Today’s customers want more neutral color schemes and long-lasting products when decorating their seaside homes.

May 31, 2024

Sunday mornings are particularly busy days at Hudson Art & Decor in Hudson, Florida. With a diner located just a short walk away from the seaside retailer, diner guests often stroll into Hudson Art & Decor after breakfast to check out the fun, coastal-themed furniture, decor and gifts at the shop.

“This is a sweet spot for me, location-wise,” explains Hudson Art & Decor Owner Tom Lawrence. “We’re also in between two coastal furniture stores. People walk between two furniture stores, then they see my decorations. They say location, location, location, and it’s true.”

Decor featuring sea turtles, manatees and flamingos all sell well at Hudson Art & Decor. Lawrence also builds and sells custom surfboard bars that he says are a big draw with customers looking to furnish their beach homes.

Sea turtles and surfboards are popular coastal home decor themes in Florida, but boats and lighthouses are more prominent farther north along the coast. At By the Beach, a seaside retailer in Oak Island, North Carolina, customers love wall art that depicts the town’s lighthouse.

“Images of the lighthouse do well here in my shop,” says Tangela Moss, owner of By the Beach. “Tide clocks are another big seller here, especially for new homeowners. A lot of Realtors purchase those as closing gifts.”
Matthew Pecora, president and chief operating officer at Shard Pottery, a wholesaler in Lakewood, New Jersey, explains that coastal decor styles can vary depending on the region.

Coastal-themed throws like this one from C&F Home give customers a way to update their home decor at a lower price point.

“A New England Cape Cod home would be quite different from a home in sunny Palm Beach or the Adirondacks,” he shares. “Size, style and age of homes vary in different geographical areas. Perhaps some of the larger anchor pieces might and could be the same across these regions, but it’s all in the detail that makes a house a home and a reflection of who you are and where you live. Every area is unique and tells its own story, which is shown through one’s home and their decor.”

Geographical differences aside, seaside retailers and home decor vendors note that there are some coastal-themed decor trends that are true across the board.

Coastal grandma vibes

Seaside retailers and vendors alike have noticed that more muted color schemes are trending lately. Instead of vibrant beachy teals and bright coral-colored home decor, customers prefer creams, tans and jutes as well as muted blues and greens to decorate their seaside homes.

“Blues and white remains popular year after year for us, [but] I have seen a trend to more neutrals for sea life, with a few pops of pink, but less tropical colorations overall,” says Colleen Hall, vice president of marketing at C&F Enterprises, a wholesaler that offers a wide range of home decor.

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Moss says she has noticed a preference for more neutral color schemes with decor at her store as well.
“Five years ago, customers wanted more bright, beachy teals. Now, we have moved into more of the coastal grandma vibe with more muted tans and creams and that kind of thing,” says Moss.

According to a 2023 article in Better Homes & Gardens magazine, the “coastal grandma” decor style is “less ‘Ahoy, matey’ nautical and more an airy, effortless chic that’s informal but polished.” The style tends to be warm, inviting, laid-back luxury and features a lot of white, ivory and cream tones layered with other neutral coastal tones such as tan, beige and watery blues.

Printed Hues is a wholesaler known for its coastal-inspired watercolor art prints and products.

Laura Lobdell, owner of Printed Hues, says she has also noticed that customers are drawn to less vibrant color schemes this year.

“Lately we’re seeing a softer seaside palette of muted blues and greens paired with crisp whites and neutral tones,” she says.

Customers also love natural textures, such as wood, linen and rattan, particularly when they are layered with materials that can withstand harsh coastal elements, according to Lobdell.

Quality sells

Customers are also looking for long-lasting, sustainable products when they shop for home furnishings and decor today. With increased interests around protecting the environment, eco-friendly products do well in just about any retail category.

Hall shares that C&F Home’s eco-friendly, sustainable outdoor pillow fabrics and recycled material fabrics have been very popular recently.

“The sustainability factor was more important than ever this year for our customers,” she says.

A nautical chart, like this one from Printed Hues, adds a bit of coastal ambiance to a room.

Hall adds that seaside retailers should get all the background details they can on any eco-friendly decor they plan to offer, such as where the product was made or how it promotes sustainability. She says knowing those details can be great conversation starters and selling points with customers.

Wholesalers agree customers are also avoiding cheaply made decor, instead opting for more durable products.

“We’ve found that our customers consistently look for quality, durability and guidance,” says Pecora. “Whether it’s teak, recycled plastic or synthetic wicker, outdoor furniture takes a beating in the elements. Make the investment upfront for your outdoor furniture on good, quality product.”

Sincere Surroundings is a wholesaler focused on offering a variety of coastal-themed decor and gifts. Owner Michelle Leuthold says she has noticed that more retailers want to provide high-quality and American-made options for their customers.

“American-made signifies quality and supports local economies,” she shares. “Don’t cut yourself short on quality. Quality is important. The consumer has become more aware of quantity differences and are willing to spend slightly more for a timeless product that they can be proud to showcase in their home.”

Small coastal statements

Customers certainly want high-quality decor, but budget can be of concern to them when they shop for coastal-themed decor. Wholesalers suggest that retailers offer both large coastal-themed furnishings and artwork as well as smaller pieces to accommodate people with a variety of price points.

Hall of C&F Enterprises shares that coastal-themed pillows have been top sellers lately for that reason.
“I think that pillows are an easy way to really change the look of a space without having to purchase larger ticket items, such as new furniture,” she says. “Swapping out pillows for the season is an efficient, budget-friendly way to make a statement and give a room or outdoor space a quick style refresh.”

Hall says quilted coastal bedding and table linens are some other top sellers for C&F Enterprises. “I believe table linens were top coastal sellers for the same reason as the pillows — they are affordable options to change out the style of a dining room.”

Similarly, beach candles have been a hit for Sincere Surroundings. “The fragrances of piña colada, ocean air and perfect paradise combined with an artful message makes our candles irresistible,” says Leuthold.

Lobdell says tea towels are one of Printed Hues’ bestsellers because of their more affordable price point as well. “They’re highly giftable at a great price point and bring an artistic coastal accent into the home,” she says.

Pieces that pop

According to Leuthold of Sincere Surroundings, seaside retailers should make sure to offer plenty of wall art. She says customers today tend to love art-driven decor.

“The consumer is looking for strong art. A notable shift in home decor is consumers are moving away from sentiment-driven decor to art-driven decor,” she says. “Coastal artwork prints evoke a sense of serenity and relaxation, making the pieces timeless.”

Artful messages and beachy scented candles are popular with Sincere Surroundings’ coastal customers.

Having pieces that stand out is also helpful to selling coastal-themed decor. At Hudson Art & Decor, customers enjoy some of the one-of-a-kind statues that the store has to offer, like a metallic hogfish.

Lawrence works with local artists for many of the store’s statues. He admits that some of these pieces look odd, but he explains that customers like that they are eye-catching and can’t be found elsewhere.

“The key to retail for decor is always get something new,” Lawrence shares, explaining that customers don’t want to see the same touristy decor at every store they visit. “When customers come in my store, every week I have something new.”