Have you been dreaming of drifting to sleep in a Hamptons style bedroom? It's no wonder this look is gaining in popularity. It feels fresh, but carries strong ties to the best parts of traditional decor. So how can you get a get this look, regardless of whether or not you live at the ocean?
First, let's talk about the Hamptons: why they're iconic, what their history is, and where they're located. The Hamptons are are a popular "summer colony" for New Yorkers and for people from the East Coast of the US generally. Located on the easternmost part of Long Island, the Hamptons boasts spectacular views of the oceans and a welcome respite from the rigors of the city. The Hamptons are an enclave of "old money," having been a seaside resort for the wealthy since the late nineteenth century.
But enough about that! How do you get your bedroom to look like a grand old Hamptons home?
1. A Hamptons style bedroom is steeped in classic forms, but with a twist.
If you're anything like me, you're drawn to traditional forms with a modern or casual twist – and that's exactly what you'll find in this mode of decorating. Furniture and millwork can range from traditional to organic to clean-lined, and when selecting your furniture, it's a good idea to mix both of those aesthetics. Think beautiful antique stained chests in classic forms, contrasted with a clean-lined bed or headboard. Or perhaps envision a natural driftwood bedside table, with all its tangled asymmetry, paired with a very linear chest of drawers. In the photo below, you'll see my oyster art , seashell artwork, and horseshoe crab art weaving into just such a nuanced bedroom design.
Think about ways to juxtapose traditional lines with clean lines. Maybe you can find a gilded mirror (bonus points if it's an antique), and use it in the same bedroom as a modern dressing table that's made out of tropical wood. Something that's so successful about Hamptons style bedrooms is that they always feel so inviting. The traditional forms wrap you in a sense of safety and familiarity, while the modern lines you'll bring in will endow your space with a feeling of casual elegance. That's the thing about this style: it's exquisite without feeling stuffy, and I think the balance it strikes in this regard is the thing to which this decor mode owes much of its popularity.
Another thing I love about this look is that I find it to be stylistically unassailable – there's nothing particularly trendy about it. It's just good, timeless design that will look beautiful in your home for many decades to come. And that sense of visual durability is a trait that's smart to look for when designing a bedroom, especially one that you don't want to have to redecorate any time soon after you finish your current project.
In the room below, you'll see that my own coastal art is doing this same kind of old / new interplay within itself: spontaneous brush strokes and fresh color palettes bring a sense of energy to the pieces, while their classic compositional forms harken back to traditional botanical and fauna prints.
2. Wherever possible, use architecture and hard surfaces to your advantage in a Hamptons bedroom.
If you're starting from scratch, or at least renovating a space down to the studs, you have a lot of opportunity here. Your imagination (or memory, which we'll get to) is the only factor if you're in the enviable position to be fully redoing a space. If this is you, a good place to start is by taking a stroll down memory lane. Think about the forms that you may have seen in various beach houses in your lifetime. Chances are there was at least one chapel ceiling, which contributed to a sense of openness and airiness. If you put one in your house, it's great if you have plenty of natural light to fill this vaulted space and give it a relaxed, breezy elegance.
And don't forget surfaces. Think about the casual familiarity of a weather-worn beach boardwalk. The wood is a little sun-bleached and fits so well in a coastal environment. Why not pay homage to that effect with an exposed wood ceiling? If that's not an option, you could do an accent wall or ceiling beams in this evocative material.
And when thinking about interior architecture, don't overlook ways to incorporate artwork into your space, as with this blue crab art of mine.
3. Vintage, thrifting, and estate sale treasures can add wisdom to your bedroom on any budget.
I don't care if I win the lottery, because regardless, I will still be an enthusiastic thrift store and estate sale shopper. That's because there are few better ways to add wisdom and idiosyncrasy to your decor. And especially in this style. Think about it: part of what makes the Hamptons so iconic is that there's a touch of aristocratic shabbiness here and there. Think about the many Ralph Lauren ads you've seen in your life. There's always something old in them. It's part of the mood.
Well curated things that aren't factory-new can reeeeeally give off a sense of multigenerational hauteness. And the best part is that you can achieve this look on a tight budget. Look for furniture pieces like bamboo bed frames in warm wood colors and rattan chairs, and incidental items like wicker trays or mirrors, vintage picture frames, or any boating-related object that you could appropriate as art (careful not to get too kitschy with this last bit).
In the photo below, my cheeky pink flip-flops artwork is a tribute to this paradoxical idea of "threadbare elegance." What says "leisure time" better than a pair of well worn flip-flops? I also have a men's version of this print, so you can do a fun "his / hers thing" above your bed, walk-in closet, or in your bathroom.
I'd love to know about any great thrift store or inexpensive estate sale treasures you've stumbled across to help flesh out a vision for a classic coastal room (and bonus points if you got some of my pieces in there ;-) ).
4. Don’t be afraid to use color, contrast, and pattern in a Hamptons style bedroom.
One beautiful thing that separates Hamptons decor from the broader modern coastal decor genre is attitude toward color, contrast, and use of pattern. In modern coastal, a lot of the look is about clean lines and forms and an overall light color palette. But in the Hamptons style, these levers can be pulled a little harder while still feeling true to the style.
