Difference between Nautical and Coastal Interior Design

Sep 18, 2023

10 min


The secrets of two enchanting styles that bring the beach to your home

Source: Beach Life Living/Instagram


The world's coastlines, where land and sea converge, have long been a source of inspiration for interior design. From the rugged charm of New England's shoreline to the laid-back elegance of Mediterranean villas, coastal and nautical styles have woven a tapestry of their own. These design paradigms encapsulate the essence of seaside living, each with its unique character, yet there's more than meets the eye when it comes to distinguishing between the two.

Coastlines around the world showcase an incredible array of styles and influences. Whether it's the East Coast, West Coast, or the picturesque shores of Australia, each coastal region imparts its own unique influence on the art of interior design, contributing to the rich tapestry of global coastal styles.

Before we dive into the intricate details that set nautical and coastal design apart in terms of colors, form, lighting, decors, texture, space, and pattern, let's ponder a coastal trivia tidbit. The total length of the world's coastlines is difficult to measure due to the coastline paradox, which states that coastlines do not have a well-defined length. However, according to the World Factbook, the estimated total length of the world's coastlines is approximately 356,000 kilometers. To put this staggering figure in perspective, it's equivalent to circumnavigating the Earth more than 8 times. This awe-inspiring statistic underscores the immense diversity and beauty that our planet's coastal regions have to offer.

So, whether you're dreaming of designing your own coastal sanctuary or seeking inspiration for coastal homes, join us as we embark on a captivating journey. We'll navigate the waters of interior design to reveal the intricacies that differentiate nautical and coastal styles, guiding you toward making inspired design choices for your own slice of seaside paradise.

Prepare to immerse yourself in a world of colors, forms, and textures that evoke the timeless beauty of the coast. But first, let's delve into the heart of the matter—how nautical and coastal design differ in their interior design elements. Explore with us, and let your creativity set sail in a sea of possibilities.

Nautical and Coastal Home Interior Differences

Color Palettes 

Colors are the essence of interior design, setting the stage for the spaces we envision. In nautical and coastal design, our journey begins with distinct color palettes, each with its own unique character.

While both styles share a seaside allure, they subtly diverge in their use of color:


Nautical design embraces classic traditional furniture adorned with lightly distressed white finishes. This style combines the vintage appeal of well-loved pieces with the use of natural materials, echoing the organic textures of life at sea. The result is a timeless aesthetic that evokes the romance of seafaring adventures.

Coastal design, on the other hand, welcomes furniture with easy-going charm. Characterized by organic, natural, and clean lines, coastal furnishings invite a sense of comfort and relaxation. Heavy distressing adds a touch of weathered charm, making each piece feel like it belongs in a cozy seaside cottage.


In the world of nautical design, lighting takes on a distinctive character. It evokes the essence of sailing with elements like ropes, anchors, and sailing motifs subtly incorporated into fixtures. These pieces illuminate spaces with a seafaring spirit, casting a warm and inviting glow that tells tales of maritime legends.

Coastal design, in contrast, focuses on the allure of natural light. Airy drapery allows sunlight to filter through, creating an atmosphere that is both serene and refreshing. The emphasis is on illuminating spaces in a way that replicates the natural radiance of a sunlit beach, fostering a sense of calm and tranquility.


Nautical decor sets the stage with nautical prints, seashells, and a select few nautical accent pieces. These elements come together to emphasize the maritime theme, making you feel as though you've stepped aboard a beautifully crafted sailing vessel.

Coastal design, in its quest for unfussy sophistication, leans towards carefully curated decor. Coastal art, shells, pieces of coral, and other thoughtfully chosen items bring a touch of the seaside indoors. The result is a space that exudes an understated yet refined coastal charm.


Both nautical and coastal styles draw inspiration from nature's bounty. Raw, light wood, seashells, and coral find their place in the design of both aesthetics. These natural elements infuse spaces with warmth and authenticity.

