BRING THE SURF TO YOUR TURF: Great Beach-Inspired Decorating Ideas


















I have always loved visiting the seashore, and the ocean—neither of which has anything to do with living in beautiful South Florida, where we have “the beach.” There is something evocative about “the shore:” It conjures images of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, of Far Rockaway Beach, Martha’s Vineyard—and yes, Heaven help us, Snookie and “The Situation,” of reality television lame, er, fame. Bringing the best of that oceanside élan to your home decorating scheme is fast, fun, and frugal (three of my favorite “F’s”). The great thing, too, about living in South Florida is that a surf-and-shore theme actually “goes with the territory”—unlike, say, trying to gussy up a home in Minnesota to make it look like a Waikiki bait shack.

BY THE SEA, BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA Driftwood, seashells, sand dollars, shark teeth, and other nick-nacks arranged in a wooden bowl come together as a charming and fun-to-collect centerpiece.

SHAPE YOUR BOOTY The treasures you find lying around the beach are given new life and purpose when you use interesting shells, pieces of driftwood, sea stars—or starfish, both describe echinoderms, belonging to the class Asteroidea (eat THAT, Mr. Terwilliger—sorry, high school biology class flashback), sand dollars, and other oceanside bounty to add rustic warmth to a kitchen or hallway, using them to build a themed display next to glass containers and wicker baskets and small wooden crates.

SOFT—WHAT LIGHT THROUGH YONDER WINDOW BREAKS? Use a gauze curtain to disperse daylight, creating a soft, lazy effect. The curtain also acts as a lit-backdrop for anything you set in front of it, including a single-toned wooden chair. The effect gracefully reveals the window beyond, so a single panel will do the trick, as long as it is lengthy enough to pool romantically on the floor.


LIGHTEN UP Raw wood and wicker baskets, a wooden table or metal steamer chest in place of a coffee table, cotton rugs, and sunlight pouring in from an uncovered window come together to replicate the warmth and inviting feel of a vacation house on the shore.


PILLOW TALK Layering natural cottons and linens on your bedding provides no-fuss, relaxing comfort. Using white sheets will prevent the bed from looking sloppy and unkempt.


LET THERE BE LIGHT Choose a spot that you walk past all day and “summer-ize” it. Use “open” elements—like see-through lamps, X- (or “scissor”-) chairs, and seashell garlands—let sunlight through and add an airy, ethereal mood.  Careful use of bare space opens up a room.

FOR THE SHELL OF IT Shells can be used for so many purposes, and in so many ways, to add an oceanside feel to any room or entryway.



  • Art Display: Use hanging plastic cubes to build your own mini-art gallery to exhibit the life aquatic.  Display some of your favorite beach bounty (sea stars, sand dollars, shells), and mix things up when it strikes your fancy.
  • The Captain’s Journal: Glue a sea star or a flat shell to a fabric-covered notebook, and you have your own Captain’s Journal Log: Use it to chronicle your own shore-side adventures, and to collect pictures—and beach goodies, like small pieces of driftwood or flat shells—from your seaside experiences.
  • Planters (with Punch): Fill a shell with the appropriate soil and drop in succulent plants. They only need to be watered when the soil is dry, and then just a little H2O at a time.
  • Seasons in the Sun: Serve coarse sea salt and ground pepper on the half-shell, in these elegant vessels which add a nice touch (with little effort) to your next summer outdoor—or al fresco—meal.
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall:
  • Craft a mirror frame using seashells of all shapes and sizes. Here’s how:
    You will need a framed mirror, a paintbrush, white craft glue, and seashells of various sizes. By using similarly shaped pieces—like sea urchins or sand dollars—and a limited palette, you will make the piece look harmonious.

    • Use the larger pieces first, placing them around the frame, and filling in the open spaces with the smaller elements. A paintbrush will make it easier to apply the glue to the shells, and can mold to catch uneven contours.
    • With a picture hook and a hammer, hang the mirror, or else lean it on top of a dresser, on a hallway table, or anyplace else you would like to evoke a shore-side vibe.


Now, what time is the clambake?