Coastal Grandmother Style Is Making Waves in the Design World—Expect to See This Curated Aesthetic Everywhere

Meet grandmillennial style's elegant aunt. Though the trend was most recently popularized on TikTok, coastal grandmother design—which melds blue-and-white color palettes with cable knits and linen—is something Martha has embraced for decades.

venetian-style shell chairs flank an antique swedish table
Photo: Pieter Estersohn

Recently, you may have seen the phrase "coastal grandmother" floating around the web, particularly in fashion channels. The term—coined by TikTok user Lex Nicoleta—celebrates a timeless, pared-back aesthetic akin to Nancy Meyers' picturesque movies, Ina Garten's simple, but chic recipes, and Martha Stewart's timeless soirées (in fact, Martha has embodied a myriad of the design trend's tenets for decades). While the coastal grandmother phenomenon has placed a heavy emphasis on wearable items, like cream cable knit sweaters, breezy button-downs, and bucket hats, it has also infiltrated the world of interior design. And, according to Joelle Smith of the Jamaica-based design firm If Walls Could Talk, the trend has impeccable timing.

"It's spot-on for our current socio-economic climate and focus on sustainability," Smith says. "Coastal grandmother is about utilizing what you have available to you in the form of heirlooms and mixing it with elements that encourage relaxation and calm. After two years of a pandemic, this is exactly the mood we want to capture—that feeling of being with family in what you consider a safe space."

Admittedly, the coastal grandmother aesthetic sounds quite similar to the recent grandmillennial trend, which favors chintz, florals, and pastel palettes. Though both styles pay homage to classic elements, their approaches are very different. "While grandmillennial style uses these prints in a colorful, playful way, coastal grandmother design emphasizes lighter, monochrome versions that feel more laid-back," explains Anna Franklin, the lead designer and founder of Stone House Collective.

Now for the question that everyone is asking: How do you incorporate the coastal grandmother aesthetic into your space? For designer Erin Gates, it's all about using neutral color palettes, a mix of antiques and modern pieces, and textures like mohair, linen, boucle, and nubby knits. "It's an edited version of grandmillenial, which is full of loads of detail and [maximalism],'" she shares. "I see coastal grandmother as 'less, but better.' I think of breezy white linen curtains, overstuffed sofas, warm fireplaces, honed marble kitchen counters, copper cookware, and handmade ceramics."

While the coastal grandmother trend represents a laid-back, but luxurious approach to design, the phrase shouldn't be taken literally. As Gates puts it, "a true Nancy Meyers coastal grandma would never have any sort of cheesy, beach-themed décor." (Translation: There's no need to stock up on seashells and sandy motifs.) Instead, aim for subtle nods with a beautiful painting or a coastal-inspired color palette. "I see airy blues, creamy whites, and soft-toned golds making a big impact," Franklin adds. "Blue is a staple in coastal design, but to add a touch of luxury, gold will be equally as important."

And, contrary to what the phrase might imply, you don't need to live by the coast—or be a grandparent, for that matter—to embrace this trend. In fact, Parker & Harlow's Paige Gray says this style can work in a range of spaces, from small apartments and suburban abodes to, yes, beach homes. The secret to acing this trend, wherever you live? A simple, measured approach. "It's easy to incorporate the foundational design elements into [your] space," Gray shares. "Start with a gauzy drape as a window treatment—to bring in natural light and add privacy—and continue to build up textures of white throughout your furniture and décor choices. As the trend really leans into slow living and life's small moments, fresh flowers are absolutely a must to bring in some color and cheer."

Like with any design trend, it's only natural to wonder if the coastal grandmother look has staying power. After all, fads come and go, especially in the interior design world. Not only does Gray believe this phenomenon will remain covetable for the foreseeable future, but she also predicts it will evolve over the years. "I see this as a cyclical style icon that will be repeated by generations to come—with their own twists, of course," she explains. "A classic white button-down will always have a place in our wardrobes, as will a simple white linen drape upon our windows overlooking the sea."

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