Sea Inspired Summer Living Room

By Kate Riley May 26, 2011

I was visiting a local antique shop the other day and saw an oil on canvas with an ocean scene that I loved so much, I had to bring it home and hang it in my living room.  I’d been working on an abstract for that spot for awhile, but it never seemed quite right so I chose this oil painting instead.  Do you see it?  Look to the left!

kate living room painting

It’s not by anybody famous and only cost me $120, but it’s a nice original oil painting that fits the space over the loveseat perfectly. 

It reminds me so much of our Northern California coastline.  This is Bodega Head, and it’s breathtaking on a perfect day.  We love to go here to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

northern california coast



To listen to the lull of the waves and marvel at the power of the ocean. 

california coast


Something about bringing that painting home made me want to open all the windows and doors, let in the fresh air, and then fill the room with natural textures. 

cg sitting area


I brought down an old chair I had upstairs.  I think the stripes work in here for the summer, plus it’s a cozy spot to sit and chat. 

I found some birch branches the other day.  They have the most beautiful white bark, I’ve always loved them.  I think it’s important to surround ourselves with the things we love and anything that inspires us, even simple braches.   

birch branches

Layla is having a summer mantel party today as part of our Home May’d link parties, so I switched out a few things on top of ours. 

summer mantel living room


The sea inspired mantel includes simple branches in a tall bottle, my favorite shell ball, and a few succulents tucked into more shells. 

bottle branches ball shell

Succulents are the most tolerant plants, they thrive just about anywhere.  I love them in unusual or dramatic containers, like silver bowls or concrete urns.  Mine are planted in shells.  These are ‘Baby Toes’ but they look more like a sea anemone to me!

succulent in shell

‘Little Jewels’ in a clam shell . . .

succulents in clam shell


Floating across the mantel are these whimsical wood fish in birch stands.

succulents fish apothecary


I made them out of ornaments, birch stumps and wood chopsticks with just a drill bit and some hot glue. I love their wood texture!  Of course, my kids named them after themselves . . big sister fishy and little brother fishy.  

whimsical pinecone fish


Poured into the apothecary jar is simple white sand with a collection of more shells on top, always guaranteed to make a home feel like summer!  

shells in white sand


Across the room is a vintage buffet I found at a thrift store last year.  I confess now and then I’ve had thoughts about painting it.  My hub thinks that would be a crime, I know he’s right.  The wall gallery has been simplified ~ pared down to our favorite five works of art we’ve collected over the years. 

simplified wall gallery


I had to sneak my favorite gray blue dresser into this space too.  I have a bad habit of moving furniture all around.  

cg dresser sunburst


On top, a gnarled old grapevine that’s both sculptural and natural, two of my favorite attributes in any home accessory. 

grapevine on dresser


More shells in sand in a pedestal on an old book . . .

shells on book


The baby grand feels a bit formal, but we could never ever part with it.  It was a gift from Grandma when Grandpa passed away ~ it’s an heirloom now.  My children are  learning to play it, nothing like a house filled with music I say !

kate piano


This space is always a work in progress but cozied up just enough for summer gatherings with friends and family. 

cg kates living room


cg sitting area


Linking up to Layla’s Summer Mantel Party today !

What natural objects are your favorites to bring indoors?




  1. Absolutely breathtaking!! I love the theme, so calm and tranquail!

    My favorite “natural object” would be pussy willows…they are so simple, yet so breathtaking….the texture, the softness….

  2. Beautiful, calm and restful! (and don’t you DARE paint that buffet! – its GORGEOUS!)

  3. Its beautiful!!!! Im sure you have posted this somewhere on your blog but what lens do you shoot with? They are spool light and bright. I have a. Nikon D 7000 with a 50mm 1.8 lens but mine still aren’t as good as yours.

  4. Gorgeous space, I must say I agree with your man-do not paint the buffet! Natural beauties shouldn’t wear makeup ;)

  5. This is so beautiful. If I ever have a beach house, it will definitely look like this!!

    I also have a giveaway going on right now at my blog for a $20 gift certificate if you’re interested!

    xo Ashley

  6. Love it!!!! Is that a new sofa I see, as in THE sofa?(you mentioned many blogs ago?)

  7. Just lovely! Wow! I want to sit in there with a good book! It makes me realize the absence of nature in my home; I gotta work on that now that I’m totally inspired.