Blues – in particular navy blues and grayish blues – can work well in a rustic nautical bedroom, preppy bedroom, or anything in-between. You'll want to choose colors that don't compete against each other, but instead harmonize. I like to think of my own decorating color palettes as a kind of mental pie chart. So maybe I'd have white taking up 25% (and maybe my ceiling would be painted white, for instance), deep blue taking up 40% of the overall room, some warm or neutral wood colors (floor, some furniture) taking up another 20%, and accent colors occupying the remaining 15%. Accent colors can pop into art, throw pillows, blankets, art objects or tapestries.
When bringing in an accent palette, I find it helpful not to go all the way around the color wheel. For instance, in the room below, my crab painting is bringing peachy-pink and muted blues and greens into the space. But what's notably absent in this case? You guessed it: yellows and oranges. The colors you leave out of your bedroom decor are just as important as the colors you bring in, and weighing your choices carefully is always a good decision. In the shot below, I've managed to make a whimsical piece of art feel sophisticated, rather than juvenile, by not bringing too wide a variety of colors into the space.
It's all about balance.
Another tried-and-true principle that can enhance a sense of fresh "preppiness" is using bold geometric patterns with no more than one or two colors, and a wall color (such as navy) that contrasts with light trim, ceilings, and possibly furniture.
5. Let’s talk about tex . . . (ahemm, I mean, textures).
You'll want the textures in your Hamptons style bedroom to communicate comfort and casual elegance – and not formality. While the forms in your furniture (an antique chest of drawers, for example) can carry a lot of gravitas, soft goods are the place to layer in warm textures. Skip the damask and heavy velvet in favor of linen, terrycloth (like beach towels!), chunky knits, and even wool if you live in a cold climate. Plaid can work in this context, but use it sparingly, lest the look drift more toward a lodge aesthetic (which is also awesome, and stay tuned for a blog post around that decor style soon).
Notice how the textures in the blankets below seem compatible with the cloth textures implied by the two "conversing" beach chair paintings in this simple and casually refined bedroom.
The only hard and fast rule is that you pick fabric textures which feel inviting to the touch. It sounds corny, but try to think about the types of textures that you'd like to wrap around yourself after a day at the seashore, and apply that criterion to your blanket and pillow selections. Just try it.
When you're pulling textures together, think about ways you can strike that old-meets-new, traditional-meets-contemporary duality. In the picture below, notice how the handwoven textures of the pillows could feel a bit boho in another context. But they don't feel that way here. Why not? It's because the button-tufted headboard, a mainstay of traditional design, gives the designer "permission" to be a little more expressive, and faintly hippie-ish, with the pillows – without the whole room drifting into another genre. And the principle work in reverse with the pillows; they lend the headboard a more easygoing sensibility than the headboard would have on its own.
Also, notice how the button-tufted leather bench picks up the same thematic quality as the headboard, but renders it in a more approachable, relaxed way. It's details like this that go a long way toward making this room feel inviting, livable, and individually expressive – while still feeling stylish and smart.
Naturally, you'll need to also put some serious thought into your curtains. To my eye, sheer white or cream curtains filter the light in a way that feels warmly coastal and clean. It takes my imagination to the seashore. You could use custom cornice boards over your curtain rods – or avoid them. Each way of doing it is compatible with the Hamptons decor style, and comes down to your individual preference. Because cornice boards can feel quite formal at times, if you do decide to use them look for ways to balance out their formality. Maybe it's a blue gingham print, or maybe they're linen. Maybe other things in the bedroom are doing the work of giving the space a kind of tossed-off charm.
6. Even small items can transform the style of your bedroom.
At the moment, a top-to-bottom bedroom renovation is not in my budget. But who's to say I can't change the overall attitude of the space by adjusting my accessories and art?
I can acquire small pieces over time (which is actually the most authentic way to decorate, in my humble opinion). I'll need to keep an eye toward how the overall "narrative arc" of my interior shapes up as I add pieces. I want to be careful not to be "matchy-matchy" with everything – but I also need to make sure that I keep a common thread (no pun intended) between my art, objects, and colors. It's tempting to go further afield the longer a project takes, but giving oneself an obstruction (in this case, Hamptons) can be more creatively activating than a blank slate.
If your budget for making changes is small, take heart. Notice how the items in the photo above – none of which are expensive – come together in such a way that telegraphs "Hamptons style bedroom." What is that, exactly? Any of these items on its own might not give off that vibe, but taken together, they do.
First, the simple lines and sans-serif font of the clock feel clean. Then layer in that lovely wood grain, which brings a touch of nature, even if it's small. The potted plant speaks to the idea of summer and sunshine, and the white-and-brass task light is crisp and classic – even a little preppy. Add in one of my cycling pictures for sale and you're starting to get to that idea of an interior having a sense of history and place. In this case? That place is the Atlantic coast of the United States. I'll bet you can hear the surf right now. Listen. It's low tide, and pools of water teeming with sea life dot the shoreline. An Irish Setter chases a tennis ball as a sailing yacht glides along the horizon. The distant laughter of children floats along the breeze.
Which brings me to my conclusion: I think it's time for you to pour yourself a lemonade, put your feet up, and take some time to imagine yourself in your new Hamptons style bedroom.