Coastal design goes a step further by incorporating additional textures. Woven baskets, rope accents, and driftwood introduce tactile diversity, creating visual interest and depth in the decor. In contrast, nautical design integrates sailing-inspired textures and materials, invoking the sensations of life at sea.


Nautical spaces mirror elements of a sailboat and sailing, often featuring decor that pays homage to maritime adventures. It's a style that sets the stage for sea-inspired storytelling, where every corner whispers tales of the open water.

Coastal design, in contrast, seeks to emulate the relaxed, laid-back ambiance of a beachside retreat. Serene hues and natural materials dominate, creating a coastal environment that encourages leisurely living. It's an invitation to kick off your shoes and savor the moment by the shore.


Nautical design proudly carries the signature navy and white stripes as a hallmark pattern. These classic stripes evoke the timeless appeal of sailcloth and the crisp lines of a well-kept vessel.

Coastal design takes a slightly different path, favoring colors, textures, and patterns that evoke the coastal environment. Stripes often make an appearance here as well, but the emphasis is on capturing the essence of the seaside, whether through subtle textures or soothing color palettes.

So, as you embark on your interior design journey for coastal homes, consider these distinctions and let your creative vision set sail in the vast ocean of possibilities. Whether you choose nautical or coastal design, you'll find inspiration in the captivating beauty of the coast, each style offering its unique allure.

As we embark on our exploration of coastal and nautical design, it's essential to consider some valuable tips that can elevate your coastal home to new heights of sophistication and charm. Coastal design, in particular, has its nuances, and mastering them can make all the difference in creating an effortlessly elegant coastal haven.

Less Is More: Coastal design can tread the fine line between chic and kitschy. To steer clear of overdoing it, avoid overly literal decor elements like oversized seashells or boat-themed accessories. Instead, channel your creativity into selecting the right colors, textures, and patterns that evoke the coastal atmosphere while maintaining an air of refinement.

Embrace the Beachy Vibes: While nautical design pays homage to sailing, coastal design embraces the laid-back, beachy vibe of coastal living. Think of it as the difference between the precision of a well-crewed sailboat and the relaxed pace of a day at the beach. Let this inform your choices in decor, keeping things easygoing and unpretentious.

Cool and Effortless: Coastal design is all about creating a cool, effortless vibe in your home. Achieve this by incorporating light and airy drapery that allows natural light to filter in. Natural elements like seagrass, jute, and rattan can further enhance this atmosphere, evoking the breezy feel of the coast.

Choose Wisely: When selecting materials for your coastal home, be mindful of the weight they carry. Heavy materials like velvet can weigh down the ambiance and detract from the easy elegance you're aiming for. Opt for materials that contribute to a natural and serene atmosphere, maintaining the coastal charm.

Play with Wood Tones: Coastal design flourishes when you vary wood tones throughout your space. Don't limit yourself to the classic blue-and-white palette. Instead, experiment with different wood finishes and natural textures to add depth and character to your coastal oasis.

By keeping these tips in mind, you'll navigate the world of coastal home design with confidence, creating a space that effortlessly captures the spirit of the coast while radiating elegance and charm.


As we conclude our voyage through the captivating realms of nautical and coastal design, we’ve discovered the nuances that set these two styles apart. From the distinct color palettes to the textures, patterns, and decor elements, each style weaves a unique story inspired by the sea.

Now, armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to embark on your own coastal design journey. Whether you’re revamping your entire home or simply adding a touch of coastal charm to your living space, these insights will guide you in creating an oasis that reflects the effortless elegance of coastal living.

For more inspiration and tips on coastal design and other interior design styles, we invite you to subscribe to our educational newsletter. Dive deeper into the world of interior design and discover how our 3D rendering services can transform your space into a coastal sanctuary, capturing the essence of the coast in every detail.

Images: 3D renders of Coastal-style bedroom by HomeRender




List of countries by length of coastline - Wikipedia

Top 10 Countries with longest Coastline in the World (jagranjosh.com)

Coastline - The World Factbook (cia.gov)

Coast Lines - Views of the WorldViews of the World

This article was last updated on Jul 21, 2024