  8. Such a beautiful room! Love the light feel to it. It just reads relaxed summertime. Love the baby grand! What a treasure to have for your kids to learn on. Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a beautiful ocean inspired room. I can absolutely see why you want the windows open, and air blowing through! Great palette, and I love the vintage buffet.

  10. Very pretty. I love the painting. Maybe the artist will someday be famous… :) I love the birch that you brought in. And the succulents in the shells are such a neat idea.

  11. Beautiful, Kate! So tranquil. It’s really a lovely room to sit and visit. Just looking at it calms my mood. I love the touch of planting the succulents in the clam shells.

  12. My favourite kind of ‘nature’ is FLOWERS! I just love that at this time of year I can just go pick something formal like tulips or something simple like Forget-Me-Nots and just have them in bunches around my house. Love them.

    Your room looks so pretty and calming…

  13. Your sitting room is like a dream come true! Perfect in every way, just love it. So peaceful and calming.



  14. what is the color of your walls? Love that. Trying to pick a soft grey for my walls right now.

  15. Stunning! I love the mantel. That apothecary is awesome. I may, um, borrow this idea.

  16. Hi Kate,

    I Love the Oil Painting of the Coast…

    I can hear the waves and smell the water all the way over in here in Ontario, Canada.

    My Father is from Prince Edward Island so I’m a little partial to a great view of a coast.
    I spotted it on your wall right away. It’s breathless…
    All the Best,

  17. Every time you show pics of your house, it makes me wish I could just call you up and have you come over and do the exact same thing here. You are amazing, honestly.

  18. I love the light and airy feel of your room. The mantel looks perfect with the branches leaning into the mirror so pretty, great job,Kathysue

  19. Lovely elegant summer room! You want to cozy in and read a book. I agree with your husband do not paint the buffet. I love piano music. The joy of listening to your children play is a treasure. I still love to hear my oldest son play his guitar or the piano. Great Work! Very Pretty! Wanda

  20. Such a beautiful room, Kate! It definitely has that fresh seaside feel. The colors are absolutely soothing! All of the details are fabulous, and I am jealous of the wonderful natural light you get in that room!

  21. I have to say, you win for the most beautiful mantle. The lines and scale is right on target! It is a pleasure to hang out just enjoy the pics. Nice job on the paining. I love the way it blends with the other objects in your home.

  22. Love seeing these photos, Kate. I really want to paint the walls in our family room and living room this grey color. I have loved participating in the linky party this past week. My mantel(s) are #6!

  23. I just adore your space. Loving the beachy touches! That painting reminds me of Carmel! I love that you move furniture around (:

  24. How pretty – I love that striped chair with the sofa, it has just the right feel in the room. Also like the little fishies… :)

  25. Even though I’m out in Sacramento, Bodega Head is the place I go when I need to relax, clear my thoughts, and enjoy real and unaffected beauty. It’s such a special place. My husband and I try to get there for our anniversary each year. It’s truly special that you get to have something in your home to remind you of the Head!

  26. I can always count on you to keep things simple and beautiful. I get sensory overload when I look at dozens of mantles PILED with stuff on them. Love it!

  27. I’m buying succulents tomorrow! They look great! Where did you fond that beautiful mirror above the mantel?!? It’s perfect!

  28. Hey Melissa, I’ve had that mirror for over a year now, found it as a floor sample at Lamps Plus for cheap, but you can find it online. It’s their Casbah mirror, I spray painted it with RustOleum’s Gloss White and turned it on its side. Fits that space to perfection!

    Lucy the color on the walls started out as Ben Moore’s Affinity ‘Tranquility’ but I had the guys at the paint store pull two drops of blue out. It really is the perfect blue gray, I adore it!


  29. The colours in this room as so stunning – just sophisticated and elegant, but welcoming and comfortable. Your sea inspired touches give it such a textural and natural beauty. A pleasure to behold!

  30. As a true blooded, die-hard, and hardcore Pisces, I love having something water-related as my living room, dining area, and bedroom design – whether if it’s just a fish figurine or a wallpaper / painting with the sea on it.

    This summer, I’m thinking of redecorating my living room using a “sun on a beach” theme. I’m just sorting my materials and inspirations out. I also can’t figure what type of wallpaper to apply.

