For many people living in cooler climates, the mere mention of a beach conjures wonderful memories of youthful holidays in a warm destination where you lather your exterior with sun-cream and your interior with cocktails. Hey, even those people living in the deserts and tropics yearn for a vacation to a favorite beach, but annual visits to a sun-kissed paradise are not always within one’s budget.
Why not bring the beach back home to you if you can’t get there? Well, if not the literal beach, then certainly the vibe and ambiance that flowed over you when you were there. Consider converting just one room in your home into your ‘Beach Retreat’ and decorate it accordingly. Since you can’t get to a beach regularly, let’s make the Retreat on a budget, too.
A beach-themed living room on a budget is easily set up and therapeutic to create: Blue & white paint or color-wash, jute or sisal rugs/baskets, draped or painted furniture, subtle use of water & sand, natural beach debris, and hand-made art, offer a fabulous result. Make whatever you can, yourself.
Let’s consider the basics – What drew your attention when you visited the beach (and beach accommodation)?
Beach Themed Living Room Ideas On a Budget
The white and cream of the sand and the various (and many) shades of blue of the water will dominate all color considerations for your living room, but consider adding a touch of the following colors as a highlight:
- Green, dark – inspired by palm trees and nature, or mint – to rekindle the happy days of ice creams and sundaes. (Pink is also good)
- Orange, inspired by sunrise and sunsets
- There are others too, but you’ll need to decide which ones inspire you personally.
- Instead of painting the walls or furniture, what about using a color-wash in places? It’s a lot more budget-friendly.
Beach colors are versatile and can be inspired by the hues of the sand, sea, sun, or sky. Depending on the time of day you want to reflect, the tones can veer towards cool or warm. While the morning beach celebrates the palest version of the palette and works well in functional spaces, sunset colors add warmth to rooms used for relaxation.
Waves crashing on the beach and children squealing happily are two sounds that come to mind, and white noise can easily be purchased to play in your Retreat. However, you might already have access to whale and wave sounds, etc., via a Virtual Assistant like Alexa, Siri, or another AI (artificial intelligence) creation.
Music can also play a large part in re-creating memories, so you might care to play music evocative of the beach in your converted living room
Water / Sand
Perhaps it’s the being carried in amniotic fluid for nine months that gives most of us a love of water (In the early weeks of your pregnancy, the amniotic fluid consists mostly of water that comes from your body).
Certainly, as humankind, we love sitting in a tub of water, taking showers, frolicking in a pond or pool, and even spending millions of dollars annually on hot tubs so that we can enjoy the jets of water for hours on end.
Sand gets everywhere, but we love the feeling of it squeezing between our toes as we walk, so it leaves a good impression.
A small fish tank, or even a standard fishbowl, makes a great way to represent the beach at home and incorporates the fish aspect discussed below. Fish are ludicrously low maintenance, and pre-owned tanks and air-stones are not expensive.
Another easy way to introduce the essence of sand into the room is via candles: Take a hurricane vase or similar, fill the bottom third with sea sand (fine sandbox sand can be substituted if necessary), and place a suitably large candle in the vase.
Smells like fish and rotting seaweed are not welcome in most homes, but the salty ocean, some sun creams, and other aromas are. Consider adding an aromatherapy burner to the room with an oil that is gentle and triggers a positive response reminding you of that beach holiday.
Thousands of oils exist globally, so you will have to see what is available where you are located and perhaps even mix more than one for effect.
Cocktails and the like are de rigueur when on a beach holiday. Sometimes, placing a single cocktail glass with some colored water and a cocktail umbrella on a shelf or occasional table can be very evocative.
I am not a fan of eating fish in general, mainly because of the bones, but even I will try a meal or two of the local fish delicacy when at the beach, and I suspect most of us feel the same.
Fish meals, or even snacks, on occasion in your living room are a wonderful way to tie the décor in with your daily life, ensuring that the room is not a contrived way of grasping at the past. I’m guessing you’ll want a comfortable living room, not a museum.
Boats are synonymous with the sea, and no beach visit is likely to pass without you seeing more than one. They somehow conjure up feelings of freedom and tranquility as they languidly bob up and down on the tide, and these are good, positive emotions for your beach-themed living room.
Consider how you can transmit the same feeling into your home: Perhaps a boat model built by yourself together with someone special? This is a meaningful way to get your children (if any) invested in the room. An authentic or replica piece of a boat (wheel, porthole, dock fender, etc.) makes a big statement in a tableau of this kind.
Not easy to find inland and certainly not at a sensible price, driftwood can be easily carved into basic furniture, hung on the wall, and, if small enough, placed in a large vase as a dry arrangement. Very budget-friendly.
Everyone, except the oldies, loves to play games on the beach, and while it may be way more ‘cool’ to sit and covertly observe, we’d all secretly love to be invited to join in the volleyball game or frisbee throwing.
Physical games are probably not the best idea indoors, but a simple frisbee draped over a suitable spot in the room is wonderfully subtle and costs nothing. (Dig yours out from under the bed)
Swaying coco-palms are possibly the most loved natural furniture on a beach, and it would be incredible to re-create a similar vibe indoors. Well, while trees are out, here are a few plants whose fronds are similar to those palm trees, and these are all very happy indoors:
- Areca Palm
- Chinese Fan Palm
- Parlor Palm
- Ponytail Palm
- European Fan Palm
- Kentia Palm
- Pygmy Date
A beach-themed room of any kind would be remiss to leave some form of seashells out of its ensemble. Actual shells, replicas, seashell art, prints, etc., are a really easy way to convey the theme of a room.
The ubiquitous surfboard is always associated with golden-haired people, often in wetsuits, riding the waves, and having fun. If you have space, a small, damaged surfboard can be found, often for free and used as a trestle table or wall décor. Use a routing tool to cut the shape of a shark bite out of the board for dramatic effect.
