Subtly Coastal

In Long Branch, a designer proves that a seaside aesthetic needn’t mean beach overreach.
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If we were to crown a “coastal queen” of Monmouth County, it could be Nicole Rice. She owns the home décor store Coastal Décor & Interior Design in Fair Haven, and prior to returning to her roots in New Jersey, she spent a decade as a model-home designer on the California coast. So when the clients of a Long Branch home walked into the shop seeking a beach-inspired yet not over-the-top Shore vibe for their living room, Rice knew she could make it happen.

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This family room is part of an open concept first floor. It gets lots of natural light from four large windows and a sliding-glass door that leads out to the deck.

The homeowners moved to their home along the beach in Long Branch a few years ago after their kids moved out of their house in Colts Neck. They wanted to retire their old, traditional furniture and enliven the new residence with a fresher, airier feel. “They asked for an upgrade from what they had and a casual space that could entertain, since they have grown children and a grandchild who visit,” Rice recalls. “The daughters bring their dogs too.”

That inspired Rice to choose a large navy blue sectional—“you can have a party of 20 in here,” she says—in a performance fabric that can stand up to kids, pets and the summer sun. Instead of “random upholstered chairs,” Rice chose a duo of organic-inspired string chairs made from actual rope, which she says “stand out and are beautiful. They really draw the eye in.”

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The homeowner requested a blue sofa. This one, made of a performance fabric, can entertain a crowd and withstand kids, pets and sunshine.

Organic and natural elements are seen throughout the space, in fact; the woven shades and light fixture ground the room, Rice says, and the wooden coffee table adds warmth. “Previously, this room was designed with blue-and-white seahorses,” Rice notes. “We did a large blue sofa but wanted to keep everything else neutral and natural to give it that coastal feel that’s not in-your-face.”

Rice furnished and accessorized this room from top to bottom with custom and off-the-rack items from her store; the only piece from the previous space that was incorporated into the new design was the gold drapery rod, which was reimagined with off-white drapes. “For some reason she didn’t want to part with it!” Rice says with a laugh.

This project is proof that the “California coastal” aesthetic doesn’t have to include coral, shells or nautical symbols. Says the designer: “It’s all about that serene, casual vibe.”

Text by Haley Longman
Design by Nicole Rice
Photography by Tori Sikkema Photography


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