From polished and sophisticated to rustic and casual, you can find your very own coastal style from this collection of our favorite beach cottages.
When Bonnie and Anthony McAlister of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, decided to renovate their beach cottage, the only thing they knew they wanted was color. “We wanted the house to be comfortable, but also fun and exciting,” says Anthony. “The idea was to get that ‘coming into a beach house feeling’ where you know you’re going to have a good time.”
The living and dining room areas were enlivened with punches of green and coral. Coastal accents—sea grass rugs, coral pieces, bamboo flatware—are scattered throughout to reflect South Carolina’s beach-loving lifestyle.
Inspired by the harbor, the homeowners chose a calming blue palette and added an oyster shell-encrusted mirror. They mixed in elements that really bring the room to life—throw pillows and a killer light fixture.
The floor is painted a leafy green, which will give an even more weathered, beachy feel to the kitchen when the boards start to show through. Vintage-inspired beaded board lends even more character to the room while the white keeps it fresh and crisp.
The homeowners scoured antiques consignment stores for the vintage fishing net, which provides a focal point in the outdoor space.
A North Carolina couple learned to live with—and play up—their cottage’s quirky charms in Morehead City. While planning a renovation, Catherine and Mason Williams grew attached to the small 1914 cottage and decided not to make any additions but to optimize every inch of the 1,350 square feet. That’s where the couple’s four years of living on a 53-foot Ketch sailing yacht came in handy.
The couple chose blue, white, and sandy hues for their living room. Fun lampshades bring the colors together, and a touch of rope trim provides a nautical touch. A casual wooden coffee table and coastal accessories used sparingly add to the nautical feel.
Although the master bedroom is small, the homeowners maximized their space by affixing a headboard that has plenty of shelf space in lieu of floor space-hogging bedside tables. Cool blues and whites make the room seem comforting rather than cramped.
This plush seating area sees frequent use for eating or for a cozy reading nook or office. The natural golden shade of the cushions forgives sandy feet, and the glossy paint on the wood floors is ideal for a beach cottage because it’s a low-cost, high-charm treatment.
This galley kitchen is made to look larger by using the same shade of paint on the walls and ceiling. Cabinetry doors and drawers are accented in a cheery hue to keep the white kitchen from feeling sterile. Horizontal planked wood siding adds character that plain, painted drywall couldn’t, and a few coastal-themed decorations, such as the marine-style pendant lights and shrimp sculpture, convey a sense of place without going overboard.
When Susan and Spencer Croul stumbled upon this cottage, they wanted to maintain the surf culture of the Newport Beach area and preserve the elements of the cottage that made it so unique and charming.
The living room was decorated with generous upholstered pieces to ensure maximum comfort. The corduroy, leather, and vintage grain sack upholstery encourages lounging, while batik prints in rich reds and marine blues provide an exotic beat.
Batik prints in the same color palette as the living room are used in the bedroom against a backdrop of crisp white. A John Severson watercolor painting of Waikiki Beach hangs above the built-in bed, bringing the outdoors in.
Woven accents—a sea grass rug, a painted wicker chair—plus a few nautical nods, such as the brass pendant fixture, keep the mood casual and the focus on the water. “This is the SoCal version of an East Coast fishing shack—everything is cozy and masculine; nothing is delicate,” the homeowner says.
The kitchen’s 1950s rope-and-wood chairs and the sailboat prints exude nautical style without being over the top. An Oriental rug covers the vintage Douglas fir floors in rich reds and blues, tying in the kitchen with the rest of the cottage.
Stella and Dave Peterson’s coastal Georgia vacation home has all the classic details—broad porches, exposed rafter tails—of a century-old house. But it was only built to look that way. “I’m an old-house person, but I’ve realized you can build character into new construction and create your own history,” Stella says.
This serene living room came together in a wash of pastels. To promote conversation, designer Jane Coslick opted for four chairs instead of the traditional sofa-centered seating arrangement; she repeated fabric from the dining room on the round ottoman to unify the look of the adjacent rooms.
A piece of salvaged crown molding serves as a shelf and holds a collection of sea coral. The homeowner scoured flea markets and integrated her finds into the decor. “I sought things that would lend a sense of history: old windows, mirrors, side tables, cabinet doors, and dressers,” she says. She then used paint to freshen furnishings and give them a coastal vibe.
The 10-foot-long heart-pine dining table was painted and distressed; a hodgepodge of side chairs scored at a local thrift store complement the table. A fresh application of candy-stripe fabric unifies the mismatched set of chairs.
The punchy turquoise hue of the vintage-style appliance puts a chic spin on the space. A tumbled-glass backsplash mimics natural sea glass and contrasts the sleek concrete countertops. Reproduction pendant lighting and period barstools top off the soda fountain look the homeowners hoped to achieve.
Homeowner Jerry West Sanders transformed this Steamboat Island, Washington, cottage into her dream home. “I wanted a simple, coastal look for easy living,” she says. “I like color, but I don’t use it in this setting.”
To keep things simple in her living room—as to not distract from the gorgeous view—the homeowner used easy-to-wash white slipcovers and hung white linen or cotton draperies and shades on doorways and windows. A little splash of blue from the throw pillows is the only color used.
A damaged mantel serves as a headboard in the master bedroom. Because the small space doesn’t allow for bedside tables, the homeowner installed sconces for nighttime reading.
Mexican tile floors give the dining room—which also doubles as an office—a more rustic look. “The room had wood walls and wood beams, so I felt like that was enough,” homeowner Jerry West Sanders says. To connect the room with the rest of the interiors, she introduced touches of white in a painted table, corner cupboard, and chandelier.
