An online blog post written for the KLC School of Design – Coastal Charm For City Living
We all know how much better we feel after a day near the sea. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rugged coastal walk, paddling, surfing or just building sand castles with the kids; it simply makes us feel good. This is nothing new – history shows the Romans, Chinese and Indians were all on the case when it came to reaping the benefits of the water from their rivers and seas. More recently, the Victorian’s used mineral-rich spa’s to deal with their troubles, and it was they who introduced the beach hut, lining the beaches of popular resorts just out of the tide’s reach.
More recently, scientists have put this ‘feel good factor’ down to the positive effect of the tasteless, odourless molecules called negative ions, which have a bio-chemical reaction within the human system, raising our serotonin levels and therein our mood! We also now know asthma and allergy sufferers, including those with skin problems, physically benefit from something known as surf-generated aerosol, where tiny particles of sea water containing salt, magnesium and iodine as well as other trace elements are dispersed into the air by the wind and waves. Inhalation helps clear airways and helps stimulate immune reactions by the skin and respiratory organs, particularly effective in the colder months when central heating dries the air in our homes.
Can this positive mood change purely be down to negative ions and surf-generated aerosol, or is it down to something more than that? Scientific studies in Exeter have shown that people’s moods are increased when observing a blue seascape rather than a green landscape, cityscape or even a blank wall, and when asked which setting they would pay most for a hotel room, the majority answered the seascape.
Ask most people around the world their favourite colour and Blue is by far the most popular answer. Blue is associated with calm, depth, wisdom and openness, which are certainly appealing qualities for the large part of the population with increasingly stressful and fast-paced lifestyles.
So, it seems that we all have an inherent affinity with the sea, but are our other senses are at play here? What about those other sensations, such as feeling the sand between our toes, or listening to waves crashing on the shoreline? Might it be the smell of fishing boats, seaweed strewn fishing nets, or the sea salt hanging in the air? Or maybe it’s visual? Idyllic, cottage-laden, coastal harbours such as Polperro, and Port Isaac are storybook material and captivatingly beautiful. Well, I have come to the conclusion it is all of the above.
Photograph: Deborah Drew
I believe there is something in our human core, which draws us to the sea, sometimes referred to as ‘the calling’ by fishermen and surfers. If this is true, then wouldn’t it be great if we could harness this magical coastal ether, wherever we live, and bring it home to absorb and enjoy each and everyday for its simple aesthetic beauty and indeed for our mental and physical wellbeing!
By sticking to a few simple rules you could turn your home into a subtle, calming, coastal escape, and the key to your scheme will be the colour white. Without our wonderful white, in all its purity, our coastal palettes would lose their tones, and our aquatic hues would disappear into a murky abyss! White is needed for its light reflective quality and freshness in its own right, but it also affords other colours clarity, in other words it allows those other hues to stay true; white is the perfect frame for any colour.
Choosing a palette is a great place to start, and there are endless choices from soft pale greys with crisp pure white, or indeed use several coastal tones and find your inspiration in the pebbles, sand, and sky or the colours of the town itself. Mediterranean colours are too vibrant, so use lighter, softer and subtle tones; your objective is to create a calm inviting sanctuary to look forward to at the end of the day. Selected palettes for your scheme can be presented on feature walls, such as bead and butt panelling; it can also be presented in the furniture, soft furnishings and accessories.
Photograph: Deborah Drew
It is imperative to use authentic materials in order to harness the elemental concept of this style. Use wood (painted or raw) and natural stone, as well as natural tactile fabrics – such as slubby linens, cottons and wool. An obvious choice would be to use ticking, a finely striped fabric, with a co-ordinated check or large stripe, or you could simply use plain sheer linens for a minimal look, which is just as appealing. Painted wooden shutters are a natural choice, as are wooden venetian blinds, but curtains and blinds work equally as well. Floors can be wooden (painted or raw), natural stone or for a softer look use wool, sisal or jute carpets and maybe add a rug. It really is all about keeping it simple, but whether you are aiming for a raw pure look or a clean contemporary look; authenticity is key.
Photograph courtesy of Clarke & Clarke
For a simple coastal scheme you will be relying on texture rather than pattern, bead and butt walls are a great addition for a coastal feel, adding texture and depth to the walls, while keeping the scheme calm and simple. If you want to keep work to a minimum, you can buy bead and butt panels to speed up the job, these are available from good reputable DIY stores. Take the panels to dado height or picture rail height; avoid full height, as this often loses impact and doesn’t allow you to frame your chosen palette with the all-important white, in the frieze for instance. Complete the top of your panels with a mini ledge with a bullnose edge for a simple clean finish.
Photograph courtesy of Clarke & Clarke
When it comes to accessories, choose driftwood or painted wooden lamps with raw linen shades; there are plenty of options for really cool lighting to fit a coastal scheme. Accessorise with natural textural willow baskets and stacked wooden chests, visually pleasing and perfect for storage.
Be sure to use large pieces of art to create your main focal point and ideally use seascapes to work with the scheme. Abstract pieces are a great choice as they allow you to absorb the tones more than focusing on a specific subject – the piece should be evocative of the coast such as the beautiful works by London-based artist, Sharon Deegan as seen below.
Artwork: Atlantic Crossing by Sharon Deegan
Finally, enhance the ambience with scents, by introducing fragrant candles such as Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone, or Pink Sands or Wild Sea Grass by Yankee Candle. And from what we have learned, an air purifier with an ionizer is clearly an essential piece of kit to help reap the physical benefits and maximise the overall effect of your very own coastal retreat.
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