Ocean scene - How to get the 'beach house look'
You don't have to live by the sea to pull off the 'beach house look'
Close your eyes. Imagine you're in a beach house. The shutters are thrown wide and there's a whiff of seaweed on the wind. The wood-panelled walls are white and the kitchen table is made of scrubbed pine. The shelves of the dresser are lined with rows of blue-striped ceramic jars. There are traces of sand between the floorboards and worn sisal matting on the stairs.
Everyone has a beach house in their heads and, most of the time, it's pure fiction. My imaginary beach house comes from half-remembered childhood holidays, intermingled with movies about parts of the world where I've never actually been. Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of fantasy. It's just something to bear in mind when creating the 'beach house look', which is one of the main interiors themes of the summer.
"Our influences came from the Cornish landscape and from the New England beach houses of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard," says Simon Temprell of Neptune, an interiors brand whose catalogue is full of attractive, if slightly globalised, beach-house themed images.
As a look, it's more about building up layers of colour and texture than decorating your home along a maritime theme.
"Don't be too obvious," Temprell advises. "Starfish and fishing buoys can make your home look like a seafood restaurant." Go sparingly with the rough hewn oars, fishing nets and prints of lighthouses and think, instead, about creating a summery look based on seaside colours.
This year's palette from Neptune combines a pale shell grey with navy blue (€52 for a 2.5 litre tin of matt emulsion). To make an ordinary wall look like a seaside shack you can cover it with Cranbook rough boarding shiplap, a kind of cladding that comes in at €230 (that covers 3.6 square metres). "It's a strong Nantucket-style seaside look," says Temprell.
Although there's something faintly ridiculous about creating a New England look in an Irish home, the wall finish is attractive and apparently easy to apply. "It's not a sophisticated look - just rough hewn floorboards nail-gunned to the wall - most people install it themselves and it can be painted any colour you like."
For a brighter look, which can work well in transitional spaces like balconies, Cuprinol have a jolly range of Garden Shades for around €13 per litre. Complete the cheap and cheerful ensemble with Sommar cushion covers from Ikea (€7.50 each).
Co-ordinating textiles from Neptune include a striped range known as Agatha. The most nautical colourway is navy and white but the pattern also comes in oyster pink. Cushions cost €63, a navy striped throw costs €195 and Agatha striped fabric costs €76 per metre.
The snugly blanket is an intrinsic part of the Irish seaside experience and Irish-made alternatives might include blue and white woollen throws from Foxford (€95), or the Foxford range of Décor stitch-coordinated bed linen from Arnotts. It's plain white with a double line of navy stitching that gives the range a subtly nautical look. A double duvet cover costs €195.
Stripes have a long history in interiors - the stripe being the cheapest and easiest way to weave pattern into cloth - but navy stripes on a white background have a maritime significance. The Breton striped shirt was made the official uniform for French sailors in 1858, the 21 horizontal stripes reputedly signifying the number of Napoleon's naval victories.
Coco Chanel introduced Breton stripes to the fashion world in 1917 and James Dean made them sexy in Rebel Without A Cause (1958). Somewhere along the line, the look slipped into interiors.
"To stripe a surface serves to distinguish it, to point it out, to oppose it or associate it with another surface," writes Michel Pastoureau in The Devil's Cloth: A History Of Stripes (2006). Now, a navy and white stripe, cleverly used, can give a jaunty nautical lift to an interior. But it's a look that has been done a lot. Overused, it can become a cliché.
"I love striped cushions, but you can overdo the nautical theme," says Karine Candice Kong (left), blogger and stylist of the DFS coastal look. "Go with blue and white but don't combine striped fabric with wooden anchors. It's just too much." Her look for DFS combines white walls with textured surfaces and accessories in indigo and blue. The rugged wooden Sleeper coffee table contrasts with the Coast Grande sofa from the French Connection range in denim (€1,885) and the Coast armchair in ivory (€939).
The look was inspired by the beach houses of Cape Town, South Africa, and was shot in France. This seems bananas, although not in a particularly bad way. But can you make the beach house look work in your home if you live in Athlone or Mullingar?
"I don't think that you need to live beside the sea for the look to work," says Kong, who uses the same styling in her London home as she does in her seaside house in France. "It's about creating a holiday feel. I always use a lot of white to catch the light and natural fabrics like stonewashed linen. I don't like crisp linen - it's too much like a boutique hotel. I use sea grass baskets for storage, but I don't hide them away in a cupboard. I like to be able to see them."
Although a white sofa would be her ideal, she recognises that it's just not practical. "We rent the house out when we're not using it and you can't expect families with young children to keep a white sofa clean. So our sofa is dark grey, but we do have white cushions. If a cushion gets dirty it's no big deal to clean it."
White crockery is another trick that she uses to make a space feel summery. "It's easy to replace, even if it doesn't match. I don't like to have everything matching so I mix vintage crockery in with new pieces."
Now, all we need is the weather.
See neptune.com, dfs.ie, karinecandicekong.com, foxfordwoollenmills.com, arnotts.ie, cuprinol.ie, ikea.ie.