I love to create a living space where my clients can relax and enjoy time with family and friends. The living room is a focal point in households, where many families spend a lot of time together. I chose “neutral” specifically because neutral in design means it fades into the background. And in color psychology, neutral colors have little psychological influence on their own. They take on the meaning of the colors around them. 
I like to create neutral spaces that feel light and bright, yet warm and cozy, with a coastal feel. I also like to create spaces using coastal elements in order to create a modern coastal style that gives an outdoor feel, yet also a laid back feel. I do this by using natural materials and different shades of neutral colors while layering some decorative elements to make a space sophisticated and comfortable. 
Want to learn how you can do this, too?

Here are 5 steps to take to create a neutral coastal living room:

Neutral Coastal Living Room Step One: Start at the top. The Ceiling

I suggest you start with your ceiling and move your way down the walls to the windows, then furnishings, then the floor. 
If you have the budget to add some millwork, the ceiling is a great place to add white shiplap. 
Shiplap is a design element synonymous with coastal living and your ceiling is a great place to incorporate this. However, if the budget doesn’t allow for woodwork on the ceiling, I’m a fan of keeping it simple by painting the ceiling a bright white like Benjamin Moore Super White or Sherwin Williams Highly Reflective White. I like these colors for all the millwork and trim, as well, when I’m designing a neutral space.
If your living room has high ceilings, then it’s nice to add a ceiling fixture in a neutral wood or white bead like this one from Ro Sham Beaux for a boho coastal vibe. 
For a more modern take on the neutral coastal look, you could consider this one made with shells in an eclectic shape.

Neutral Coastal Living Room Step Two: The Walls

Your walls are the perfect place to add texture in a neutral tone. I’m not one for plain white walls. I think they can feel cold and sterile. I love creating a bright living room, but I add warmth to the space by using a paint color in a neutral tone or by using natural materials. 
A great example would be grass cloth wallpaper or even a hand-painted finish. You will notice this if you take a look at our portfolio. To choose a paint color for your walls, I suggest you peruse the white colors of the paint companies. They all have collections of off white colors.
Pro-tip: test the color first and look at it at different times of the day so that you don’t have an undertone that you’re not happy with. 
Color really does change throughout the day in different light, and if you suddenly feel like the room looks green or gold and that’s not what you want, you’ll be really unhappy. So, test your paint color or wallpaper by putting a sample on the walls and different times of day.
You could also consider putting white shiplap on your walls in your living room, but I prefer it as an accent in such a large space. The fireplace would be a great place to incorporate it. Add a reclaimed wood mantel if you want a rustic piece of driftwood look. 
Or, a more modern take would be to keep the clean lines and eliminate a mantel and use a beautiful stone fireplace surround and hearth.
A Work In Progress
If you have the wall space for art, you could add a seascape or art with a sea creature, such as a sea urchin, or an abstract in coastal colors, like different blue colors. 
Depending on your room, you might want to incorporate a mirror to reflect a view or add more light to the space. When choosing your mirror, look for one with a frame in a natural material or covered in rope or shells. Like this one or this one
Or even getting creative by adding in shiplap ceilings.

Neutral Coastal Living Room Step Three: The Windows

For your windows, I suggest you consider a drapery or roman shade in a linen fabric that is white or beige for the cozy texture it will add. You could bring in a little more color with a banded trim for some added detail. 
If your room calls for drapery panels, the hardware is a decorative element that can also add to the coastal aesthetic. You can look for rods and rings in crisp white to blend in with the trim. Or, you could consider a wood rod in a driftwood looking finish. Again, you’ll be adding texture and interest while keeping it neutral.
Another nice neutral and natural material for your windows would be a woven wood shade. I love Hartmann and Forbes for natural woven shades because their high-quality materials and their company ethos are both sustainable.
I really like when we can layer the window treatment so that we have a natural woven shade and a light, sheer linen drapery. This adds warmth and interest to a neutral design.
Our Cricket Path Project

Neutral Coastal Living Room Step Four: The Furnishings

Now you’ve worked your way to the part of the room that will likely get the most use, the furnishings. A lot of our clients like the look of a white sofa. You may be thinking, “not in my house!” If you have young children, pets, or maybe just accident prone guests, you might never consider a white piece of upholstery, but with indoor/ outdoor fabrics that are bleachable and performance fabrics where the stain resistance is baked into the fiber, you should consider it. 
To create a neutral coastal living room, I recommend your largest piece of seating also be neutral in color. So, white or beige is what I recommend. If stains are not a concern for you a natural material like a washable cotton or a beautiful belgian linen on a sofa really works with all coastal styles.
Add throw pillows like these hand-block printed linen pillows from Walter G. They are currently a favorite of mine because I love to mix the scale of the pattern and the coastal colors are gorgeous.
Our Cosdrew project with off white sofas and reclaimed wood cocktail table
Once you have your neutral sofa(s) chosen, you can add cozy armchairs in a contrasting color or pattern. Again, if you want a neutral coastal living room choose whites or beiges. I suggest a material that has more texture or even a pattern, like a stripe so that your living room has more character and not all your upholstery matches.
When choosing your case goods, like a cocktail table, side tables, and/ or console tables, consider pieces made of textured wood for a coastal look. Examples are cerused or white washed oak or ash in a grey stain. I also love to use pieces made of reclaimed wood for texture and sustainability.

Neutral Coastal Living Room Step Five: The Floor

If your project is a renovation or new construction project, you may be selecting your floor material for a new look. If so, I suggest a nice FSC-certified wide plank white oak or ash in a clear finish or whitewash for a light neutral backdrop to all your furnishings. Some of our clients worry about these lighter finishes showing up dirt. 
If that’s a concern for you, I recommend a mid-brown tone for your wood floors. I always recommend a water-based stain or pre-finished flooring with a low VOC finish. 
Pro-tip: I don’t recommend the dark walnut floors that most people consider typical Hamptons Style because while the contrast with white colors is nice, every bit of dust or pet hair is really visible.
Once your floor material is chosen, you need a rug. 
A neutral coastal living room is a great place for jute rugs. 
However, I really like using wool rugs because they are also a natural material, and available in endless patterns, weaves, and colors. Most clients find them the easiest to clean as well. A broadloom rug in a combination of wool and sisal is great, too. It’s soft and neutral and can be cut to your required dimension. The edge can then be serged or bound which really gives you a lot of design options. Fibreworks is just one of the companies I like for natural fiber rugs and a great place to start on your search.
There you have it. Those are my five main steps.
In addition, you might add some coastal accessories. I don’t like to overdo it here. A space you can relax in needs to be clutter-free. However, some gorgeous pieces of coral on a shelf and a rattan tray to corral your items on the cocktail table are nice decorative elements to add, too.
I hope you got some great coastal living room ideas and some helpful steps to take to create your own neutral coastal living room.

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March 05, 2024 — Shannon Willey