You don’t need to live by the sea to enjoy the calming surrounds of coastal interiors
Stand on the Irish Atlantic shore on a clear day and it feels like you can see all the way to America. That’s probably why the America coastal style translates so well into Irish interiors. It’s the same ocean. At heart, the coastal style is inspired by the beach houses of the Hamptons, Long Island. The trend has recently been revived on TikTok as “coastal grandmother aesthetic”. Ingredients include: white or off-white walls; jute or sisal rugs; pale linen sofas; pale floaty curtains; piles of books; fresh herbs in terracotta pots; and handcrafted cooking utensils. A key element of the fantasy is having the time to enjoy it. Not the real world by a long stretch.
Interior designer Tiffany Jones developed her affinity for this style while working in Barbados. Not the real world either.
“I was working for a high-end interior design firm and we were designing the finest luxury holiday homes with endless budgets. It was an incredible experience.” What she learned was how to create interiors with a palette and textures that reference the exterior environment. In 2017, she returned to Ireland and set up Beach House Interiors in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. Her approach is about creating a feeling of lightness and an airy quality reminiscent of being by the sea. “People ask if I only do beach houses,” she says. “I don’t! A coastal interior can be achieved with simple ingredients in any location. It’s not rocket science and it can work as well in a housing estate in Limerick as in an actual beach house.”
There’s also room for variation. “Any style can be adapted to a coastal palette, so a lot depends on the client. You can do it in a traditional Hamptons way or you can do it in a mid-century modern way.”
A light-coloured wooden floor in washed engineered board (laminate if money is tight) creates a good grounding and can be combined with sisal rugs.
“People often find that artificial sisals are more forgiving and more robust than natural jute,” Jones explains. “Ikea has some that are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. It doesn’t have to be an expensive look.”
She approaches the traditional white and blue colour combination with caution. “It can get way too nautical way too quickly. We’re moving away from iconography of anchors.” You won’t find cutesy ‘Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses’ wall plaques in Jones’ designs. “They’re banned!” Instead of seaside kitsch, include a piece of art that references the sea. “It’s a sophisticated way of establishing a coastal theme without setting it too upfront and central. In Ireland, our coastal landscape is what we’re famous for and a painting can set the tone for the entire room. You draw the colours from it and really need to do little else in a room. You only need to get the textures right.”
In terms of paint colour, Jones favours muted tones. “A lot of the time I won’t make a big feature of the walls,” she says. Her favourites include French Grey No.18, a soothing green grey from Farrow & Ball; Skellig Rock, an earthy grey from Curator; and Curator’s Cotton Canvas as an off-white neutral. Curator is an Irish brand and their colours sit well with the landscape. “We complain about our grey skies but they make for a lovely timeless palette.”
Painted furniture is an option. “It’s traditional to both Irish country furniture and Hamptons interiors, but some people think it’s had its day.” For window dressings, she recommends light linen Roman blinds. In an ideal world, the sofas would also be white. “You have to think about usage. Especially in a holiday home. If you’ve got three kids, all their cousins, four dogs, and everyone loves surfing, then you could end up spending your whole holiday doing housework.” For her own household — “a messy dog, a messy husband, and a messy toddler” — she’s devised a work-around. Her Ikea Ektorp sofa (€599 for a three-seater) has a spare cover (€200). Both covers are white. “Stick ’em in the wash and they come out shining! Then put them back on the sofa while they’re still damp. Best trick ever!”
Just as the ocean spans both sides of the Atlantic shore, you’ll also find the same seaweed on the east coast of Canada and the west coast of Ireland. “That’s the thing about seaweed,” says Gearoid Muldowney of Superfolk, a Mayo-based design agency that he runs with his wife, Jo-Anne Butler. “You’ll find the same species all around the Atlantic with a certain amount of overlap all around the world.” This may be why Superfolk’s seaweed prints are popular worldwide. They’re lino prints, designed by Butler, hand-cut and hand-printed onto Japanese washi paper in their Co Mayo studio. You can almost smell the sea. Their best seller is their seaweed bundle of three unframed 52 x 43cm prints: Atlantic Wakame; Dillisk, and Channelled Wrack (€280) but they’ve also introduced a Giant Atlantic Wakame Print (€440), almost a metre square. “It’s a big print for a big room,” Muldowney says. “A lot of people have holiday homes and it’s difficult to get large artworks that people can afford. But they’re not just for people living by the sea. Our work was featured on Room to Improve with Dermot Bannon. The house was in Tipperary but they chose seaweed prints for the entire thing. I think people long for everything the sea represents. There’s a freedom to it. No labels. No branding. And it’s free. Look what happened with sea swimming during lockdown.”
Fashion influencer Yvonne Melinn, who posts on Instagram as @ystyleireland, is known for her love of a nautical stripe. She’s a big fan of coastal style interiors. “I live in Lucan!” she says. “It’s nowhere near the sea, but I’m drawn to those coastal colours. There’s something so elegant and timeless about it and it’s not in your face. My whole thing is when I come into my house I want to feel calm. I don’t want dark. I don’t want trendy. I just want calm. It’s not very exciting but there’s a peace that goes with it.” Melinn will be taking part in the Permanent TSB Ideal Home Show, which runs at the RDS, Simmonscourt, from April 21 to 23. She’s one of three Irish creatives — the others are Sarah Battle and Natasha Rocca-Devine — to create a room set for the DFS Interiors Inspiration Centre. The starting point for each of these is the question: “What’s your thing?” In Melinn’s case, it’s style. “If you like what I do with fashion you’ll probably also like what I do with a room,” she says. “They’re coming from the same place.” Expect green tones, boucle textures, and a gentle reimagining of the coastal aesthetic.
See beach-house.ie, superfolk.com, dfs.ie, and idealhome.ie