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 Carrs 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,’” they said. 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 Carrs say. 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.
The enclosed sunroom offers an ideal spot to sit and watch the bay while still protected from the elements. Even on stormy evenings, the room offers thrilling views.
For many, the choice to pack up and move to an island paradise happens only after lifelong dreaming and years of searching. For Charleston, South Carolina, residents LeGrand and Allison Elebash, a developer and interior designer, respectively, that decision was almost instant. "We were offered an opportunity to build a resort on St. Kitts, which required us to move there for a few years," says Allison.
A whirlwind house-hunting trip led the couple and their two children, Hudson and Chloe, to a circa-1980s West Indies-style cottage overlooking Frigate Bay. "It was a little outdated, but it had so much character," Allison says.
The home's open floor plan, original parquet floors, and West Indies-style vaulted ceilings stained dark brown appealed to the homeowners. "It was perfect—we wanted a home that felt like we were in the islands, but still had an elegance about it, because we entertain a lot," says Allison.
The family room—with its slipcovered sofa, bold coffee table, and patterned pillows—exemplifies one of Allison's simple design tricks: "I always like to start with neutral sofas, because you can do anything with them," she says. "You can change out the pillows, side chairs, or tables in the room and the sofa still works."
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In the master bedroom, Allison gave the couple's existing headboard a makeover with soothing blue fabric. The natural vibe of the home is reflected in the warm wood furniture, bamboo blinds, and seagrass rug.
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Allison made sure the porch could accommodate the family's daily activities, including seaside siestas in a quilted hammock. "When we're home, we spend most of our time out on the porch," says Allison. "So there's a spot to do everything."
Over the course of a decade, this getaway on the marsh in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, had seen it all: kids growing up, graduating, moving away, getting married, having kids of their own. But while things changed and evolved for the family who lived there, the house stayed the same.
"They bought it completely furnished 10 years ago, and they never touched a thing," says interior designer Liz Carroll, whom the homeowners brought on board to oversee a remodel after a simple consultation led to something else entirely. "I went over to help them pick a color for the new hardwood floors they wanted to install," she says. "But by the end of the walk-through, we had decided to start over from scratch."
So out went aged teal carpeting and dark green walls; in their place, Carroll installed warm hardwoods and paired crisp whites with bright hues for a fresh, modern look. Here's how color can bring a past-its-prime home back to prominence.
Carroll didn't have to look far to find the color inspiration that would define the living room; she just had to glance out the windows. "When the marsh is in season, you get a bright hit of green where the grass meets the water," she says, "and when the sun sets, the sky turns pretty shades of lavender." To keep things from getting too overwhelming, though, she made sure to ground the space with soothing neutrals.
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Because the dining room is open to the main living area, Carroll continued the green-and-lavender palette, but in softer, more subdued colorways to keep the focus on food, friends, and family. "I didn't want to do too much here," she says, "but I love the chandelier. It's a custom piece that echoes the shape of a captain's wheel."
When Carroll laid eyes on a bolt of look-at-me, indoor/outdoor Trina Turk fabric, she didn't think twice about using it to upholster the guest room's custom headboard; she knew the fun, bold print was exactly what the homeowners had in mind. "The fabric became the jumping-off point," she says. "It informed everything else in the room."
The unexpected color combinations in the guest room's charming Katie Ridder wallpaper inspired Carroll to think outside the box. She borrowed the poppy red color from the tiny flag atop the illustrated ships and used it for the Greek key motif on the pillows and custom twin headboards, and again for the wide trim on the curtains.
This picturesque, two-bedroom cottage in Orleans, Massachusetts, was in prime condition, but new owners soon discovered they needed more room. Because of strict conservation regulations, the only option to add on was to create a new level below the first floor. “We didn’t want a McMansion; we wanted to stay true to the house and allow it to keep its scale and its authentic Cape Cod aesthetic,” the homeowner says.
The family room features a charmingly rustic vibe, thanks to its white painted wooden ceiling and walls and mix-and-match furnishings.
The homeowners opened up the previously cramped kitchen to allow for one of their favorite pastimes: entertaining.
In the bedroom, the couple opted for darker wood furnishings and accesories that pop against the light, exposed walls.
The office loft is the perfect place to enjoy the scenery, a cup of coffee, or even the occasional bit of paperwork.
A quaint, vintage cottage overlooking Lake Michigan’s cobalt blue water is the perfect summer escape for one South Florida family. One of the highlights of their yearly tradition? Celebrating Independence Day on the water.
In the family room, a red, white, and blue tableau helps the family set the scene for their patriotic festivities. The hues of blue are echoed in the gorgeous view of the breakers right outside.
The narrow dining nook is a natural gathering space, and further pulls in the homeowner’s love of seafaring motifs. “It’s like a real boat galley,” the homeowner says. “Squeezing around the table is part of the experience!”
Classic beaded board lends a cottage feel to this relaxing bedroom, which is especially serene thanks to the light blue ceiling and calming blue palette.
In one of the children’s rooms, the red, white, and blue palette is continued and punctuated with more pops of primary colors from old buoys secured about the bed.
This Whitemarsh Island, Georgia, getaway was restored with the home’s original character in mind. New operable shutters, blue window boxes, and a picket fence match its period look.
On the porch, a red-and-white palette takes a modern turn with graphic prints such as the pendant lampshade and the bold striped cushions with contrasting welts.
In the kitchen/dining area, the breakfast bar is clad with reclaimed wood that had been discarded from the original interior walls. "The old wood gives the remodeled kitchen instant history," the designer says. Salvaged heart-pine floors add age underfoot and echo the bar's warm wood tones.
