Inspired by the sea

Written by marilyn zelinsky-syarto Google
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Coastal influences on interior design

Inspired by the sea
Driftwood incorporates a neutral colour, where more epitomising "coastal colors" can present extremes--too much read or blue, according to Caron White, owner of Caron's Beach House, an online retail store specialising in coastal-inspired wares. (Caron White, Caron's Beach House)

If you have a love of water, you don’t have to live near the water to celebrate the coast.

— Caron White, owner of Caron's Beach House website and blog

Caron White grew up in a 1950s brick beach house in the Pacific Northwest. The house was nothing fancy -- certainly not like today's modern marvels -- but the touches inside made it a true beach house that is still standing, still crowded with family and friends, on the shores of Puget Sound.

White described the character of her childhood home as sturdy enough to handle kids tramping through the house after seaweed fights in 45-degree waters. But it was the little touches here and there that made an indelible impression.

"There was always a pair of wading boots by the back door for crabbing," she said. And driftwood -- you couldn't miss the driftwood her father collected that found its way into the home. As for shells, White's mother would collect them from across the country and put them in jars placed throughout the house. Hers was a true home by the sea.

As White grew older, the beach was still in her blood. But she couldn't find in Washington state the casual, yet elegant, beach-inspired designs she wanted, so she found a way to bypass gift-shop quality plastic pirates and the like. Today, White lives in northern California, and her newest online retail venture, Caron's Beach House, is her ode to growing up at the water's edge.

“If you have a love of water, you don’t have to live near the water to celebrate coastal,” White said. Her customers come from across the country -- near and far from water -- but with a passion for the beach lifestyle as strong as hers.

Inspired by the sea
(Caron White, Caron's Beach House)

"We once had customers who were farmers in Iowa, but they wanted their home to look like anything but a farmhouse," White said. "They wanted a home that looked like they were on vacation every day, so they created a tropical beach theme inside the house."

Regardless of geographic location, starfish seem to be a favourite with people across the country, White said. But it's tough to keep up with the demand for items embellished with the motif.

As for White's current home, it is near the water, and it's decorated with a twist. She prefers to live with tints of aqua -- the colour of water -- as a backdrop to the hundreds of bits of sea glass she's collected over the years. White, an admitted sea glass junkie, incorporates oversize glass jars with rattan lids and filled with colourful sea glass throughout her house.

White encourages people to dust off their collections of crumbling, dusty seashells and put them to good use; she uses her glass- and shell-filled jars as bookends.

The next idea White wants to try in her home is to place curvy pieces of driftwood into large and tall clear-glass vases.

"Driftwood is natural and neutral in colour," White said. "The danger of coastal decor is that it can become too red and blue."

But darker, more masculine colours can have a place in a seaside-inspired room, too. Adele Lampert, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and owner of Page One Interiors Inc. in Barrington, Illinois, specialises in creating dramatic nautical interiors using dark, rich tones, whether it's a lake home or oceanfront property. One of her most successful interiors was for a client who wouldn't part with his vintage vessel.

Lampert, herself an avid boater, understood exactly what to do when the client presented the challenge of furnishing the family’s entire year-round lake home on the shores of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin -- and incorporate a 1954 Chris-Craft Holiday boat. After brainstorming with the owners, Lampert came up with the solution: Create a yachtsman’s bar in the basement using the boat as seating.

The refurbished boat was converted into booth seating by removing the hull, cutting out one side and placing it solidly on a cradle. The gleaming stainless steel steering wheel, well, that’s still in its rightful place at the helm.

It wasn’t easy getting a boat into the basement. “We had to remove the windshield to get it through the doors,” Lampert said. But true to boat construction, the Chris-Craft made it through the rough seas of the construction project.

There standing in the middle of the vintage boat is one of Lampert’s trademarks -- a gleaming brass porthole that she transformed into a cocktail table, completed by a mahogany boat platform as a lower shelf. Now, fellow sailors and neighbours can motor on over to enjoy a drink and a movie in this version of a boathouse.

Inspired by the sea
White uses seeglass filled with shells as bookends. (Caron White, Caron's Beach House)

One of Lampert's other recent projects, a media room, is in the works. One idea she's using is to turn teak boat platforms into speaker covers. For lighting, she's transforming ship lanterns into lamps.

It's easy to find mass-produced nautical or beach-themed items for the home just about anywhere these days. Reproductions of ship wheels and ship bells have flooded retail shops. An authentic ship’s wheel will frequently have the name of the ship or the builder, and the year of launch, cast into the faceplate of the bronze hub.

If you want to step up your interior with authentic maritime antiques, they'll be harder to find in the United States, according to Robert Cleek, a Petaluma, California, lawyer and nautical antiques consultant. Cleek explained that the ship breaking industry -- which gave dealers a steady stream of ship antiques from World War II vessels -- has died in this country.

"There are no more nautical boneyards with old wooden ships hauled up on the mod to rot away," Cleek said. "All the old master shipwrights, whose brains I picked as a kid, have also gone. But if you like something that is a reproduction, and it appeals to you, buy it, enjoy it and who cares what anybody else thinks."

After all, a true coastal-inspired home is casual, durable, easy to live in and anything but a museum.

Tips and warnings

  • If you find a brass maritime item you like, but the finish is corroded, don't pass it by. The finish can be refurbished and re-lacquered; marine-grade items are made to last.

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