    I love the wooden fish, but I think it will be more elegant if it’s directly glued to the wall and not on the chopstick. You can also just glue it directly on the birch stands (without using the chop sticks). It’s just me. But it still looks great with the chops.

  31. Lovely room…so relaxing. Unpainted buffet so fits your space. The wall color adds the ambiance to your space. I’m thinking about using in our bedroom. Great color.

  32. I think your painting looks great. It blends in with your room pretty seamlessly–looks like the perfect addition to me. I love the branches in the bottle on the mantel. I don’t have too many natural accents out right now, but I need to go find my wood/twine balls that I like to put in a big metal dish thingie. (Very technical terms)

    Have a great weekend!

  33. Love the room as a whole! Everything contributes to the peaceful look. I think you should leave the buffet unpainted, also. I am kind of fanatic about leaving antiques in their original finish, but beides that, the dark buffet helps the dark baby grand fit in, without standing out. Both help to ground the light and airy room. Kudos to you!!! Nate Berkus would be proud!

  34. Wow – so gorgeous and so thorough. It’s clear that you put thought into every single piece. I love that!

  35. Oh my! I love this! I live in Fort Worth now, but I grew up on the beach. This post makes me so homesick! I love the beachy feel. Any ideas for how to bring that beach,cottage feel into a kitchen? My cabinets need a coat of white paint but past that I’m kind of at a loss as to what to paint the rest of the kitchen and what accessories to use. I love your blog, keep up the great work!!

  36. Since its going to be rainy all weekend in my end of the world I think I will “summerize” my condo!
    Thank you for the inspiration, you have a beautiful home.

  37. I love everything about this. That painting fits so perfectly in there too! I’m starting to feel so guilty about neglecting my mantle. I just don’t have time to play around with it and get everything else done that I want!

  38. I discovered your blog recently and enjoy reading it immensely. Love this post and use of natural elements especially the gnarled grapevine and carved fish! Great ideas, thank you!

  39. Ok…I just ordered that mirror from Lamps Plus. You don’t mind if I totally copy you and paint it gloss white do you Kate? Imitation is THE sincerest form of flattery after all!

    I’ve loved that mirror long time but for some reason I thought it was one of your awesome thrift store finds. Now I am super excited to get it.

    Thanks for the info and all your ideas…they are PERFECTION!

  40. I love the painting. My parents have a home in Carmel and it reminds me of the coastline there as well.

  41. So, so beautiful!!! Love the beachy feel – I’m always so happy when spring/summer comes around and I can get out all the shells, etc!! Love the knarled pieces of wood too!!

  42. I love Pt. Reyes. I’ve been there a few times on trips up north. I’m in L.A. area. I’m going up north to San Jose and San Francisco next month for a family reunion. I haven’t been there in 14 years. I’m going with my 13 year old daughter and I’m so excited.

  43. The room looks so fresh and cool and natural. Love all the texture you added. Your mantle is so simple, yet divine! I agree with your husband. The buffet is too gorgeous to paint over that burled wood! Plus the dark wood sort of “grounds” the otherwise very light room I think. It’s like a “pop” of color in its own right. And the oil painting looks gorgeous! It really brings out all your little touches of blue tones…Thanks for the inspiration!

  44. Hi! I love the unique white mirror above the mantel, where did you buy it? Thanks!

  45. I love the room! I have been wanting to paint my wall a nice gray, but cannot find the perfect shade. What is the paint brand and color you have on your walls. I love it!

  46. Birch fish on wooden chopsticks! Succulents in shells! This is beyond inspired–it’s sheer genius! Lucky for me I always have a bunch of mismatched chopsticks lying around not to mention a pirates booty of sea shells. Can’t wait to make my own versions. So much thanks for sharing your ideas.

  47. I love the succulents in shells, what a great idea! The entire mantel is lovely! I have to agree with your husband, the buffet is beautiful unpainted, and the natural grain of the wood, what a pretty piece!

  48. Wow, I absolutely love when you blog about your home!!! You have such a fresh style! LOVE LOVE LOVE how u have the little green plant growing out of the seashells! What an amazing idea!!! I <3 IT!!! U R AMAZING!


