So what is American Coastal style?

At KWD we are often asked to create a Hamptons style home. However there are misconceptions about this type of aesthetic. Hamptons style is frequently viewed as American Coastal, so our first step at KWD is to drill down to work out what our client’s vision really looks like. Hamptons style is very formal, elegant, expensive and detailed.  Think Grayson Manor in the series ‘Revenge’ – dark timber floors, chandeliers, grand staircases, ceiling sconces and heavily panelled walls. Often confused with the Boathouse style which is all whitewashed and beachy, Hamptons style is in fact New York money set in a coastal location.

American Coastal interior design and architecture originates from coastal homes across America, especially those located on the Atlantic coastline. This style is becoming increasingly popular style in Australia and it’s easy to see why there is a movement towards this look,  with so many coastal properties perfectly suited to this light and comfortable style. Importantly, many elements of this design style can be used in city or country properties that are nowhere near the coast, and still work just as well. Casual yet classic, this style is all about soft furnishings, ocean hues and a room that imparts a relaxed, stylish feeling.

pAmerican Coastal style plays with nautical décor and natural elements (driftwood, shells, coral) and there is a distinct lack of florals. White is the dominant colour mixed with light-reflecting materials like glass and mirrors paired with natural fibres of bamboo, sisal, sea grass, cane, teak and rattan. Floors are generally timber.


This style is coastal, but definitely not beachy. There are no anchors, fish or life buoys on display, no seaside images on tiles or white washed sayings painted on timber. It’s all about creating a relaxed feel.


Think big, comfy sofas and armchairs, linen fabrics, slipcovers, floaty sheers and pure white or washed out pastels. Barely-there blues are important coastal colours too, reminiscent of the sea and sky, but tone on tone rather than contrasting. Hints of classic nautical hues like navy and white can look fresh too.

Coastal interiors often blur the line between indoors and outdoors, with windows everywhere and glass doors and skylights allowing sunshine to flood in. There is a distinct lack of window treatments – plantation shutters, bamboo blinds or muslin curtain panels at most. Light and weathered woods work perfectly, timbers worn smooth and bleached out.

Darker woods can have a place in this style in highlighted pieces, with a oak chest or teak armoire sitting against pale walls.

Coastal rooms should feel open and breezy without fuss or over-decoration. A casual feel is important, but this doesn’t mean sacrificing elegance.  The key word is restraint.


It’s important to note that while there is a universal feel for American Coastal style, the USA is a large country full of contrasts, dotted with significant coastal cities along the east and west coast. Seaside style is as different as the cities you find it in.


One of the most quintessential beach towns in the USA, Malibu’s coastal decor incorporates stylistic influences that reach well beyond thongs and surfboards. Interior colours are soft and quiet so as not to detract from stunning outdoor views. European influences play a key role with cues from the classic rural farmhouses of southern France, think white plastered walls, wood panelled ceilings and bleached oak doors, beams and floors.



The pre-Civil-War city of Charleston in South Carolina is all cobblestone streets, pastel houses, and a busy French Quarter. Its take on coastal design is a blend of French influences and traditional Southern outdoor living. Open plan living creates an elegant yet breezy invitation to relax and the outdoors blend seamlessly with the indoors. Southern coastal homes are usually very open to the landscape with French doors and wide, wraparound porches, and feature soft linen fabrics in shades of blue and white, and hard finishes like wicker and wood.


The Northeast has a charming, clean coastal aesthetic  with a cool, refined palette in shades of soft blue sitting alongside natural materials like sisal and seagrass. Mirrors reflect the ocean and white washed wicker furniture encapsulates the Martha’s Vineyard New England architecture.


The San Francisco style is anything but a typical beach-side city. With stately Victorian houses set on steep hills and cliffs, San Francisco homes often nod to their breathtaking views. Mixing stylish coastal elements with fresh modern palettes is important to the look, with pastel shades sitting alongside shimmering materials, marble and stone.


The Florida coastal look is a sanctuary that brings the outdoors in.  Influenced by British Colonial style, interiors are woven with lush plants and tropical colours and highlighted with coral and white, and ocean blues and greens. Natural materials play an important part, in particular bamboo and dark timber floors and furniture.


American Coastal is an ideal design style for Australian homes – coast to coast and in between. The relaxed, light and classic style suits our climate and our lifestyle. Choosing the correct American Coastal treatment is the challenge. So when it comes to briefing in a design style for your home or commercial build, or if you are looking to renovate or redecorate, it’s important to research your style or get sound professional advice to ensure the look you envision comes to life.

If you’d like to have a chat with the KWD team about your own commercial or residential building or design project, please call KWD on (03) 5974 1800.

Images via Houzz

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