When buying a beach house, there's a tendency to go overboard (no pun intended) on the coastal aesthetic, investing in one too many seashell tchotchkes and refusing to consider any other color besides navy blue and seafoam green. Liz Mearns, an interior designer and founder of Liz Mearns Imagine Design, has another way. When she designed this Saint Michaels, Maryland home, she focused on a traditional neutral aesthetic with blues, white and leather accents for a coastal home that still felt cozy.
"We were very careful to make the coastal and nautical influences sophisticated and not too kitschy," Mearns tells MyDomaine. "I think when you’re on the water in Saint Michaels, you run the risk of pulling out all your seashore props."
This four bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home was built in 1984 and covers 2,100 square feet of waterfront property.
"The view and how it informed the overall design, of course, were paramount," Mearns explains. "The palette pulled whites and blues from the water and sky, and there was a tendency to select neutral, textural furnishings for visual interest without detracting from the waterfront scenery."
The palette pulled whites and blues from the water and sky, and there was a tendency to select neutral, textural furnishings for visual interest without detracting from the waterfront scenery.
Keep scrolling to see how Mearns created a subtle coastal oasis.
The entryway makes use of several trends, including an oversized mirror and a thin console table. Though the home isn't massive, Mearns loved the size.
"It is not very big, but we created several different seating areas, so people can come together or find their own little space or respite if they would like," Mearns says.
The living room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, providing the homeowners with unobstructed views of the waterfront.
"The architecture of the home is not overwhelming," Mearns explains. "The real “wow” of the home is the gorgeous water view and ideal location for this social couple. The challenge was to create a feeling of luxury with furnishing, lighting and accessories."
The combined living and dining area are an expert class in open concept decorating while the large mirror gives the illusion of a bigger room. Mearns chose nautical boat prints for this space (her greatest finds, she says).
Though the house has touches of nautical life (like this seashell lighting fixture), overall Mearns kept the coastal touches elevated.
"We were very careful to make the coastal and nautical influences sophisticated and not too kitschy," Mearns says. "I think when you’re on the water in Saint Michaels, you run the risk of pulling out all your seashore props."
We were very careful to make the coastal and nautical influences sophisticated and not too kitschy. I think when you’re on the water in Saint Michaels, you run the risk of pulling out all your seashore props.
The primary bedroom boasts the same nautical palette with a hint of pink and metallic accents.
The term "Primary Bedroom" is now widely used to describe the largest bedroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term "Master." Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
"Accent pillows and throws incorporate some of the location’s gray blues and pale sand tones," Mearns explains. "There are also small touches of coral and fuchsia in certain spaces, evoking spectacular sunsets."
The dining room and kitchen area boast moody dark walls and rustic furniture, making it a cozy spot to entertain.
"The home strikes the perfect balance between entertaining and relaxing," Mearns says. "They might have drinks at the island, spend time with friends in the sunroom (which has lots of seating options), or curl up with a book by the fireplace."
Though the home was built 36 years ago, Mearns and her team kept the renovations to a minimum.
"We were on a fairly tight renovation budget, so we had to get creative," Mearns explains. "The kitchen lost a large space-consuming island in favor of a smaller, distressed-wood one with more character, pretty minimum changes, but it seemed like we did more than we did because of the bold move to go with a really dark blue on the walls. Then we added texture and warmth with wood table, caned chairs and nautical rope chandelier."
Upstairs, this bedroom evokes traditional style with a tufted headboard, rustic wooden bench, and matching nightstands.
Two statement accent chairs nestle perfectly by the back deck, a great place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or a summer read.
Though the color palette includes plenty of white and sandy tones, Mearns designed smartly for a couple who loves to entertain.
"Even though we did a lot of white and cream upholstery, all the fabrics we selected are high-performance fabrics that will wear well," Mearns says. "We didn’t want anything fussy in textiles, nor have anyone worry about spills, wet bathing suits, or the general wear of heavy entertaining."
Throughout this entire process, Mearns kept her design mantra in mind: keep it cohesive.
"There are lots of good product options out there, but don’t get too hung up on things that you love," Mearns advises. "Sometimes you can like a certain fabric or light fixture, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit in with the overall aesthetic. Keep the look interesting but cohesive. In the end, the best homes are ones that harmonize."