Everything You Could Possibly Need to Know About the Coastal Grandmother Trend

published Jun 28, 2022
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I call it my “cottage by the sea” — a dreamlike place I’ve long imagined in my mind ever since I was little. Everyone has a “someday home” that they envision. Mine just happens to be directly located next to the ocean and festooned with climbing flower vines. Seashells sit in the window ledges, and the white Adirondack chairs out front present a relaxed, breezy vibe to all who may come to visit. 

As it turns out, my vision isn’t exactly unique, especially these days. Earlier this year, the term “coastal grandmother” was coined on social media by 26-year-old TikToker Lex Nicoleta, which she then went on to describe as an aesthetic for those who love cooking, cozy interiors, Ina Garten, and the laidback, coastal brand of homemaking and decor you see in Nancy Meyers’ movies — think “It’s Complicated” or “Something’s Gotta Give.”

Scenes of Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton walking around their idyllic movie homes may be coming to mind for you — bright white walls, blue-and-white striped rugs, vases of freshly picked flowers — but make no mistake about it: The coastal grandmother style is beachy and rustic but warm and without an ounce of kitsch, and you certainly don’t have to be an actual grandmother to get in on this trend. To further pinpoint the look and feel of the coastal grandmother aesthetic and identify how can you bring this traditional style into your space, I spoke to some experts. Here’s everything you need to know about the coastal grandmother trend.

Coastal Grandmother By Definition 

“Coastal grandmother embraces a polished coastal aesthetic, blending classic influences with a fresh, relaxed yet refined style,” says Carla Rummo, the chief marketing officer of Serena & Lily, a brand that brims with coastal grandmother style furniture and decor. Rummo says she and her colleagues define the look as “nostalgic yet fresh.” According to her, this trend “speaks to a laid-back, luxurious, coastal way of life” that you can achieve whether you live next to the sea or not.

In other words? If you’re drawn to traditional style that’s relaxed with some seaside flair mixed in for good measure, you’re golden with this timeless trend. In fact, Rummo goes so far as to say that coastal grandmother isn’t just a design approach: It’s a way of life. “[Coastal grandmother] embodies a lifestyle that’s elegant yet comfortable and inspired by summertime nostalgia, a sense of optimism, and a connection to nature,” she says. “The style brings to mind cashmere sweaters, leisurely walks on the beach, and cocktails on the porch with family and friends.” 

While this style is perfectly suited for homes by the sea, you can absolutely embrace the look even if you live thousands of miles away from the nearest ocean. Designer Claire Zinnecker praises the aspects of the coastal grandmother motif that aren’t necessarily coastal. “My own interpretation of it is ‘comfort meets style,'” she says. “Mixing and matching is easy with coastal grandmother pieces— [think] textures, cozy, softness, warmth, and quality — not quantity.” 

Coastal Grandmother Vs. Grandmillennial

By now, you’re likely familiar with the grandmillennial trend, which caught fire in 2020 after also gaining steam on social media. While aspects of grandmillennial style sound similar to the coastal grandmother approach — descriptors like traditional, heirloom, floral could work for both — these aesthetics actually do differ in key ways. 

“Both styles are rooted in tradition with a reimagined twist,” Rummo says. “Coastal grandmother draws inspiration from natural elements like the ocean, sand, and sky to create a bright, inviting space — think soft neutrals and coastal blue color palettes, breezy linen fabrics, natural materials like rattan and jute, and classic furniture silhouettes. Grandmillenial style is more indicative of mixed patterns, floral chintz, and a bolder color palette paired with darker, heirloom furniture pieces.” 

Zinnecker herself describes grandmillennial style as “more French country sophistication” with ruffles and ornate furniture. No matter the brand of grandmillennial style you encounter out in the wild in interiors though, the coastal grandmother aesthetic is undoubtedly a breezier, lighter and brighter close cousin. Both styles have vintage charm and classic silhouettes in spades, but the materials, color palettes, and hero design features aren’t exactly the same.

Credit: Whit McGuire

How to Get the Coastal Grandmother Look

Want to life your best coastal gran life at home, as though you were on a Nancy Myers movie set? Here ‘s how to get the coastal grandmother look at home: 

  • Drape a chunky, pale knit throw over a sofa or at the foot of your bed for “an instant cozy layer,” as Rummo calls it.
  • Choose linen fabrics, natural woods, and plaster furnishings to create what Zinnecker calls a “beach meets wabi-sabi” kind of vibe. 
  • Generally, the coastal grandmother palette is a light and neutral. Lean into blues and whites with textiles like pillows, sheets, and table linens.
  • Rummo suggests natural materials like raffia and rattan, which bring a warm, relaxed feel to any space, and make a room feel less formal on the whole. “Start with a seagrass basket, wicker tray, or jute rug,” she says.
  • For furniture, stick to classic silhouettes in light or medium-tone woods or whites, creams, or blues that you could have picked up at a flea market. 
  • Fill antique vases with fresh flowers.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Coastal Grandmother Trend