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Design Ideas
A Nautical California Beach Cottage
A concise collection of coastal décor and furnishings keeps this 1940s California beach cottage livable and clutter-free.
A vintage California beach cottage—that’s the dream, isn’t it? Exposed beams, well-crafted built-ins and a cozy window seat, all of it light, bright and delightfully coastal. And when you step through the glass-panel doors of this 1940s beach house in Corona Del Mar, California, it does indeed feel like a dream come true. A nautical... Keep Scrolling
Written by ELISE PORTALE
Photography by CHAD MELLON
Styling by JICKIE TORRES & KRISTIN DOWDING


A vintage California beach cottage—that’s the dream, isn’t it? Exposed beams, well-crafted built-ins and a cozy window seat, all of it light, bright and delightfully coastal. And when you step through the glass-panel doors of this 1940s beach house in Corona Del Mar, California, it does indeed feel like a dream come true. A nautical California beach cottage dream, that is. Blue-patterned pottery, rattan chairs and sand dollars accent a space that feels crisp and breathable, all the product of not so much a dream as a miracle.

Light and bright kitchen with custom white exposed shelving and butcher block counter-top.
FRESH PICKED. Kitchens in old beach homes are notorious for being small and in need of an update. The Corona Del Mar kitchen is, by contrast, delightfully open. The flashy granite or marble of many a coastal home is here replaced by a beautiful butcher-block countertop, a surface that shows its use and patina well. Open, built-in shelves display the same blue and natural elements found in the rest of the house.

Some Call It Cozy

This vintage California beach cottage, built in a bygone era, gets its classic charm from the bones. But, as with many postwar homes, the spaces are small, often too small for the sofas, armchairs and dining tables of the modern age. Space planning in these homes, with their unique parlors and patios, can be a struggle, resulting in awkward, tight spaces, with tchotchkes on every wall.

Side by side images of small coastal decor in the house, white pieces of coral, nautical rope, coffee table books and florals arranged in a golden vase.
Left: Satin white-on-white paint enhances the natural texture of the door and dresser. A rope mirror and coral draped with glass beads adds more coastal texture. Right: Patterned pillows in a rich ocean blue is echoed in everything from hydrangeas to the stack of books that supports them. A recess in the wall is like a second frame around an evocative dried and pressed seaweed.

Yet, instead of feeling cramped and overstuffed, this heavenly beach retreat feels like a breath of fresh ocean air. White walls go a long way to expanding a space, bouncing any and all available light around the room, but in this home, the vaulted beam ceilings get the same white-washing, opening up every nook and cranny to the Southern California sun.

Related Reading: Michigan Lake Cottages Have their own Distinct Style

Sun room in a cottage beach house with a white nautical rope light fixture hanging from the vaulted ceiling over a seating area.
ROOM TO BREATHE. The sunroom, one of the more breathtaking rooms in the house, is a triumph of leaving well enough alone. The space can be boiled down to just a few large elements: The wicker loveseat and bamboo coffee table have beautiful craftsmanship downplayed with their natural finishes, letting the intricate architectural details of the room stand center stage. A rope chandelier is surrounded with clerestory windows that drench the room in light. As the room connects the yard to the main home, an outdoor rug catches sand and keeps it contained.

Built-ins, too, are painted white, lending just a touch of textured molding and their shelving to a collection of all-white shells and starfish. Each room is a perfectly prepared canvas for the furnishings within.

White vaulted ceilings in the lovely bedroom with cobalt blue accents.
MIXED MEDIA. It doesn’t take much pushing to turn a space coastal. A bamboo bed is a classic and plays well thematically with a ceramic lamp reminiscent of blue and white Chinese pottery. From there, a palm motif in blue on the comforter gives this bedroom the beachy feel it desires.

The selections are few, but with each choice comes a distinct coastal impact; like the home itself, they bring a lot of character in a small bit of real estate.

The furniture selections are pieces from various coastal styles, hand-selected for each space. Too many pieces would weigh down this home and encroach on those beautifully breathable spaces. In lieu of a dominant couch and loveseat, the simple white-upholstered sofa recedes into the background, relinquishing the spotlight to two stately bobbin armchairs.

Living area in a vintage beach house with high white vaulted ceilings.
DROP ANCHOR. Surrounded by white walls and bay windows, the natural stone fireplace immediately draws the eye. The rustic feature centers the space, its neutral color allowing the blue-striped bobbin chairs to stand out and lend their coastal flair. A limited palette of black, blue and neutrals grounds this space and keeps it from feeling cluttered. White shells and a rusted helm and anchor are well chosen to lend texture and character while blending into their backdrops

The dining table features no end chairs—four is enough, but only when those chairs are beautiful, weathered wicker. The selections are few, but with each choice comes a distinct coastal impact; like the home itself, they bring a lot of character in a small bit of real estate.

Wicker chairs with an antiqued white wash are a beautiful contrast with the clean lines of the black dining table
LESS IS MORE. The dining table is just enough for the space. Wicker chairs with an antiqued white wash are a beautiful contrast with the clean lines of the black dining table—and the scene hardly misses end chairs. The simple setup is perfect for a natural centerpiece that changes with the seasons.

Made for Everyday

The joys of this California beach cottage aren’t the joys of architecture and décor alone. Homes like the Corona Del Mar cottage are meant for the beach—and beachgoers. Outdoor rugs that are used indoors handle tracked-in sand well, and while white cushions have a reputation for showing stains, a quick bleaching can erase the memory of dirty feet.

Window seat with all white walls and vaulted ceilings.
SUNLIT SANCTUARY. A window seat set aglow by a skylight—is there anything dreamier? The architecture of this space is classic cottage. A pair of mismatched patterned pillows is enough to lend some texture, while allowing the original beams, windows and tongue-and-groove details to shine through.

Natural materials thrive here, with organic wear or patina only deepening their character. Wood planks show their age and texture, having soaked in decades of salty sea air, while the airborne sand caught in the cracks of a rattan loveseat only enhances the woven pattern.

Bedroom with rattan headboard and blue and white accents on the bed and on the nightstand.
COBALT BLUE. These string blue accents from the home make such a bold statement against all of the white and bright of the home.

As pristine as this California beach cottage appears, it is meant for living. And, as anyone who lives in the neighborhood knows, a life by the beach is true living indeed.

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a lovely Farmhouse Beach Cottage. 

 

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