Friday, April 16, 2010

Coastal Cottage Done Right

While I'm a huge fan of the ocean and the beach, I'm not generally in love with most coastal decor. It's just way too...literal. Sure, sea fans and coral are pretty -- and a few bits scattered about can bring a lovely, beachy touch of nature to your home. I have bits of both at home myself. But more often than not, your average seaside cottage is chock-a-block full of shells and sand. Yes, your home should reflect its environment (when watching HGTV, I've always find it odd when folks in, say, Seattle wants to give their house a Tuscan makeover), but -- and this is a big "but" -- that doesn't mean it should be a slave to it, especially if the result is that it veers from "referential" to all-out theme.

So if you're looking to decorate a beach cottage (lucky you) or are simply interested in bringing a few coastal touches to your land-locked abode, my advice is to take Amanda Nisbet's lead (never a bad idea, mind you) and keep your beach references more oblique by focusing on texture (rattan, grasscloth, seagrass, etc.).

I actually like that the dominant color in the living room is brown. The pops of coral and turquoise are really allowed to stand out against the natural rattan furniture, sea grass carpet and mocha sofa (made far more interesting with the contrast white piping). For me though the star of this room is the lighting: that coral bamboo chandelier is divine! Note too how Amanda made two different table lamps feel like a pair by having the white table lamp's shade trimmed out in a turquoise to match the other's base. The lucite console table is a great modern contrast to the more traditional, Pottery Barn-esque upholstery.

I'm not normally a fan of panelling, but I do love the casual, rustic touch white-washed panelling brings. It's a classic, "cottage" touch. I also like how Amanda used bamboo as a curtain rod. This is an inexpensive trick that would bring an organic touch to any space. If you're looking to up the glamour factor, I'd spray-paint the bamboo in a high-gloss color (white, black, red or coral would all be classic choices).


I love the watery blue backsplash in this kitchen -- it really breaks up all the natural wood. Touches of coral are carried from the living room into the kitchen with those large hurricane lanterns (also used to a similarly great effect on the front porch). The rattan element is similarly repeated here in the bar stools. Rustic, handmade-looking pendant lights are suspending with simple rope over the breakfast bar are another great, textural touch. When dealing with an open floor plan, it is essential to decorate cohesively. While you're dividing up the large space into different functions, you still need to decorate as though it were a single room.

Simple, floating shelves are a great way to maximize display and storage space in an awkward spot underneath the stairs. I know I said to back off on the coastal chotchkies, but a few of your favorite pieces, when displayed together as a collection rather than scattered randomly about, is fine -- especially when the rest of the house isn't drowning in starfish, coral and boats. I also rather love the mermaid perched on the lowest shelf.

This dining room is probably my favorite area in the great room. Not only are those dining chairs totally covetable, but the coral motif in their backs is such a great way to reference Amanda's coastal inspiration without being too obvious. The nailhead details on the seats are another sophisticated touch that dresses up the overall feel of the space. I also absolutely love the built-in bar area, with the turquoise countertops and glass-fronted cabinets. I only wish Amanda had painted out the cabinet backs in turquoise as well (though maybe that would've been overdoing things...).


What I think makes Amanda Nisbet such a talented designer is her attention to detail. Everything in this shot works together beautifully -- yet it's deceptively simple. The grasscloth's yummy chartreuse color (much more unexpected in a beach cottage setting than blue and yet still very breezy and coastal, I think when done with neutrals) is picked up in the contrast welt on the chaise (the oval shape of which I love), the striped lamp shade, and the trim on the curtains. The framed bathing costume as art is a great touch and easily replicated on the cheap.


Even though all the bedroom furniture is white, its disparate styles really give the room some subtle interest. I love the latticed side tables in particular, which allow for plenty of room for the stacks of magazines and books that I take with me on vacation. The palm frown pillows bring the walls' color down to the bed (and keep the white bedding from feeling too stark) and the abstraction of the print is a great modern elements here. Another great modern touch are the clear glass table lamps, which are an interesting shape and height, though their transparency means they don't compete with the grasscloth wallpaper (the real star here). The modern art is a great final touch here as it keeps the bedroom from feeling to country cottage -- and while a little beach-inspired art is good, there's absolutely no reason a coastal style has to limit itself to that. The key to successfully pulling off a coastal cottage look and having it feel current is (as always) to mix it up!

27 comments:

Karena said...

Averill. I loe this coastal design by Amanda Nisbet, it is as you say "Done Right"!

Karena
Art by Karena

Christy said...

I couldn't agree more with you Averill. That mermaid is just toooo cute. I don't own one yet - but everytime I see one in a shop I pause and contemplate purchasing it...just haven't found the perfect one (YET!). And that dining room is awesome - though I would have added a patterned fabric to the seats instead, and definitely love your idea of painting the backs of the cabinet. Fabulous post - so fun to read and admire. Hope you have a great weekend!

Things That Inspire said...

