27 inventive room design ideas
In a small walkable community on the Washington coast, we designed two houses (and one big yard) for a new kind of beach living
Our 2013 Idea Town
No matter where you go in Seabrook, the sound of the waves follows you. That’s by design. The Grays Harbor community is built so every home is no more than a five-minute walk to a firepit, a bocce court, or the beach. Sound idyllic? We thought so too and chose Seabrook as the setting for this year’s Sunset Idea House—make that Idea Houses (we couldn’t help but build two). Designed by architect Peter Brachvogel as a multigenerational retreat, the houses have views of the ocean and a shared backyard. Inside, Seattle designer Brian Paquette created breezy but bold rooms that redefine beach house style. Pore over these photos for ways to make your home—no matter where—feel like a getaway.
Idea House #1: Shoreview
In this 2,544-square-foot house, a reverse-living floor plan capitalizes on the view: The living and dining rooms and kitchen are on the second floor, with two bedrooms below and a master bedroom loft up top. The furnishings are simple and clean lined, the sensibility is modern, and the entire home is enveloped in a hazy color inspired by the sand, sea, and sky. “The house is meant to embrace and amplify the nature around it,” says designer Brian Paquette.
Design for the view
The 12-foot-high Andersen windows in the living room, above, are spaced to mimic the shore pines outside and make the room feel like a treehouse. For an uninterrupted view, Paquette chose low spindle chairs from CR Laine rather than high-back ones.
Steal colors from nature
The living room's gray wall color, Early Frost CSP-590 by Benjamin Moore, changes with the light. In the full sun, it’s a pale gray that mimics the chic firewood logs and makes the room feel like a gallery; as the sun sets, the walls pick up a purple tone that’s a close match for the clamshells on the beach below.
Include creature comforts
A big square ottoman is reachable from every seat in the living room.
Pay attention to form
Welting in a contrasting color emphasizes the lines in furniture.
Weathered woods give the kitchen dimension. The gray-wash floor matches the cool walls, the reclaimed-wood on the island adds warmth, and the whitewashed beams bring a sense of airiness.
White grasscloth shades almost disappear when rolled up.
Be bold in small rooms
A wallpaper pattern that might overwhelm a large space can enliven a smaller room—like the den, with its floral print from Makelike.
Break up bare walls
A blue barn door leading to the den adds an architectural element to the dining room, left, and lies flat against the wall to save space.
Hang art close
In the stairwell, Paquette hung prints by artist Jennifer Ament so tightly, they touch. This helps the display look like one art piece—and relieves a lot of measuring anxiety.
Give the pooch a pouf
The cover of the dog bed is sewn from the same Sunbrella fabric as the living room upholstery, and can be unzipped and thrown in the wash.
Rethink the headboard
Paquette upholstered the bedroom headboard with vintage Japanese boro, an indigo patchwork. “Don’t be scared of vintage fabrics,” he says. “They add character.” If a fabric is delicate, an upholsterer can back it so it’s sturdy enough for most uses.
Create an accent
Hang wallpaper on just one wall—it creates a focal point.
Design for bare feet
Tile floors with radiant heating make the bathroom seem like a spa. The Kismet tiles are made of concrete that feels chalky soft underfoot.
Soak up the scenery
Put the bathtub on a pedestal by the window; the step up gives the tub a view.
Make a scene
In the backyard, Azek gray-wash decking (a tie-in to the floors inside) creates a “room” near the fireplace. Whiskey barrels and galvanized farm-trough feed containers hold salad greens, blueberries, and salt- and wind-resistant shore pines.
Display art in a new way
In the guest quarters above the garage, a large photograph of the Olympic Peninsula, taken by Virginia Wilcox, is displayed on a Cost Plus World Market easel to fill a corner.
Keep views clear
Cable railings leave a wide-open view from the second floor.
Idea House #2: Beach bungalow
In this 1,600-square-foot bungalow, Paquette used many of the same design elements as in the larger house—but amplified the playfulness. Shrimp orange, chartreuse, true green, and dark aqua pop up throughout the spaces. The walls are packed with art—some of it framed, some hung from binder clips, and some plastered right onto the stair risers.
Plant for practicality
For one side of the shared backyard, designed by Seabrook’s Stephen Poulakos, in-ground perennials and edibles in containers form a small kitchen garden. A mix of pea gravel and crushed oyster shells prevents water runoff.
Think long term
A metal roof can last 50 years or more.
Get glitzy underfoot
Add small pieces of recycled glass to pea gravel for shimmer.
Reach great heights
What the master bedroom lacks in square footage, it compensates for with a soaring paneled ceiling. The deep aqua wall color makes the lofty space still feel like a cocoon.
Play up dimensions
Paint ceilings a lighter tone of the wall color to make them appear higher.
Traditional lines and tufting meet beach-bright colors in the living room’s CR Laine Chesterfield sofa. The color relaxes the serious piece, as do the chipped trunk and stool.
In the dining room, the mix of whimsical lighting from Rejuvenation, antique chairs, and a sleek table lends to the pleasantly unmatched look.
Keep one color uniform
Palm leaf green molding is a constant through most of the house, even while the wall color shifts from icy blue to chartreuse and back again. Bring molding down from the ceiling for a cozy, informal feel.
Surprise with detail
To add a sense of history in an unconventional way, Paquette enlarged black-and-white photos of clam diggers that he found at the local historical society, then decoupaged them to the stair risers.
Bring the indoors out
Cedar wood paneling gives the covered outdoor kitchen, below, warmth. The beams—painted green to match the home’s trim—add enough architecture to make the space feel like a bona fide dining room.
What it's like at Seabrook
Like any beach community, the yards in Seabrook are strewn with sand pails, bikes, and buoys. But unlike many similar towns, Seabrook is purposely condensed into small neighborhoods, each centered on a communal green space or firepit, and no neighborhood is more than a short walk from the rest of the development. Houses are built as the lots are purchased (and often offered as rentals so they don’t stand empty for part of the year), and owners have a say in the design of their homes—meaning there’s a lot more personality than you might expect from a planned town. The official name for this intentional community-building design is New Urbanism, but town founder Casey Roloff calls it common sense. Either way, it’s working. One homeowner met his Seattle neighbor only when they discovered they lived a few homes away in Seabrook. Kids run freely between houses, and families meet up at the volleyball net or in their shared front yard—Seabrook’s miles and miles of wide, unspoiled beach. Seabrook, 4275 State 109, Pacific Beach, WA; seabrookwa.com