An old piece of fishing net is easily found, and after a good boiling to remove the odor of fish, can be draped over a seldom-used chair or worked into a piece of art for the wall; possibly combining with driftwood.
In the same vein, an old lifebuoy makes a dramatic statement on the wall, and you might even stencil the name of a boat onto its surface.
On exotic, tropical islands, mats are woven from the fronds of palm trees, and these are often replicated in the west, sometimes with fronds and other times with sisal, jute, or another material. Somehow, they always look like they belong at the seaside, and a mat (and a few baskets) placed in the room will be very fetching.
Natural ropes, in particular, are synonymous with the sea because of the ropes used extensively on fishing boats. A few carefully accented items using ropes of different diameters draw one to the ocean in a subtle way.
Wicker, cane, or bamboo furniture does not have to be a large attack on your budget. Trawl (see what I did, there?!) the classifieds in your area and look for pre-owned items that you can nurse back to life. The cheaper, the better, provided the items are still structurally sound. A coat of paint, some sponge, and printed fabric can do wonders to furniture.
While these are not often seen at the beach, a quick visit to the marina will present you with some great ideas for making mini (or larger) flags for your living room. Tastefully hung, perhaps in a hand-made box frame, these are an attractive and inexpensive addition to your room.
- Matt finishes are generally more pleasing to the nautical eye, as salt air, water, and wind action tend to take the sheen off most things at the coast.
- Less is best, particularly on a budget. Avoid clutter and making the room look like you used every idea you found in a coffee-table magazine.
- Make use of the room. As suggested with the meals and snacks, find reasons to use it once it has been created and maybe even have a ‘shoes outside’ rule for authenticity.
- Beach homes are light, bright, and airy. Use glass and mirrors and avoid heavy drapes at all costs.
- A rolled-up beach towel, placed carefully in the setting, adds a lot to the illusion.
Beach Themed Living Room Furniture Ideas On a Budget
The DIY Option: Wooden Shipping Pallets
Used Wooden Shipping Pallets are extremely inexpensive and can be made into basic (and more involved) furniture of all types. If you have someone you can ask to assist you with this project, or perhaps handy with tools yourself; your budget future is bright indeed.
Any business that receives or ships out products is likely to have pallets on hand. In many cases, they may even have a surplus of pallets which they might be happy to discard. See if they’re willing to give some away, and you might be pleasantly surprised, failing which, they are inexpensive to buy.
Some good places to start looking for pallets include:
- Department stores
- Auto repair stores
- Distribution facilities
- Businesses that receive regular shipments
Avoid pallets that are damaged, especially those that have been overly weathered by rain and sun, unless you prefer that rugged look. Pallets that show an excess of wear and tear split more readily as the wood has dried out and become brittle. For delicate work, these pallets are somewhat difficult to work with.
To provide yourself with the best chance at success, go for those still in good condition (without cracks and other damage) and refuse grey wood as it is usually old.
Some tools for your pallet project include:
- Power sander to get rid of sharp splinters and rough areas. (Hand sanding-block is fine, but it does take a lot of effort, so choose smooth pallets carefully)
- Hammer and wrecking (crow) bar for dismantling the pallet
- Power driver to create holes for the bolts or screws
- Spirit (bubble) level to ensure accuracy
- Power saw for quick and easy cuts. (Hand saw if less confident)
- Right angle and basic ruler and a pencil
- Hard brush in case you want to distress the wood before painting.
- Paint or color-wash of your choice
- Safety goggles/mask
There is a very wide range of furniture items that you can make in this way, at less than U$10 per pallet, and while it might seem a daunting project, it is not. At age 16 and with no training or help from me, my daughter made a whitewashed headboard for her bed, and the result was great – the cost was just U$20 for the two pallets used.
Some great pallet-wood ideas for a beach-themed living room include:
- Bookshelves – Who doesn’t love the idea of lounging in the shade on their favorite beach with a book and a cool drink? Books create a wonderful ambiance in a room.
- Coffee table – Keep it simple if necessary – rectangular is easy.
- Picture / Art frames – If you’re not confident with making 45-degree corners, use the right-angle tool and have 90-degree corners. Whitewash or paint them nicely, and you have a very budget-friendly option.
- Trestle table – very inexpensive, make two trestle legs and join several slats together to make a tabletop
The Store Bought Option
Unless you are particularly handy, you will probably need to buy a sofa and a couple of chairs, depending on the size of your family. Since you are budget conscious, you might consider going with directors’ chairs, often off-white in color and will cost far less than armchairs.
That said, if the room is going to be used regularly – as it should – take a look at Used Furniture stores and lists like Craig’s List for deals. If the sofa and chairs are intact, they can be recovered in the color or print of your choice; even the padding can be replaced if required.
Naturally, if you already have suitable furniture, you can always use that instead. Just add slipcovers in your nautical colors, and you’re all set. Slipcovers can transform tired furniture to chic and achieve that lazy, beachside look. You can even take lengths of fabric and drape them over the furniture with rope or jute, tying them in place.
Look for muslin or osnaburg for fabric, which is usually much less expensive than linen or canvas. Don’t pay full price, either – Hobby Lobby and other fabric stores constantly offer sales and coupons. No one will suspect that your college furniture now has center-stage in your chic living room.
Cushions and throw-overs will accentuate your furniture beautifully and can be inexpensive and fun to make. Stencils of stars, fish, seashells, boats, and seabirds can be purchased at most hobby outlets, along with material paint or dye.
Add some jute, sisal, or rope mats and also baskets as accessories. To create a deck-like feel, you might paint or whitewash your wooden floor, but I’d recommend covering the main traffic area with a rug to keep maintenance down to a minimum.