If there's one style that never goes out of style, it's the nautical, beach-inspired look, perhaps because of the nostalgia that it carries with it. (After all, what better childhood memories are there than of Fourth of July barbecues and sand castle contests at the beach?)
The trick to creating that cozy waterside atmosphere inside your home, though, is to avoid the kitsch and keep it looking natural. "Remember not to get carried away with beach shtick like rope and boat floats and fishing nets," says Jeff West, owner of the store Jeff West Home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. "It starts to look like a tacky seafood restaurant."
West advises that all sea-inspired decoration should have a purpose, as when tiny shells hold up candles in hurricane vases or when big shells are used as doorstops. And materials should reflect a casual environment. "It's all about linen, wicker, whitewashed woods ... an understated beachy feel," he says. Whether you have a family beach house that needs some updating or you want to incorporate that laid-back vacation vibe at home, we've rounded up ideas that will keep summer going year-round.
Classics with a twist
Though the beach look is timeless, even the classics need updating. Donald J. Wooters, an interior designer and co-owner of the shop Dwelling & Design in Easton, Md., says that today's twist on wicker is to buy it in colors, to "just give the traditional thing a modern look." He recommends wicker furniture made by Mainly Baskets, such as the veranda chair, which comes in 14 colors including Dawn Sky Blue and Lemonade ($355, www.theclassycottage.com).
Another beach house classic is slipcovered furniture. "One thing I think is always an essential look for a beach house is a beautiful slipcovered sofa and chairs in neutral sailcloth or sometimes in piped and contrasting colors," West says. "It's always a fresh, crisp and timeless look." For a comfy basic, try Restoration Hardware's Grand-Scale Roll Arm Collection ($1,495-$3,190, www.restorationhardware.com).
It goes without saying that blue is a popular choice for beach-house color schemes, but today's blue "is bolder than the sea-glass colors of the last few years," says interior designer Fiona Newell Weeks, Wooters's co-owner at Dwelling & Design. "Think turquoise paired with emerald and chartreuse. And navy and white seem like they will always be strong." For that look try the Riviera armchair, an update of the classic 1930s bistro chair. For navy-and-white palettes, Weeks recommends orange or coral accents ($245, www.serenaandlily.com).
Indoor-outdoor fabric is your friend
"Easy living is the key," Weeks says, as seaside homes will have to stand up to spills from suntan lotion, kids' snacks, red wine and more. Enter today's indoor-outdoor fabrics, which West says "aren't just for porches anymore."
Indoor-outdoor rugs, such as the Beckham striped denim rug, are crucial for beach houses. "Outdoor rugs are being used indoors often in spill zones due to their cleanability," Weeks says. "In a lot of beach houses, the floors are so damaged. ... This is a quick way to cover that up as well" ($298-$514, www.dashandalbert.com).
Have a little fun by using indoor-outdoor fabric in a surprising place, with the Fresh American Trimaran striped pouf in turquoise ($275, www.dashandalbert.com). Or Company C's chevron Julep pillow in indoor-outdoor fabric would be a cheery throw for that classic slipcovered sofa ($65, www.laylagrayce.com).
Tame sand and clutter
Because all the sand on the beach seems to make it through the front door -- not to mention sandals, shovels and sunscreen -- "you need good baskets around to throw flip-flops and towels in," West says. "It's a great look and serves a good purpose." Terrain's color-block wicker basket puts a trendy spin on wicker and is good for indoor or outdoor use ($118-$138, www.shopterrain.com).
Another good tool for managing the sand-filled clutter is a coat rack or set of hooks. Hang the Pottery Barn's anchor row of hooks inside or out for a subtle nod to the nautical style, and then hang swimsuits and towels to dry. "There just aren't enough towel bars in a beach house when you consider all of the showers a person takes to remove the sand and all of the damp towels that are left around," Weeks says ($59, www.potterybarn.com).
Entertain with ease
Wooters says that all beach houses should have an assortment of trays, "all kinds of decorative trays, for entertaining, or for using on ottomans, or just as accents." Carry one to a picnic on the lawn for an on-the-spot bar or use one to run a dinner down to the dock for an impromptu sunset cruise. West Elm's square lacquer trays come in a rainbow of colors ($24, www.westelm.com).
A second home can be a good place to try out whimsical styles that you might not try out at home, such as bamboo-edged dinnerware. Juliska's Classic Bamboo Collection "has that natural look that fits well in any beach or waterfront environment," Weeks says. "And they mix well with other pieces, too." Not to mention that the dishes are safe for the microwave, oven and dishwasher, so they'll "hold up in a large family atmosphere" ($36-$89, www.juliska.com).
Because so much vacation time is spent outside, don't forget to make the outdoors as comfortable as the indoors. Target's rope hammock chair would make a nice island-inspired place to read or take in the watery view -- though Weeks and Wooters have also installed hammocks inside homes for an indoor getaway ($48, www.target.com).
Provide multiple spots for alfresco lounging with a few folding wooden deck chairs from Vancouver, B.C.-based Gallant & Jones. The removable fabric is UV resistant and comes in enough patterns to suit any style ($207-$435, gallantandjones.com).
For family barbecues, there's no better seating than a picnic table. The Pemaquid picnic table comes in two lengths -- six feet or eight -- and has attached benches ($449-$549, www.walpolewoodworkers.com).
From kitsch to class
Use beach imagery, such as shells, in unexpected ways -- and with restraint. "If I have a small shell or small piece of coral, I'll glue it to a finial for a lamp," West says. "A beach house has to be a little bit about patina and a collected easy lifestyle." And instead of displaying a collection of shells on a table or in a vase, Weeks suggests using them in a fireplace surround. The White Angel Wing shell finial provides yet another example of a surprising place to use shells: on a curtain rod ($100, thecurtainrodshop.com).
At night, tuck your sunburned self into Garnet Hill's mini-print percale bedding, with whimsical, not cliche, prints of anchors, sand dollars or whales ($16-$44, www.garnethill.com).
Natural fibers recall the outdoors without creating an overwhelming outdoorsy feel (think: fishing nets as wall art). "The more natural the materials are, the more people are attracted to them," Wooters says. Grasscloth wallpaper is one way to use them, as are window coverings, such as Bali's Roman shade in Cabo Honey Nut. Window coverings have the added value of keeping furniture and art from becoming sunbleached ($70-$110, www.jcpenney.com).