  49. I love this! At first I thought it was a magazine living room! The gray you used on the walls is gorgeous.

  50. Hello.
    I love your blog, and I have to ask where the white mirror above your mantel came from? I absolutely adore it. Also, what kind of paint did you use? Love the color.

    Love from the Bluegrass State!

  51. This room is beautiful. I’ve been looking for wall color for a while now. Do you know the name of the color you have on the walls?

  52. I absolutely love this room! When we moved to Boston from Pennsylvania it was the dead of winter. When spring came and we were able to open the windows only then did I really fall in love. I knew we lived near the ocean but I never thought I could smell the ocean breeze in my home. So this inspires me to get more creative with seaside decor! It’s absolutely beautiful. Can I ask where you found the mirror on the mantel and the one above the blue dresser?

  53. You have a wonderful home. Everything is so beautifully arranged. The painting looks great on top of the loveseat and your mantle is adorable. Thanks so much for adding your link to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays.

  54. Ok.. I am moving from NJ to Florida (beachside) in about 2 weeks..
    Do you know how badly this post is killing me!!???
    Simply stunning!
    Cricket @ gypsea nurse

  55. It is so gorgeous! Thank you for sharing!

    Do you mind sharing the paint color? It is absolutley what I want. Thank you!


  56. We live about 45 min from Bodega and I agree super beautiful. Love the new painting, and love your blog!!

  57. Thank you for showcasing this beautiful room and explaining it’s detail! I’m coindentally trying to create a living room with the same colors and ocean touches. What color/brand paint was used to create the gray walls?

    Thanks you!

  58. Those little fish on you mantle are too cute! And I love that your kiddos named them after themselves:) This is a beautiful but subtle beachy room!

  59. I am echoing many of your other readers in that I am obsessed with your wall color! Do you mind sharing the color?? What a fantabulous room & blog! An inspiration for me and the little walls and my house!!

  60. Your blog is fantastic, your room is gorgeous but can you please respond to all the requests for the paint color/brand. Grey is a tough color to get right and the color you used seems to be the perfect grey. Hello? Anyone. Anyone.

  61. Hi – I’d love to know the name of the paint color/brand, and where the mirror came from as well (Home Depot has a similar one, but it is square). I read all the comments, and didn’t see the pan color posted. Thanks!

  62. I am just in love with the summer inspired mantel and am currently oddly enough redoing my living room in a similar manner except I have a chocolate leather couch and recliner but am adding the exact blue and bringing in gloss white accessories to match my mantel and sea shells as I do live at the beach here in Florida! I was so i love with that mirror that I searched for weeks everywhere finding it no where, finally found the distributor and then found out it has been discontinued! But… Had an awesome customer service rep. @ Lamps Plus call me back and say she had found one left that was never put out for the clearance and it was new and in the box and it arrived yesterday!! I also want to paint it gloss white as it is the weathered bronze and was wondering if you had any tips for me about spray painting it such as did you sand it first, did you use primer or sealant afterwards? I do not want it distressed looking, I want it to be a beautiful full high gloss white but do not want to start until I know what I’m doing as not to mess up this treasure!! I appreciate all your help!! :)

  63. Oh for those of you inquiring about the mirror, it was sold by Lamps Plus out of California but it has ben discontinued as I said unfortunately! And I looked everywhere I could imagine in every store, online and only found a round version that just wasn’t as nice. Only because I had an awesome customer service rep there that said she could hear how bad I wanted it did I get it. She called and emailed every store they had which was a bunch!! And finally they found one someone forgot to put out when they were put on clearance, so I also got a really awesome deal! Good luck in your search and Lamps Plus has many beautiful other mirrors!

  64. I’ve wanted this mirror for months, ever since I saw it on your blog. I found it today at Home Goods! Couldn’t believe it, the EXACT same one, just sitting there in the mirror section for under $100. I grabbed that thing so fast, people must have thought I was nuts. :) So happy, thought i would post! If you’re looking, they are out there! I had also found one on craigslist in my area a while back but the mirror was broken and she wanted to much money for the mirror frame.

    • Yay, so excited Kate!!! Which mirror was it? So glad you scored a deal!

  65. Found the paint color in an earlier coment “Ben Moore’s Tranquility’ but I had the guys at the paint store pull two drops of blue out.” Thank you

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