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Room of the Month - Beach House

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 22, 2009

At NYIAD we teach our students a simple Three-Step Method for designing every room they create:

  1. A successful room is functional.
  2. A successful room expresses a mood.
  3. A successful room exhibits a sense of harmony.

This simple Three-Step Method is the secret of every interior ever designed. We teach our interior design students to consider these three steps every time they look at a room. You'll find the great home decorating ideas in our Room of the Month series as well as in the design tips on this site helpful in creating outstanding room designs.

When our students mail in their interior design project for analysis by their instructor, the instructor starts by commenting on these three Guidelines. Of course, the instructor analyzes other elements of the project too – decor, layout, furniture, style etc. But the key to good decor – and the essential element of every great interior design – is adherence to these three NYIAD Guidelines.

How do they work? How can you apply them? It's beyond the scope of this Web site to teach you every nuance, but you will get an inkling from the Room of the Month Analysis that follows.

beach house fireplace

For this issue of Designer Monthly dedicated to the timeless style of the beach, we'll be analyzing the decor of a beach house nestled into the dunes, using the NYIAD Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony.

Let's consider function first. A beach house is a place to relax, to shed the usual routines and cares of life, to hang out with family and friends.

This living room fills all these functions perfectly, and does so in part because it is sparsely furnished. We know there are some gorgeous beach houses that feature more elaborate furnishings, but one thing we like about this room is its simplicity.

When thinking about a beach house — or any vacation home — a big consideration is keeping the upkeep simple and easy. When you're on vacation, you don't want to substitute your chores at home for new, more onerous ones.

beach house fireplace

Here, notice how the floor appears to be hardwood; it's actually a laminate, which makes for easy cleaning and durability. This is a great choice for a beach house, as a quick swipe with the vacuum or broom will keep the sand from building up; having a heavy carpet in a beachhouse only means putting in a lot of time pushing the vacuum. If someone spills a glass of lemonade or a pitcher of a mojitos, it's easy to wipe up the spill. Also, that laminate floor feels cool and smooth under bare feet that have been in hot sand all day.

This room functions well for casual entertaining. The small coffee table is handy for holding glasses or small plates; the two facing sofas and the over-sized ottoman make a convenient conversational area, and the built-in, cushioned seats on either side of the fireplace provide extra seating for a larger gathering.

Another function is offered by the fireplace, which is the centerpiece of the room. The function here in part is to provide a room where friends and family will congregate to talk with one another, and to provide a natural warmth on those nights when the temperature drops. Often, the centerpiece of a living room is the television, and leaving it behind for vacation (or having it in another room) can serve to bring everyone together to talk, play games, and spend some quality time together.

Notice that although the furniture at first glance appears white — not the easiest thing to keep clean — it's actually slip-covered with swaths of material which can easily be taken off, carried to the door leading to the deck, and shaken out.

All this of course contributes to the mood of casual relaxation. The spare furnishings and wide open space allow a visitor to relax upon entering the house. The rustic fireplace is practical, not fussy, and notice that the many windows looking out onto the dunes aren't cluttered by unnecessary window treatments, allowing the outside in.

beach house door

The doors opening directly from the living room onto the deck allow people to easily walk in and out of the house, furthering the feeling of the outdoors being inside, which in turn furthers the casual, natural mood.

Finally, it's easy to harmonize in such a simple room. White and offwhite are the predominant colors, providing a simple palette on which to add other colors. The blue and white stripes on the slip covers and the stripes on the throw pillows bring in just enough color to keep the room from feeling drab. As a vacation house, the personality of anyone staying here can be expressed, using the simple background as a launching point.

Without a doubt, this is a beach house that does its job perfectly, offering a place to relax and truly get away from it all.