In the living room, the yellow vintage typewriter table, antique lamps, and old ship's lantern pay homage to the past, while a white retro chair, graphic pillows, and simple, colorful artwork give the space a contemporary edge. An oyster shell painting over the sofa by local artist Bellamy Murphy ties the living area's range of hues together.
The bedroom’s new V-groove paneling keeps with the original style and spirit of the coastal cottage. The simple décor—the oyster shell chandelier, teal lamp, and colorful blanket—adds serenity to the space.
Once a shabby beach cottage, this updated escape now makes the most of its square footage to allow for picture-perfect family vacations.
The home's maritime location is subtly referenced in the architectural and decor details throughout, starting at the front entrance, with its ship-like lantern sconce, navy blue starry carpeted stair runner, and lighthouse-shaped banister post.
A subway-tile backsplash, farmhouse-style sink, durable Corian countertops, and open shelving ensure that the kitchen can handle any supper request that comes its way, while staying true to the previous home's sweet cottage look. "It was intended to be functional and charming, not a showpiece," says the architect.
Rather than having a family room centered around a TV, the focal point is a grand stone fireplace added on during the rebuild that extends from floor to ceiling—a labor of love for the family, who gathered some of the rocks from the beach nearby. Its uneven facade allows for makeshift crests that hold tea candles, creating a romantic feel. Shiplap boards on the walls and a painted plaster ceiling add architectural interest.
Side-by-side built-in double beds with a thick privacy wall in between allow each girl to lounge comfortably without disturbing the other. Drawers beneath the beds and carved-out shelving provide plenty of storage space.
Manhattan Beach designer Jill Johnson remade a ramshackle rental into her dream cottage, one room at a time.
A fun mix of prints in subtle hues come together beautifully in the living room, which features great views of neighboring cottages and towering palm trees.
With its two-tiered marble-topped island and cozy wicker chairs, the kitchen seems to ask guest to pull up a seat and stay a while. Open shelving shows off Johnson’s cool-hued dishes, while small square windows wash the space in happy sunlight.
The vintage bamboo chandelier, crisscross wallpaper, and cozy furnishings make this dining area both welcoming and sophisticated.
Light fabrics with bright accents give the room a much-needed openness. The ottoman and the bedside tables provide storage, while the fun striped rug adds a playful touch.
Designer Blair Gordon gave this precious Key West cottage a modern update, but kept the exterior true to the historic neighborhood. He used a conch shell pink on the siding, tempered the paint with a dark wood stain for the shutters, and painted the porch floors gray. “The bright color makes the house stand out,” he says.
The kitchen’s iridescent mosaic tile backsplash, capiz shell pendant light fixture, and îpe hardwood floors, lends an authentic feel thanks to their tropical island style. The large-scale fixtures paired with the dark wood floors, all-white walls, countertops, and cabinetry give the classic materials a touch of the unexpected.
A warm palette of cream, beige, and taupe is a natural fit for the living room's vintage style. Geometric shapes, such as honeycomb pattern on the throw pillows or the trellis motif on the rug, add a graphic punch to the muted palette. A range of textures, from the woven blinds to the brass lamp to the lacquered coffee table, also enlivens the space.
To make the headboard in the master bedroom, Blair enlarged a photograph of an antique French mirror, laser-cut a piece of wood to match the shape, and upholstered it in a large-scale print. Nailhead trim not only echoes the detailing but also highlights the headboard's oversize, dramatic silhouette.
Nothing says "beach house" like a wall-mounted sailfish. In the bunkroom, Blair turned that coastal icon into modern sculpture with glossy white paint. "It wouldn't be Key West without a little conch culture, but there's no reason to go overboard," he says. The nautical bunks also got the white paint treatment.
A sinking marsh-front cottage in Georgia is lovingly restored and moved to higher ground.
The stripped original poplar tongue-and-groove boards, heart pine flooring sealed with a clear polyurethane, and beeswax-polished pine mantel lend a warm, welcoming glow. The off-white trim is a crisp touch. They oyster shell painting and modern rattan coffee table lend a coastal feel to the space.
Reclaimed heart pine counters, open shelves, and a vaulted ceiling exude vintage charm. The 1952 double drainboard sink was discovered at a Georgia roadside antiques stand.
In the dining room, French doors open to a new screened porch with water views, replacing three small windows and a wood stove that heated the cottage before central heat was installed.
Vaulting the ceilings and lengthening the bathroom by three feet gave a light, airy feel to the space. The claw-foot tub lends old-school appeal.
This late 18th-century shinglestyle cottage sits on the main drag of Rowayton, Connecticut, a quaint harbor town that’s home to many sea-seeking artists and writers. It features 3,800 square feet spread over three floors with four bedrooms and four full baths.
An ancestor portrait leaning against the wall sets the eclectic, rustic-meets-industrial tone. The one of- a-kind dining table is made of vintage flooring from a Romanian farmhouse atop barley twist legs. The yellow chairs add a pop of sunny color and are easy to clean—a plus in a house with young children.
Vintage fixtures, plus exposed original architectural details, create a warm, comfortable mood in the master bath.
The turn-of-the-century, antique iron bed was bought by the homeowners as a wedding gift to each other. The bedposts are topped with tiny pineapples, a symbol of hospitality.
Vintage toys, colorful books, and classic prints in cheery shades infuse this kid’s room with a happy-go-lucky vibe. Suspended from the ceiling with eye hooks, the sheer circus tent-style drapes lend an enchanted quality to standard twin beds and give Sadie Grey’s room an under-the-big-top feel.