Previous owners built an outdoor room at the end of the main-level deck as a windbreak. The space is outfitted with a hutch, buffet, chandelier, and draperies to make it a comfortable extension of living space.
One of 19 small, shingled homes along Defenders Row on Goat Island on the Rhode Island shore, the Southern Cross offered unparalleled views of Newport Harbor on one side and Narragansett Bay on the other. It was the homeliest cottage homeowners Reeder and Marion Laffey Fox had ever seen. After polishing up the faded cottage, the couple agreed it was a brilliant investment.
The interior look was based around seashells and watery blues and greens. A mixture of casual wicker, wood, and soft upholstered furniture creates the perfect mix for a beach cottage.
Bright white forms a clean backdrop for deep blue accents in the master bedroom. The four-poster bed is positioned directly in front of the balcony, giving an unobstructed view of the harbor.
A sea grass rug, wicker and wood furniture, and plenty of streaming light from the French doors fill this sunroom. A few nautical accents recall the idyllic setting.
The green squares faux painted diagonally on the floors add a touch of whimsy. “I wanted to inject some color beneath your feet,” the homeowner says. “This was the perfect solution.”
Chris and Mark Miller’s free-spirited Long Beach, California, cottage overlooks Alamitos Bay and the Pacific. “We love to entertain,” says Chris. You can see this party element throughout the house and on their rooftop deck that features a hot tub, refrigerator, and ice-maker.
Big, wooden letters above the family room’s French doors spell out the couple’s motto. “ ‘Miller Time’ is being surrounded by family and friends on the beach and enjoying the house,” the homeowner explains. The living room features nautical elements and a sea-inspired color palette. Durable cotton-duck slipcovers and a cotton rug in the family room make cleanup easy in case the party—or the dogs—get out of hand.
When the guests go home, the homeowners retire to their soothing blue master suite. “It’s like we’re waking up in the clouds every morning,” they say.
The family’s dining room also features nautical elements and a patriotic color palette of red, white, and blue. The homeowners designed the hutch and table, along with other furnishings, to fit the space and their needs.
A fully equipped bar situated next to the family room allows for easy access. Cheery yellow directors chairs add a pop of color to the ocean-inspired space.
For her centuries-old Sag Harbor, New York, cottage, Catherine Lippincott—with the help of close friend and designer Tom Scheerer—shattered convention and followed her heart, pairing unexpected colors and juxtaposing her favorite traditional and modern pieces of furniture and art. The result? A perfectly imperfect mix of new and vintage pieces both distressed and sleek, subtle, and daring.
Light wicker furniture and a soft blue wing chair balance the heavier wood of the living room. For a super-casual, camplike feel, try hemming the curtains so they hit just at the windowsills. This look works especially well in rooms with high ceilings and wainscoting, which provides a natural visual cue for the shorter length.
Consider a face-lift of what you already have before writing it off completely. With just a few tweaks, an old four-poster bed found a place in this bedroom. To give it a more modern look, it was painted black with a satin finish that matches the iron extensions and canopy frame affixed to the posts. Now the canopy, made from old Indian bedspreads, reaches to the ceiling.
The homeowner uses her sunroom to curl up with a book or hang with friends, so comfy seating was a must. She had only an 11- by 13-foot area with which to work so she had her contractor build two benches for a space-saving and less expensive option than a sectional. She kept the room cheery and bright with fresh white paint on the walls and ceiling and bright blue cushions.
The once-dingy white industrial pendant light was simply utilitarian before being doused with cobalt paint. A coat of sunny yellow takes the Chippendale chairs from traditional to kicky with the stroke of a paintbrush. Mixing finishes like what’s on these tables and chairs adds textual variety.
Candice and Marty Carr’s clapboard getaway cottage in Key West was built at the end of the 19th century. A 1980s addition gave it the sawtooth roofline, with parallel gables that create a zigzag appearance. On the inside, it’s clear that laid-back is the attitude of choice in this home.
When selecting furnishings, the homeowner searched for antiques at their favorite shops back home in Tennessee, and combed Memphis designer Shelley Miller’s studio for fabrics. “We always laugh and say that the style of this house is ‘Tennessee comes to Key West,’ ” the homeowner says. The Southern touches, such as skirted tables, pleated lamp shades, and floral patterns, seem at home with the Key West signatures of horizontal-slat walls, brightly colored accents, and nautical accents.
In the kitchen, a farm table and cherry cabinetry underscore the home’s casual feel. Doors and windows open to the pool area, making it an ideal home for outdoor entertaining.
One of the best features of this cottage is the pool, which shares a wall with the home’s foundation. “The pool’s location was bred out of necessity,” the homeowner says. With two statuesque Spanish lime trees (a protected species) in the backyard, fitting a pool in was a bit of a challenge. But with the pool directly beside the house it becomes an extension of the living space.
A poolside bar invites guests outside. A painting by Key West artist Rick Worth, created with automobile paint, can withstand the elements.
Hal and Mary Quayle fell in love with this 100-year-old cottage on Bailey Island, Maine, and after some simple touch-ups, turned it into a cozy hideaway with thrilling views. They embraced the cottage’s quirky character and celebrated its aged-to-perfection charm.
A hodgepodge of 20th century furniture came with the house, so the homeowners spent a lot of time rearranging and incorporating some of their own pieces while still preserving the Old Maine feel.
Wood-planked floors and cozy quilts made of light, sea-colored pastels honor the rustic feel of the century-old cottage, embracing the charm of the setting and the house.
The small breakfast table placed square in front of the windows provides the best view of the waves crashing off Casco Bay. A collection of enamelware in the kitchen’s open cabinets came with the house and was—surprisingly—in the homeowner’s favorite shades of blue.