining chairs adorned with palm trees in Florida, or sofas swathed in island fauna in a Jamaica living room.
"I try to space out the color and the pattern and give each room a little breathing space," she says of her method of mixing varying scales to create a breezy beach vibe or a more buttoned-up oceanfront aesthetic. "What's really important is creating circulation between the inside and outside—easy indoor-outdoor living." —Brooke Showell
7 of 10Photo: Ngog Minh Ngo
Thomas Paul: The Naturalist
If there's a starfish on your sofa or a crab in your cupboard, you likely have Thomas Paul to thank. For more than a decade, he has populated his pervasive line of home furnishings with sea creatures and other images borrowed from natural history.
"It started with coral and just grew," he says. Octopus pillows, sea horse towels, crab plates—they've landed in coastal homes like beautiful maritime oddities left by a receding tide. He almost singlehandedly returned vintage renderings of fish and fauna back to the public imagination. But he has a way of making the old new again with fresh colors and off-center framing.
Paul's menagerie sprang from natural history illustrations he found at New York flea markets. The hand-drawn forms had seductive appeal to a generation raised on mass-produced goods. "Most designers don't draw things anymore," he says. "So there's a certain power to the one-of-a-kind." —Michael Cannell
8 of 10Photo: Joshua McHugh
Jonathan Adler: The Artisan
Since his beginnings as a potter in the early 1990s, Jonathan Adler has expanded his product and interior design business with breathtaking bursts of activity that have made him one of the country's top tastemakers. Along the way, he has seduced followers with an optimistic message that every home can be happy, bright, and incredibly chic. "Life should be colorful," opines Adler, who has residences in Palm Beach and Shelter Island, in addition to Manhattan.
There's no mistaking the energy and enthusiasm in Adler's pieces, which offer a refreshing, quirky aesthetic that's particularly well-suited to beachy, summery homes. No wonder he's been tapped for interior design projects like the Parker Palm Springs hotel and a real-life Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse. "There's something about the sea that really makes me feel happy and creative." —Tim McKeough
9 of 10Photo: Lisa Romerein
Tim Clarke: The Beach Boy
He wrote the book on contemporary seaside style—literally—with his 2012 tome, Coastal Modern: Sophisticated Homes Inspired by the Ocean, which cemented the Santa Monica, California-based designer's reputation as the definitive beach decorator. An endless stretch of sand, unobstructed views of the sea, or rocky coastlines all inspire his brand of laid-back luxury.
"I live it," Clarke says of his beach aesthetic. "I've been described as a beach house decorator, but not all beaches are created equal," he says of his ability to infuse a sense of place in homes from Southern California to Seattle. "They're all different, and the houses have to be different."
To that end, he stocks his Tower 20 shop (a block from the Santa Monica shore) with an eclectic collection of beachy finds, including his own custom furniture. "There's this feeling that's created about the way you live at the beach, and it doesn't have anything to do with shells or anchors or red, white, and blue. It's more about easiness and casualness." —Brooke Showell
10 of 10Photo: Colleen Duffley
India Hicks: The Model Islander
This former fashion model and designer of light, airy interiors produces irresistible bath and body products, an eponymous fine jewelry line, and a new home collection for HSN that all sparkle with beachy appeal. A sterling silver starfish cuff with delicate diamond studs, or a crescent moon pendant that channels the changing tides—who else could create them?
Hicks's classic book, Island Living: Inspirational Interiors, offers accessible style ideas from her British Colonial-meets-Caribbean home. And she does it all while living in the Bahamas with designer and partner David Flint Wood and their five children. "It is all representative of me and my life," Hicks says of her approach—a mix of interior-decorating dynasty (she's the daughter of famed British designer David Hicks) and 17 years of island life.
What's quintessential Hicks? Beachy mahogany floors, ceiling fans, and mosquito netting mixed with the unexpected—pops of geometric cushions or a room painted a shocking pink. Part of the beauty lies in the imperfections: "The edges are slightly knocked up; there is the patina of time that shows it's a real home," she says. —Brooke Showell