Bring Beach Style Into Your Home, Year-Round

sand-castles-6Summer is drawing to an end—in some parts of the country, kids are heading back to school. Maybe you’re already getting nostalgic for your summer vacation at a beach house (or wish you had one). There’s no reason that beach style has to be a seasonal thing—you can bring the natural colors and textures of the coast into your home year-round, no matter where you are.

Inspiration from the source

Great coastal design should start with organic inspiration from the very place you’re using as a visual reference.

“Inspiration has to come from the source. By simply looking at editorial shots in magazines and imitating the decor, all we wind up with is a diluted version,” says Tim Neve, author of “Sand Castles: Interiors Inspired by the Coast.” Neve notes that some of the homes whose ocean-inspired style he profiles in the book are actually many miles from the water.

But if you happen to be by the shore, spend some time walking the beach and looking for inspiration in whatever you can see and touch. If you’re landlocked, use your favorite seaside memory for inspiration. And don’t think that you’re limited to seashells and coral; Neve’s book refers to tropical, nautical, bohemian, and beach lifestyles, inspired by the people who have made their lives on and around the ocean.

An island-inspired lounge area

An island-inspired alfresco lounge area.

Colors of sea and shore

Start building your design by choosing a color palette.

“Starting with a neutral base palette (inspired by the beach, of course) lets you try different decorating concepts,” Neve says.

To keep your design modern, look for neutral hues that exist naturally by the sea—like the pearl-white inside of an oyster shell, the bleached, tan color of driftwood, or the creamy beige of sand. Once you have a palette, you can add more vibrant organic colors from your favorite beach, or colorful textiles that old-time seafarers might have brought home from distant lands.

Sandcastle buckets painted with silver glitter adorn a mantel.

Sand castle buckets painted with silver glitter adorn a mantel.

Beach combing

Finding the right decor pieces to polish off a room doesn’t have to be challenging—or expensive—when you’re building a coastal theme.

“The rustic look goes hand in hand with creating an authentic coastal style, and follows the mantra that ‘money doesn’t buy style’; an important truth to remember if you feel overwhelmed about decorating your own home,” Neve says.

Reclaimed items from the beach can have the most dramatic impact on a room. For example, try using driftwood as floating shelves along an open wall or creating a wind chime out of oyster shells. Neve’s book features a striking mantel arrangement of coral, driftwood, and plastic sandcastle buckets covered in glitter.

A nautical-themed guest bedroom

Johan Palsson

A nautical-themed guest bedroom.

Coastal style goes inland

When you’re considering the style, remember that you don’t need to live in a large, expensive home on a private beach to have a great coastal theme. Neve, who spent weeks photographing homes for his book, found his favorite designs didn’t come from the largest homes, or even the beachfront properties.

“When I first said I was doing a coastal book, I think people expected multimillion-dollar beachfront homes, but instead it was the quiet homes that really speak the loudest in this book. Like the little rustic cottages that the owners have taken the time to decorate with love, they felt immediately inviting and resonate on the pages because of this style,” Neve says.

As long as your coastal style is a natural reflection of you and your surroundings, it will fit in anywhere.


What the Heck Is a Renovation Coach

Renovation coach

Cher Lewis was living in Paris when she found out that the rear wall of her historic New York City carriage house was in danger of collapsing.

In order to fix it, she’d have to file the appropriate paperwork with the local historic preservation board and then hire managing engineers, architects, and other contractors—from another continent. Then, of course, she’d have to oversee them.

So she turned to a renovation coach, Alex Bandon of North River Renovation Management in New York City, to get the job done.

“Alex had the people skills to schedule the contractors in sequence and make sure they all played nice,” Lewis says. “Contractors are much more responsive and honest when they know that someone who understands their work is evaluating it.”

This year, U.S. homeowners are expected to exceed the record $324 billion spent on remodeling projects during the peak of the housing boom in 2007, according to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. But home renovations can go expensively awry. And that’s where you might need some expert guidance.

What does a renovation coach do?

