'I'm a fabric designer, and these are the 4 steps I use to nail coastal style'

Designer Zoe Glencross shares her expert advice on bringing the serene air of the seaside to your interior schemes

coastal inspired bedroom with striped bed linen colourful cushions, natural materials and basketware
(Image credit: Zoe Glencross)

Instantly soothing and peaceful, the perfect coastal style design requires a finely nuanced approach. 

When you first think of coastal living rooms, or, for that matter, any coastal interior design, your mind will go to blue and white stripes, driftwood décor and shelves filled with shells and miniature lighthouses. However, this approach will create a novelty feel that will quickly age.

‘For me, coastal design is about capturing the “sense” of being by the coast through light, natural colour tones, textures and patterns, rather than adding nautical trinkets,’ says fabric designer Zoe Glencross.  'These are the 4 steps I use to nail coastal style'

Zoe Glencross holding a stack of cushions
Zoe Glencross

Zoe Glencross is a British fabric designer specialising in printed linen. The designs all start life as sketches then the hand-printed patterns are created in the studio using silkscreen or lino-carved techniques. Perfect for a coastal scheme her works are full of natural beauty and rich in texture.

1. Take inspiration from the seafront

coastal inspired bedroom with striped bed linen colourful cushions, natural materials and basketware

(Image credit: Future)

‘A great coastal interior scheme should be relaxed, informal, understated and uncluttered, accessorised subtly with natural materials such as wood and basketware,' explains Zoe.

'Most of the patterning in a room should come from fabrics – printed linens are a great choice. Linen is such a textural fabric; its uneven construction works so well in any coastal setting. It’s 100 per cent natural and is one of the most sustainable fabrics on the planet so seems fitting for a coastal scheme.’ 

However, avoid using linens if creating a coastal bathroom scheme, instead opt for more durable window treatments such as uPVC wood-look blinds.

2. Be inspired by coastal light

linen curtains with whitewashed wooden flooring and houseplants

(Image credit: Piglet In Bed)

‘There’s a certain brightness of light that we experience when spending time on the coast,' muses Zoe. 'With blue skies and wide horizon views, this light can instantly soothe the soul, giving us a sense of calm.'

'When designing a coastal scheme, bringing in this sense of light – or daylighting – is key. A great way to achieve this is by using carefully selected natural light paint tones – I love whitewashed floorboards and walls, paired with light and breezy window treatments.’ 

3. Choose a coastal inspired colour palette

coastal inspired beige and cream living room with striped sofa and wall light

(Image credit: Zoe Glencross)

‘Blue and white is, of course, the easy go-to palette for an instant coastal look, with blue-printed fabrics bringing the predominant tone to the furnishings,' notes Zoe. 'Adding fresh greens or yellows into this blue-and-white aesthetic– perhaps as scatter cushions or accent lampshades – is an easy quick fix to lift this classic interior scheme. But blue and white is not the only option.'

'When you look at the natural colour tones of coastal landscapes, it often features soft greens, rich teals and dusty yellow ochres. Even pinky-beige tones found in shells and dusky-sunset skies can feel coastal if used in west-facing rooms that capture the warm early evening light – this is best seen in styles such as Coastal Grandma.’

4. Bring in non-traditional patterns

coastal inspired living room with striped sofa

(Image credit: Zoe Glencross)

‘Using patterned fabrics with unusual stripes – as seen in the deckchair stripes microtrend – or abstract textures works well and is a little more unusual than a plain stripe,' suggests Zoe.

'Opting for these kinds of patterns rather than obvious coastal motifs such as boats or lobsters (see crustaceancore) achieves a more understated, timeless coastal scheme.'

'Creating a statement focal point using a more ornate pattern on an oversized footstool or headboard is a great way to add interest without being predictably coastal.’

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.