How to Decorate With Summerhouse Style
A Time-hop Porch
Like a breezy revival of summers past, this Jersey Shore porch was created in the spirit of simplicity: the sea breeze as central air, pretty rattan seating for conversation and coffee, and a cedar-shingled view of the ocean.
From soft florals to delicate block prints, scaled-down patterns recall trends of the early to mid-20th century, made fashionable by designers like Sister Parish and William Morris. Opt for pastels for a purist approach, or modernize the iconic style with hotter, brighter colorways.
A Cool Backyard Retreat
Breathing room was a hot commodity in early American summerhouses, as owners sought escape from the crush of cities and growing suburbia. A peek behind the hedges of interior designer Jenny Wolf's 120-year-old beach house in New York reveals a grassy lawn for bocce ball and bare feet, a swimming pool for hot days, and blue and white hydrangeas blooming over the manicured boxwoods.
Seeking a casual contrast to their full-time digs, owners often bucked the formality of natural heart pine or walnut with colorful painted floors. Fun shades, like this lush green, come with a practical win, too: They're great for hiding dirt and sand. Though a degree of fading can add charm, opt for polyurethane-based paints with an enamel designed for high-traffic surfaces (like Sherwin-Williams's Porch & Floor Enamel) for maximum longevity.
Extra-Warm White Paint
Creamy whites with a touch of gray create the illusion of age on walls and beadboard—a welcome effect, particularly in new houses. (Try to avoid whites with strong blue undertones, as they can appear cold or sterile.)
Maritime-style lighting is a brilliant character builder. Metal cages protected the glass in rough seas, but they come in handy in family retreats, too, where beach gear and games roll in and out like the tide.
1. Rejuvenation Tolson Cage Wall Sconce in Polished Chrome, $199; rejuvenation.com
2. Davey Lighting Bulkhead Light 7028 in Polished Brass, $359; shophorne.com
3. Kichler Seaside 1 Light Outdoor Wall Lantern in White, $66; kichler.com for retailers
Artifacts like vintage maps, photos, flags, and signs imbue houses with a sense of history. Aim for a cohesive collection of like-minded pieces—framed antique maps of the area, a collection of vinyl records—or choose a single, big-impact item like an American flag. Interior designer Michael Murphy found this one at a New England flea market and hung it in the foyer of an historic New Jersey beach cottage.
Warm summer nights call for cool bed layers, as in this East Hampton guest room by designer Phoebe Howard. Bedspreads with raised knot embroidery originated in the mid-1800s, and proved ideal for lightly covered beds. Update these for 21st-century beach houses by pairing with custom pillows that have vibrant, modern trim.
Beautiful Bed Basics
1. The Beautiful Bed Company Harriet Spindle Bed in Red High Gloss, from $3,499; beautifulbedco.com
2. Roller Rabbit Prima Quilt in Red, from $200; rollerrabbit.com
3. Kathy Kuo Home Molly Vintage Modern White Wood Spindle Bed, from $999; kathykuohome.com
4. Serena & Lily Larkspur Quilt in Sky, from $248; serenaandlily.com
Artful arrangements of sea life and maritime ephemera deepen a home's connection to the water. Shop antiques and salvage shops for pieces with a measure of originality and create dynamic groupings by pairing treasures of varying heights and textures.
1. Wall Art Anchors
An engraved anchor doubles as a super nautical hat rack with a whimsical island painting and custom whale mural.
Design by Anthony Baratta
2. Funky Ship Dioramas
This midcentury brass lamp holds a diorama of a whaling ship; a smaller boat in the foreground is chasing a whale.
Design by Gary McBournie
3. Framed Sea Fans
A gallery wall of hand-tinted sea fans creates a colorful living room display among 3-D shell art.
Design by Karen Robertson