A renovation coach is a kind of expert project manager for your remodel—and no, these coaches don’t just work on historic homes. They aren’t contractors or architects, but they advocate for you in hiring those folks and managing their work. Coaches help with budgeting, design, meeting with vendors, and/or choosing materials. They may guide you every step of the way, or just help you get your feet wet.

Some renovation coaches are former contractors or architects themselves. Others, like Bandon, have amassed their insider knowledge in other ways; Bandon was an editor at “This Old House” magazine for 15 years before starting her consulting business earlier this year.

Roxann Lloyd of Red Chair Designs in Denver, CO, calls herself a “design therapist.”

“I give clients the confidence they don’t necessarily have when they’re doing this on their own,” she says. Lloyd has a go-to list of trusted vendors whom she’ll connect with her clients.

Does the size of your project matter?

The short answer: no.

Dina Petrakis, a former general contractor who now owns Littlerock Renovation Coaching in Chicago, works on projects of all sizes.

“Some DIY clients might want to do the work on their own, but they’ll ask for an initial consult to get some design direction and a list of contractors they can work with,” she says.

“My busier clients want me to handle all of the footwork, so we’ll do the planning up front together, then I bring contractors in to get estimates,” she says. Petrakis writes up a scope of work with the homeowners to get comparable bids from contractors—which helps protect the client and make sure everyone is on the same page.

What does it cost (and is it worth the money)?

Homeowners investing in a renovation might be hesitant to add an extra line item to their cost sheet. But the price won’t necessarily bust your budget—and coaches say you get the money back by avoiding costly mistakes and overtime from miscommunications and shoddy work.

Petrakis charges an hourly rate of $120 strictly for her time; she doesn’t accept finder’s fees from vendors or mark up the materials she finds for her clients.

Bandon charges an hourly rate of $150 and offers homeowners flat-fee packages tailored to their needs. A basic consultation, where she runs through the scope of work and helps homeowners choose the right vendors, might cost $1,000 for six to eight hours. For a more involved project (a complete kitchen remodel, for instance), where she’s managing all the details over two or three months, homeowners might pay $3,000 to $5,000.

Lloyd has a base package that’s $250 for up to two hours of an initial design consultation. For a major kitchen or bathroom remodel, she charges a flat project fee, which varies depending on the size and scope of the project.

How do you find the right renovation coach?

There’s no professional association for renovation coaches, so you’ll have to search for one—try Google or Houzz. In vetting candidates, of course you want to check references, scour online reviews, and ask the right questions.

“You want to find someone who will listen to your needs,” says Bandon, adding that a good renovation coach will teach you something you don’t already know about your particular project.

If a potential renovation coach can’t articulate the process or how he or she goes about vetting contractors, those are red flags, Bandon warns. Above all, you need to be comfortable with the way the coach communicates and make sure he or she has experience overseeing similar projects, she says.

How do you know if you need one? 

If you’re not sure whether you need a renovation coach, ask yourself: Am I prepared to oversee the project, vet the major players, and be my own advocate? Also ask: Can my marriage survive the strain of managing a remodel without help?

Coaches say it sometimes takes an objective observer to walk homeowners through the decision-making process, asking questions that get to the heart of what they want. And not everyone ends up renovating.

Lloyd worked with one couple who wanted a massive addition to their home to accommodate their expanding family. Over the course of a month, her counsel helped them realize they needed to buy another home instead of moving forward with the renovation. She gave them a list of Realtors® to put the wheels in motion.

“They told me I saved their marriage,” Lloyd says.

Let’s Put Some Color Back in the Kitchen

Colorful modern kitchen

Growing up, I watched every episode of “Grace Under Fire.” The show’s heroine, Grace Kelly, had a small robin’s-egg blue refrigerator in her kitchen. It was old and had a single door and rounded edges—I loved it. After every kitchen scene I thought, “I’m going to have a fridge just like that in my house.”

Later in the series, the refrigerator was painted white. Suddenly, the cheery blue appliance I’d been coveting for years looked just like any old fridge. I was devastated.

