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Nautical Style vs. Coastal Style: Exploring the Differences

When it comes to interior design, the allure of the sea is undeniable. Both nautical and coastal styles draw inspiration from the ocean, beaches, and maritime life, creating spaces that evoke tranquility, relaxation, and a connection to nature. However, despite their similar origins, nautical and coastal styles are distinct in their aesthetics, color palettes, and overall feel. This post will delve into the nuances between these two popular design styles to help you understand and choose the right one for your space.

Nautical Style

What is Nautical Style?

Nautical style, also known as maritime or seafaring style, is a design aesthetic that celebrates the essence of life at sea. It’s inspired by the traditional elements of sailing and the maritime world, often incorporating motifs, colors, and materials associated with ships and naval life.

Key Characteristics of Nautical Style:

  1. Color Palette:
    • The nautical style predominantly features a classic color scheme of navy blue, white, and shades of red. These colors mirror the traditional uniforms and flags used in maritime settings.
  2. Materials:
    • Natural materials such as wood and rope are staples in nautical design. Weathered wood, reminiscent of old ships and docks, is commonly used for furniture and decor.
  3. Decorative Elements:
    • Nautical decor often includes items like anchors, ship wheels, maps, compasses, and maritime flags. Striped patterns, especially in blue and white, are a signature look.
  4. Furniture:
    • Furniture in nautical style tends to be sturdy and functional, often resembling pieces you might find on a ship. Think wooden chests, leather armchairs, and robust tables.
  5. Accessories:
    • Nautical accessories can include model ships, lanterns, nautical clocks, and framed sea charts. These elements add a touch of authenticity and reinforce the maritime theme.

Overall Feel:

  • Nautical style creates a bold, structured, and somewhat formal ambiance. It’s about bringing the spirit of the sea into the home with a sense of adventure and history.

Coastal Style

What is Coastal Style?

Coastal style, also known as beach or seaside style, is a design aesthetic that captures the relaxed, breezy vibe of life by the shore. It emphasizes light, airy spaces, and a connection to the natural surroundings of the coast.

Key Characteristics of Coastal Style:

  1. Color Palette:
    • Coastal style features a softer, more muted color palette inspired by the beach and ocean. Think light blues, sandy neutrals, soft whites, and seafoam greens.
  2. Materials:
    • Natural, light materials such as wicker, rattan, linen, and driftwood are commonly used in coastal design. These materials contribute to a casual, comfortable feel.
  3. Decorative Elements:
    • Coastal decor often includes beach-themed items like seashells, coral, starfish, and driftwood art. Nautical elements like anchors are less common in coastal design.
  4. Furniture:
    • Furniture in coastal style is typically casual and comfortable. Slipcovered sofas, wicker chairs, and weathered wooden tables are popular choices, aiming for a relaxed, lived-in look.
  5. Accessories:
    • Coastal accessories can include glass jars filled with sand and shells, beachy artwork, and soft, lightweight textiles. The goal is to create a serene and inviting environment.

Overall Feel:

  • Coastal style evokes a sense of calm and relaxation. It’s all about capturing the essence of the beach and creating a peaceful, airy, and open atmosphere.

Comparing Nautical and Coastal Styles

1. Color Schemes:

  • Nautical Style: Bold and contrasting colors like navy, white, and red.
  • Coastal Style: Soft, muted colors inspired by the beach and sea, such as light blue, sandy beige, and seafoam green.

2. Materials:

  • Nautical Style: Emphasizes traditional maritime materials like weathered wood and rope.
  • Coastal Style: Focuses on light, natural materials like wicker, rattan, and driftwood.

3. Decorative Elements:

  • Nautical Style: Incorporates maritime symbols like anchors, ship wheels, and compasses.
  • Coastal Style: Features beach-themed decor like seashells, starfish, and coral.

4. Furniture:

  • Nautical Style: Sturdy, functional pieces reminiscent of ship furnishings.
  • Coastal Style: Casual, comfortable furniture with a relaxed, lived-in feel.

5. Ambiance:

  • Nautical Style: Structured, bold, and somewhat formal.
  • Coastal Style: Light, airy, and casual, evoking a sense of calm and relaxation.

Choosing the Right Style for Your Space

When deciding between nautical and coastal styles, consider the following:

  1. Personal Preference:
    • Do you prefer the bold, adventurous feel of nautical decor or the relaxed, serene vibe of coastal design?
  2. Functionality:
    • Think about how you use your space. If you need a more formal and structured environment, nautical style might be suitable. For a casual, family-friendly space, coastal style could be the better choice.
  3. Existing Decor:
    • Consider your current decor and how well each style would integrate with what you already have. Coastal style tends to be more versatile and easier to blend with various elements.
  4. Location:
    • If you live by the sea, coastal style can enhance the natural surroundings. Nautical style can work well in both coastal and inland homes, bringing a touch of the maritime world indoors.


Both nautical and coastal styles offer unique ways to bring the beauty and charm of the sea into your home. By understanding the key differences in color schemes, materials, decorative elements, furniture, and ambiance, you can make an informed decision about which style best suits your space and personal taste. Whether you opt for the bold, structured appeal of nautical design or the light, breezy feel of coastal decor, you’ll create a space that reflects your love for the ocean and its timeless allure.

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