Love this house - it is so beautiful and so now. But - as much as I am enjoying these pictures - I do feel as if this house is so 'now' that it will be dated in a few years. You know I rarely say anything negative - and this is not really negative, just....aware. What do you think?

ashlina said...

so i used to go floating down the river all the time growing up..new branfels area. (sp?) this beautiful home reminds me of those homes near the river! i LOVE it. so beautiful! great post sweets.
hope you have a great weekend! XO

beachhouse etc. said...

hey love the use of the space by the stairs...and also like the pillows on the bed. thanks again girly girl.suzanne

Kathysue said...

Averill what a great post on a wonderful home done with touches of the beach. I am with you on a room being too thematic and you articulated beutifully how it can be done without being overt. The dining room was a fav of mine also. Loved the rattan seats and the nailheads. I thought about the blue on the back of the cabinet and you are right it would have been one step too far. I think I would have painted it in the same color as the wall for more of a see-through look. Oh listen to me, it is pretty near perfect no need to change anything. Fun to think about!! Have a good weekend and thank you soooo much for your sweet comment on my Master bath post. I feel very complimented that you liked it so much. Kathysue

Nichole@40daysof said...

A drool worthy house for sure. And definitely not themey.

Susie @ Maddie's Nest said...

I really love it, too. I am working on a home where the owner wants and "Almost Key West" vibe and I am trying very hard to stay away from the cliche themes. I love this. It reminds me a bit of our lake house in the mountains...where even if in years times it looks a bit "dated" it won't matter....b/c it is a house you can live in and enjoy....vs a showpiece.....where you have to worry about kids coming in with damp suits, etc.

Design Darling said...

your beautifully written commentary hits the nail on the head. it's so refreshing to read a blog whose author clearly cares about word choice and grammar — and it doesn't hurt that i agree 110% with your design sensibilities! have a lovely weekend, averill!

Fr√łken Frost said...

I liked everything except the kitchen cabinets and the panelling =)I loved the idea of the closet and the sheving under the staircase!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

...And I get the vibe that this is a cottage on the west coast somewhere is?)(do you know where it.

The different coasts all have (and ask for) a subtle change in style too.

Some great touches.

Tracy @ ComfortandLuxury said...

I love Amanda Nisbet's rooms. The way she works so much color and texture into a space that's still crisp and fresh — never rumpled or cluttery like a classic English cottage's riot of color and pattern which I also love (but I think I'm beginning to like this look more).

Emily A. Clark said...

Love these spaces. There's nothing worse than a beach-themed room and nothing better than a room w/ touches of the beach! The right touches can make any room more relaxing and casual. Beautiful post.

The Zhush said...

Love this house, love Amanda Nisbet, and love your take and description of decor! Those floating shelves by the steps are perfection! And, that framed bathing suit...I actually have duplicated that on the cheap with my son's tiny suits, and they came out great!

Marija said...

LOVE seeing a kitchen that works and isn't white. As much as I totally love a white kitchen - this is so refreshing! I'm not nearly so bold with colors as I'm always so cautious about falling victim to trends or dating a project. I think the rattan adds an element of restraint here though that I admire! Marija

Acanthus and Acorn said...

This is a very beautiful home, with wonderful attributes.

But, I can help but want to edit out some of the accessories. There are too many small items on the shelves in the family room that I think are distracting.

The other spaces are a far more appealing interpretation of coastal.

Alicia said...

Love it!!! What makes it wonderful & Amanda a genius (duh!) is that its not overrun with all things coastal or nautical. I want the seascape to wash over me, not smother me in every way possible. Sometimes it ends up looking more like a Pottery Barn catalog or a retail vignette the way some rooms drown in coastal motif.
God I need that grasscloth!!

Laura@JourneyChic said...

Great advice on how not to take a theme too literally. My least favorite decor "theme" is southwest (you know, peach + turquoise with cheesy desert paintings). Ugh. Amanda Nisbet is so talented. The backsplash is my absolute fave, but I love that bedroom, too. Very relaxing!

Sarah Klassen said...

This is so true, Averill! I'm not a fan of overtly literal decorating -- decorating in an all-out theme...it seems to stages and lacking originality. I do, however, like this coastal home you have featured, especially those rooms with a great deal of green. What a refreshing look!

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend...

Poindexter said...

Love love love that blue tile in the kitchen. You're right, it does look like the water. Perfect touch. thx for sharing.

Kara said...

I'm a big fan of coastal styles but I like it a little less literal too. White and blue and touches of whimsy go far with me. Love that tile in the kitchen!

Sarah (Matters of Style) said...

Love love love love! I like your commentary on it too- I feel like I learned something!

rosiecampbell said...

I love Amanda Nisbet. Her style is so cool and calming. EVerything about this house is perfect.

www.rosiecampbell.net

Sanity Fair said...

I heart Nisbet, and I keep seeing that coral chandelier everywhere. WANT!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I personally do like coastal cottage style - but not if it's exploding with theme objets. A little coral goes a long way... My favorites here are the dining table and the chartruese wall cover. One of my favorite colors.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I have my fishing pole & bait box packed & ready to move in. So fabulous to view this cottage. All that is good in design x

Anonymous said...

do you know where the coffee table came from? thanks!

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