Design July 14, 2022

What Is Coastal Grandmother? The Waterfront Design Trend Making Waves

Chances are you’ve heard the internet buzz about the coastal grandmother look by now—if you haven’t, picture the tastefully-casual heroines of Nancy Meyers movies, like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give or Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, in all their neutral-cotton-sweater-and-linen-pants-clad glory. But did you know this pop culture revival moment is also related to a rising look in the world of home decorating? Coastal grandmother-style is a state of mind, a lifestyle vibe, and a decor trend all rolled into one.

Is coastal style all that new? Not really. Beachy, shore-inspired style has always been popular, but this current take is more modern and pared-down than in the past, and completely clear of theme-y kitsch-like shells, anchors, and whales. It’s less “Ahoy, Matey” nautical prep, and more about cultivating an airy, effortless chic that’s informal but polished.

breakfast nook with built-in banquette and white table

Here we break down the essentials of this trend, so you can catch the coastal grandma wave and introduce elements of the style into your own home, however land-locked it may be.

Mood and Inspiration

To put yourself in the right mindset, envision the clear and cool natural light you encounter on an early morning walk on the beach. Coastal grandma-style has a duality: It’s relaxed yet refined, casual but elevated. It conveys a laid-back luxury that’s warm and inviting without being overtly cozy. The lines are clean, and the designs are unembellished and minimal.


Palette and Pattern

Coastal color is a range of subtle simplicity. Start with 50 shades of white, ivory, and cream, all mixed together. Then layer in neutral tones borrowed from nature—stone, sand, sea, and sky. Tan and beige, taupe and greige, and pale, watery blues. Introduce accent colors like deeper blues and shell pink with a very light hand. Use little to no pattern, and keep it simple and abstract if you do.

Materials and Texture

For fabrics, natural fibers like cotton and linen are the go-to choice, from light, gauzy sheers to heavier twills and canvas. For accents, think touchable—chunky knits, nubby bouclés, maybe even some tailored fringe. Varied weaves of natural fibers like rattan, jute, sisal, raffia, and seagrass come into play for accessories, furniture, and rugs. Try adding seagrass baskets (like this set of two Better Homes & Gardens baskets, $32, Walmart) to hold throw blankets or pillows. Woods take their cue from driftwood—light, bleached and whitewashed. Hardware in metals like brushed nickel keep the feeling soft and sophisticated.

white living room with natural and blue coastal accents

Make it Your Own

Whether you are ready to commit to coastal grandmother-style with a full room redo or simply wish to join in on the trend by adding a few elements to your existing decor, here’s a cheat sheet to getting the look.

wooden candle holders on table


For a low-lift-yet-uplifting interpretation of coastal grandma style, fill the air with a fragrance that follows the feeling. Candles poured in colorful beachy blue glass with scents like White Waves and Salted Sands hit the mark in more ways than one. Fragrance oils in scents like linen and sea spray release slowly over time via a diffuser; you can get a similar effect with scented wax cubes like Better Homes & Gardens Line-Dried Linen ($2, Walmart) melted in a wax warmer.

creamy white paint lids


A quick color change conveys a coastal mood without a lot of expense (a gallon of paint is
under $30)—paint a whole room or tackle a smaller project like the inside a linen closet or a single accent wall. Or try transforming a piece of furniture with a new color to fit in with the trend.

white living room with wood floors and fireplace


Indoor Decor

Gauzy window coverings and rugs in real jute or faux natural fibers are a good way to ground the room with breezy color. A few carefully chosen coastal-inspired accessories can easily fit right into your home. Lush flowers, real or faux, always feel right. Arrange mounds of hydrangeas in a vase or bowl or peonies in a pitcher (all in white porcelain, of course). Treat a tabletop or sideboard to family photos in frames with rope or rattan details and pillar candles in clear glass hurricane holders. Toss a throw in a luxe knit like chenille (this Better Homes & Gardens blanket is just $23) and some new tactile pillows on a couch or chair—look for neat cotton fringe or substantial knits in a chunky or sweater style. Around the room, you could add a mirror in rustic wood or wicker, or weathered wood lamps with linen shades on end tables, or seagrass baskets for on-trend storage.

coastal dining table sisal rope vase candles


Coastal meals are easy and fuss-free, served up on a mix-and-match selection of white
porcelain platters and bowls, and with white porcelain dishes set at each place. Coastal
grandma would approve of a nice California chardonnay or a Long Island rosé savored from simple wine glasses.

seafoam, white, and silver elegant bathroom

Bed and Bath

For the breeziest bedroom and bath, two words here: White. Cotton. The utter simplicity of coastal style calls for luxury of materials and texture. For towels, choose the plushest cotton you can find and while you’re at it, swap out your shower curtain with a tone-on-tone white design. For sheets, go with a high thread count, like Better Homes & Gardens 400 Thread Count Hygro Cotton Sheets ($45, Walmart). To finish the look, update your bedframe with an upholstered linen headboard and add a cotton waffle blanket to the foot of the bed.