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Coastal Casual (Without The Kitsch) – 5 Tips From Interior Designer Vern Yip
By Abigail Abesamis
A chamois carousel animal (that’s goat-antelope in case you wondered) along with Asian-inspired patterns and hues from bright citrine to warm gray are just a few of the things you may find in Vern Yip’s beach home in Rosemary Beach, Florida, along Scenic Highway 30A. While bowls full of seashells, a blue and white color scheme and mermaids galore may be what people typically think of when they hear coastal casual, for Vern that descriptor is more about a feeling and way of living.
“I think when people think about coastal casual they think about a feeling of ease, decompression [and] being able to come into an environment and immediately be relaxed, rejuvenated and nurtured,” Vern said. “It’s this idea that life is stressful and [people are] creating coastal casual environments even when they live in the mountains, in the deserts [and] in the middle of the Midwest where there’s not a drop of water to be seen anywhere. People want to create that coastal casual look because what they’re really trying to achieve is an environment where they can relax easily and the focus is more on life, people, and relationships rather than preserving an environment or being worried about how something is used.”
Incorporate some coastal casual vibes into your home by following Vern’s top tips:
1. Choose fabrics and materials that match your lifestyle.
A home is meant to be lived in, so it’s important to balance aesthetic desires (like pristine white countertops and sofas) with the realities of your way of living (meaning kids, pets and house guests that are prone to spilling a glass of red wine–it happens to the best of us).
“I love the wide breadth of performance fabrics that we now have; it’s why I came out with my own line of performance fabrics last year,” Vern said. “I was seeing this strong desire, not just in coastal environments but in lots of people’s homes, to have beautiful fabrics that are soft to the touch but also incredibly durable so that you’re not worried about your friend drinking a glass of red wine on your white sofa, your kid eating ice cream on a piece of upholstery they’re not supposed to be eating on or your dog climbing up on it. At the same time, you’re able to have a white sofa or something that’s light-colored and really embrace that aesthetic.”
If you’ve got your heart set on white countertops, consider using quartz instead of white marble. “We see a lot of white marble countertops in coastal design but a lot of times people might have the look but they don’t have the lifestyle; white marble tends to stain with red wine [and] scratches very easily but you can employ quartz that looks just like white marble,” he said. That simple swap allows you to entertain guests without worrying about it scratching and focus on the conversations you’re having with people instead of silently hoping they don’t set their glass down on your countertop.
2. You don’t have to stick to colors like blue and white.
While blue and white may be the obvious colors to incorporate in a coastal-inspired space, Vern recommends choosing colors that you and your family find joyful and uplifting, and encourage a sense of casualness and connectivity to the people you spend time with in your home.
“I’m on my third home in Rosemary Beach and I’ve never had a blue and white home, not because I don’t love blue and white but when I think about what puts a smile on my face, what lifts me up, what I find joyful and what my family finds joyful, it’s something slightly different,” Vern said. “In my current home I employed a lot of citrine, which is a really beautiful jewel-toned yellow, a warm gray and white. I really went for that palette because it makes it feel sunny inside even when it’s not sunny and I love that, I love bright.”
When choosing a color palette for your own home, he recommends having an honest conversation with yourself and your family. Instead of focusing on what’s expected, think about which colors, patterns and objects would create that sense of happiness often associated with coastal living.
3. Play around with patterns.
“Pattern is another great tool to express individuality, and it’s also a great tool to create the emotion or feel that you want in an environment,” Vern said. If motifs of sea stars, knots and waves aren’t calling your name, you can still achieve an easygoing coastal feel by thinking outside the box. “In my home I have patterns that maybe you wouldn’t expect in a coastal environment; I have patterns that are Asian-inspired and I have them mixed with geometrics.”
4. Surround yourself with objects that bring you joy.
From great seahorses that typically don the gondolas of Venice to a vintage carousel chamois, Vern has accented his beach home with unique finds from his world travels. “I don’t think most people think of carousel goats as necessarily coastal, but I have him in our kitchen because he’s joyful and puts a smile on everybody’s face,” he said.
“Think outside of the usual iconic things. If mermaids make you happy, that’s great; mermaids don’t do it for me. I found a great door knocker in Cartagena in the shape of an octopus. It’s huge and weighs a ton and I designed a base to display him on and now he’s on my front door. Again, it’s about having a personal connection to your home and being surrounded by things that tell your story in a joyful way–[the objects] I’ve described are a reflection of somewhere I’ve been in the world and a great experience that I had.”
5. Think about what message you’re trying to convey with your space.
“Everything in your home, whether or not you realize it, every single thing sends you a message,” Vern said. Whether that message is a reminder of a great vacation and a serendipitous find or an impulse buy (right place, right time) that you don’t love but takes up space in your home, you have control over that messaging.”
For more design tips and inspiration, check out Vern’s Instagram page (@vernyipdesigns) or pick up one of his books, Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home (a New York Times bestseller) and Vern Yip’s Vacation at Home: Design Ideas for Creating Your Everyday Getaway.