That trauma lasted well into adulthood. Grown-up me, clutching childhood dreams of colorful kitchens, just knew she’d be able to find a blue fridge, or maybe avocado green, or even a nice earthy yellow. Instead, I found a sea of metal.

Cold, sharp-angled stainless-steel appliances stared back at me everywhere I went: in friends’ homes, home improvement stores, even used appliance stores.

Grace Kelly in her kitchen in “Grace Under Fire”

Grace, in her kitchen

I wanted something more playful, something that would match my personality and create a focal point in the kitchen. Where did all the color go? To find out, I needed a history lesson.

Colorful appliances, as it turned out, first came on the scene in the 1950s.

“This was the era of color TV, so when armed with this powerful new visual tool, designers and appliance manufacturers marketed everything with that in-color angle,” says Diana Hathaway Timmons, color expert and design consultant in the Tacoma, WA, metro area.

Eclectic Kitchen

Anthony Perez via

Eclectic Kitchen

Marketing wizards pushed color hard.

“Decor ads back then went as far as to market their appliance colors to match your wardrobe or favorite shoes,” Timmons says. And it worked. From the multihued variations in the ’50s and ’60s, to the earthy tones in the ’70s, color hung in.

That is, until the early ’80s, when color started to fall out of fashion.

“This is when you saw less Harvest Gold and more almond and beige appliances,” says Timmons.

Chic and modern farmhouse

Corynne Pless via

Chic Modern Farmhouse

But those pale neutrals didn’t last long either. Soon consumers were leaning toward black and white appliances again. Stainless steel first showed up in the ’90s, according to Timmons, but it didn’t really take off until TV intervened, again, to change people’s tastes.

“Fueled by the popularity of the Food Network, cooking and entertaining at home in a commercial-style kitchen drove the stainless-steel appliance movement,” says Timmons.

Suddenly, everyone wanted sleek stainless steel. And home buyers started to expect it.

So had I really already lost the battle? Had manufacturers finally given up on unique style? Not entirely.

Manufacturers still make new color creations for the don’t-want-to-overpay masses from time to time. Following in the footsteps of tech giants, some appliance companies have adopted “ice white.” Sometimes other metallic finishes such as shimmery gold and dark bronze show up, but they don’t have a big impact.

“It won’t shake the hold stainless steel has,” Timmons says. “The perception still is, stainless equals high-end.”

But what about the robin’s-egg blue, cherry, and avocado shades of my childhood dream home?

Lake house barn-wood bar

Drew Steven via

Lake House Barnwood Bar

It is a fringe market, but some colorful appliance creations still exist. After an online opinion poll, General Electric announced plans to make its retro GE Artistry line in two new shades: Cupcake Blue and Red Pepper.

Vintage design master Big Chill also makes its Mid-Century Modern fridge in several amazing colors such as Pink Lemonade, Jadite Green, Buttercup Yellow, and Beach Blue.

The Beach Blue looks almost identical to Grace’s old kitchen fridge—it gets my heart pounding.

Traditional kitchen

Big Chill via

Traditional kitchen

But getting those unique colors will cost you.

GE is raising the base price of its Artistry line from $1,200 to $1,500 for the color options, according to CNET. Big Chill comes with a shiver-inducing $2,995 price tag.

So what’s a (kind of cheap) girl to do?

Paint: If you already have a boring stainless-steel fridge, there are painting contractors out there who will paint your refrigerator, Timmons says. It may not be the cheapest option, but you’ll save over the “custom” colors of the higher-end models.

Go magnetic: Magnets don’t stick to true stainless steel, but if you have a painted fridge, you can change the color with magnetic fronts. These fronts are designed to cover the entire door, making a big change, according to Timmons.

Decals: Not ready for a drastic change? Sites such as Etsy offer vinyl decals in an endless variety of styles and colors. Sure, it isn’t a complete color change, but you can choose patterns and designs as well.

As for me, I think I’ll turn on some “Grace Under Fire” reruns and dream of a more colorful time.