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Bringing the Beach to You

Savor summer vacation without leaving home.



We can't always get away to the beach, but in the summer, especially in Richmond's heat, it can be a relaxing change of pace to capture a beach aesthetic at home. Lighter colors and fabrics just feel cooler. With the following inspiration from several local designers, you'll soon be swearing you can hear the waves.

Brighten Up

After years of working with neutral colors, interior designer Suellen Gregory, whose work has graced the covers of many national home magazines, says she's seeing a return to vibrant pastels, and the warm lush colors of summer: blues, aqua greens, golden yellows, purple and hot pink — "colors that feel good in the summer," she says.

They may not be as beachy, she says, "but they're the colors of summer, right out of your garden. There's something essentially cheerful about the colors." While those colors can often appear in floral patterns, Gregory says people have moved away from florals. "They want color, they just don't want the colors all living together."

Declutter and Be Subtle

Marcie Blough took over for well-known contemporary designer Chris McCray of Chris McCray Designs when he moved to Rhode Island to attend graduate school. Having renamed the company BluMarc Designs, she describes her aesthetic as cozy contemporary with an Asian twist.

Because there are so many types of beaches, Blough says, incorporating the theme into your home décor depends on which beach you're envisioning. There are the rugged shores of New England, hot and colorful Miami Beach, and laid-back West Coast beaches. Blough thinks of the beach as an open space, so whichever spot you have in mind, she suggests decluttering your home as a way to start. "When you're on the beach, you're typically not surrounded by many things," she says. So it's important to clear a space where you can relax and think of the seashore.

"I have a client who likes hibiscus because it reminds them of the beach in Florida," Blough says, so she suggested bright orange pillows reminiscent of the plant. For the outdoors, "there are grasses that maybe you find in North Carolina. I know hydrangea reminds me of the beach in New England. Maybe a picnic table that you paint a bright color. Old wooden furniture that [has] a great, new colorful seat cushion. Umbrellas and lighting." She also suggests coffee-table books that "can take you there" or copies of Coastal Living magazine. Plus, ceiling fans to circulate the air. "I'm all about clean, simple openness and airiness," she says.

Bring Outside In

Live plants are the obvious place to start, says interior designer Debra Young, who's honed her casual yet sophisticated style while working with Robert Rentz Interiors. "Palm trees will give you the most bang for your buck," she says, "but be sure to consult a nursery for which will work best with your lighting situation."

Slipcover your furniture with summer fabrics that can be removed in the winter. "Canvas and other fabrics come in all kinds of great colors and patterns and are relatively indestructible," she says. "They also will not fade if used in windows."

Pay attention to details: Jute cording can be used for ties and trims, and bamboo poles can be used to hang curtains. Look for things outside -- rocks, pieces of wood, nests, beach glass, items you find on vacation -- to accessorize with snapshots of your trip. Mix outdoor furniture -- stone, iron, wood, reed -- with indoor furnishing. Use a hammock and benches for seating. Add pillows, lanterns and lots of candles. "A water feature brings wonderful sounds inside and can be made in all sizes of all kinds of materials," says Young. "Include fish and good accent lighting."

"Always have fresh flowers," she says, "preferably from your yard. And don't forget that flowering bushes and variegated and colorful greenery count. Lots of them will dry naturally if left alone, and you can keep them for a long time." And to really put you in the mood, Young suggests a margarita and a Jimmy Buffett CD.

Get Nautical

Carrington Thompson of Janet Brown Interiors suggests looking to beach-related sports such as sailing for inspiration. The classic Carytown shop specializes in traditional with a twist, so it's no surprise that time-tested elements such as Adirondack chairs, linen sheets, duvets and draperies come to mind.

Thompson also suggests incorporating awning stripes and regatta stripes for a tailored look. Or specific elements like nautical shower curtains and lamps, beach towels as bath towels, seashells as soap dishes and prints of sailboats and lighthouses.

Seashells and Coral

"The thing that I love is sea shells," says David Barden, who runs an interior design business out of his shop at Libbie and Grove. Not necessarily real shells, but the decorative, ceramic ones that can be found in stores. "Big, bright ones," he says. Put them on coffee tables or bookshelves to get just a touch of the beach.

"Coral is also really big," he says, "but you can't get real coral; all you can get is ceramic coral." Come fall, Barden says, wrap these pieces up and put them away. "Especially here in Richmond, where it's summer for so long," Barden says. "You can keep them around until Halloween almost, then bring out your holiday stuff."


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