British coastal style 2023

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” is the hauntingly evocative first line of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca. So many authors, artists and designers have been captivated by the Cornish coast both for its magical coves and for its colour and light. Inspired by a recent trip to this part of the country, the blog pays its yearly homage to coastal decorating ideas with a tour of some of the fairy tale castles, country houses and follies that hug the British coastline.

British coastal style

In the late 19th century railways opened up the British coast to holiday makers with purpose-built hotels and guest houses. The original (pre-nautical blue and white stripes/boaty decor of the late 20th Century) British coastal style is an unselfconscious look that has its roots in the heritage of the humble dwellings of fishing communities as well as the grander decoration of medieval castles and country house style (complete with decorative shell grottos).

Take a look at this dream coastal home currently up for sale in Devon as an example, where comfortable furniture and furnishings pay no particular attention to its maritime location other than to offer stylish insulation for when a storm whips up outside.

No matter where you live, you can create your own British Coastal Style with beautiful wallpapers and clever paint combinations. Vintage and antique furniture is key for this style. As is the nostalgic romance of coastal art. Use sustainably sourced or vintage shells to decorate fireplaces, door surrounds and splashbacks.

Tiny nude C.1930, frame older. Oil on board coastal scene from Tatters Antiques in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. Always love their curation of antiques.

Magical Climbing Curios wallpaper by Fee Greening at Common Room. There is something beautifully Georgian Rectory about this wallpaper design but wherever you hung it, it would always remind you of the best bits of a British summer.
An evocative British seaside palette of paints from Farrow and Ball.
Little Dream and Big Dream are two scales of the same design. These luxury wallpaper designs in ‘Sea’ and ‘Sky’ traditionally hand block printed in the UK. They are from Bloomfield Ink , an artisan design company set up in 2021 by Prue MacLeod and Emerald Dangerfield who have recently launched their new website. I would love to embrace a whole room with these designs or at least a ceiling. Styling and photo: Charis White

Room with a view: following on from the Queen Square Collection from Morris & Co x Ben Pentreath previously featured on the blog are fabrics: Merton Leaf Green/Sky, Bachelors Button Leaf Green/Sky, Willow Bough Summer Yellow from the Cornubia Collection (Latin name for Cornwall), Morris and Co x Ben Pentreath available from: Photographed in Prussia Cove, Cornwall. Stay in the Coastguard Cottages at Prussia Cove, Cornwall.
Sowerby in Olive and Shortwood wallpaper inspired by antique botanical prints by Josephine Munsey. Love this design for its gentle mix of botanical and shell motifs.
Magical St Michael’s Mount off the Cornish coast of Marazion is the stuff of story books. The mini country house/castle and gardens is still owned by the St Aubyn family and run in tandem with the National Trust and is a day visit you shouldn’t miss but remember to book your time entry ticket in advance. The exquisite exotic garden rooms are planted up the mount as far as the castle walls. When the tide is out, you can walk to St Michael’s Mount in Marazion via the stone causeway and on the way back take the boat. Photo: Charis White
The castle walls of St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Cornwall. Photo: Charis White
Looking through one of the windows in St Michael’s Mount, Marazion,Cornwall. Photo: Charis White
Beautiful colours in the harbour at St Michael’s Mount. Photo: Charis White
View of St Michael’s Mount from The Godolphin, Marazion, Cornwall.
14th Century Godolphin House and garden in West Cornwall was bought by The National Trust in 2010 for its walled medieval garden, thought to be one of the oldest in Western Europe. You can visit the house (check opening times) or stay in it via National Trust Cottages. Photo: Charis White
One of the bedrooms you can visit/stay in at The National Trust’s 14th Century Godolphin House. The beautiful Murano glass chandelier was a 20th Century buy from the contents of a local house sale. I loved it against this ‘St Ives’ inspired turquoise. Would suggest: Edward Bulmer’s Turquoise paint as a good match. Photo: Charis White
Portscatho to St Anthony’s Head footpath on the Roseland Peninsula, Cornwall, May 2023. Photo: Charis White
Clavell Tower, Dorset owned by the non profit making organisation The Landmark Trust where you can either book for an open day tour or stay in the 1 bedroom accommodation from £640 x 4 nights.
View of Shell House in Anstruther, Fife, Scotland with its very pretty shell designed exterior. Courtesy of Sandcastle Cottage, Crail blog.
Saddell Castle, 16th Century tower built by Bishop of Argyll in Saddell Bay, Argyll with views to the island of Arran. Sleeps 8 with 2 single, 1 twin, 2 double bedrooms from £688 x 4 nights through the non profit making organisation, The Landmark Trust.
I love So English Beachwear for their evocative Instagram photography and for their stylish towelling beach robes.

Styling Box

Styling Box is my interior design service that offers bespoke designs, and samples all wrapped in a beautiful and useful Styling Box. The perfect gift for you, for friends and family. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if I can help you with a bespoke interior design and follow Styling Box on Instagram.

Shop the blog

A nostalgic vintage water colour of a coastal scene in Devon or Cornwall is available now in my online shop. Size: frame: 38 cm long x 31 cm wide, image: 25 cm long x 20 cm wide.

Vintage watercolour of coastline in the West Country. Available for £45 plus £7 shipping in my online vintage shop at Etsy. Apologies for my reflection in the glass! Photo: Charis White

Thank you

Thank you so much for reading this, I hope you have been a little inspired by some British coastal decorating ideas and places to visit.

With best wishes,

Charis x

Charis White, Interiors writer. Photo: Fiona McLean Photography.

4 thoughts on “British coastal style 2023

  1. love the blog. Cornwall in spring thank goodness the NT saved all the beautiful coastline. Love all Fees stuff she one of Lorna’s best friends!


    1. Oh wow, what a coincidence! I love Fee’s work too especially this wallpaper. Thank you for your kind comment. I am also really appreciating what the National Trust do, now that I have a bit more time to visit some of their properties.


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